In 2013 photos of an incredible WWII discovery hit the internet. Apparently, the find had been the work of dedicated metal detectorists somewhere in Russia – but very little additional information was available at the time. In 2017, however, a video of the unearthing emerged on YouTube, and it provided fascinating insight into the entire event.
The video came courtesy of a YouTube user known as “Yuri Gagarin.” But although there is a “verified” tick by Gagarin’s name on the site, it’s safe to assume that he is not in fact the famous pioneering cosmonaut. The real Gagarin is, after all, no longer with us.
No, this Gagarin is actually a metal detectorist. Generally speaking, detectorists are like amateur archaeologists. Indeed, they are on the search for artifacts from history and can spend a lot of their spare time looking for them. But some professionals don’t think very highly of them at all.
In fact, Connecticut’s state archaeologist, Brian Jones, told The New York Times in 2017 that detectorists are “really just looting.” This was because, he argued, a detectorist could take an artifact from a location without considering the significance of its context. Still, not everyone agrees, and detectorists have been known to join forces with archaeologists.
For Gagarin’s part, he explained his intentions on YouTube. “We are the official search party,” he wrote. “We are engaged in the search and burial of the Red Army soldiers who disappeared during the Second World War.” He also added that he is strictly an amateur and is not doing this for any financial incentives.
Gagarin went on to state his ultimate goal with this hobby too. “We are looking for fighters and perpetuating the memory of their exploits,” he said. He further stated that if he discovered any deceased army soldiers, he and his group would do their best to find out who they were and have them reburied more respectfully.
In this particular instance, however, it wasn’t the body of a Red Army soldier that someone apparently discovered. And it was unclear exactly when and where this find was supposed to have been unearthed. In the caption to the video uploaded in November 2017, Gagarin simply said that the clip was recording by a “comrade” and that the film had only just been retrieved.
The clip starts with a pair of hands digging in the dirt. They could be in a forest or a wood, but wherever they are, it is certainly very dirty. At first glance, the object that the hands are uncovering looks like a skull.
But then a few additional details begin to emerge, and it becomes clear that this isn’t a person at all. One of the group – there appears to be at least three people involved in the discovery – then begins thrusting a spade into the earth. Clearly, the artifact beneath isn’t fragile.
After more digging, the artifact begins to take shape. Certainly, there are handlebars and a wheel as well as a headlamp and a gas tank. Yes, the detectorists have apparently discovered a motorcycle. The only thing left to do now is excavate it.
First, the hobbyists appear to engage in a debate over the identity of motorcycle and which year it could have been manufactured in. Then the video cuts to an unspecified amount of time later. And in the intervening minutes or hours, it seems that the men have been hard at work.
So now the best part of the bike is out of the ground – though still stuck in the mud. “The bike is pretty fresh,” one of the men says. And, yes, despite the apparent years underground, the motorcycle does appear to be in remarkably good shape.
The men then spend some time in the hole with the motorcycle. They appear to agree that the bike was once a Soviet model, but perhaps one that was not used in combat. All the while, the man recording the video gives the viewer something of a tour of the aged artifact.
The video cuts again, and some time later, the motorcycle is seen fully excavated from its grave. The cameraman continues to give a tour of the bike, at one point even getting his peers to crack open the “glove compartment.” Inside, he shows the camera various “spare parts.”
The video finishes with the cameraman proudly showing off their apparent discovery. A voiceover tells us that the bike they have here is a DKW Luxus 300. It is a “very rare and unique find,” according to the person talking.
Since the video hit YouTube, it has been viewed almost three million times. It’s had some 20,000 likes, too, and hundreds of comments besides. Unfortunately, most of the comments are in Russian, and it’s therefore difficult to determine whether they shed any further light on events.
The cameraman’s assertion that the bike is a Luxus 300, however, seems to have been taken as read by those who later reported on the alleged discovery. Unfortunately, though, there doesn’t seem to be a great deal of information out there on this particular make of motorcycle.
According to Auto Evolution, manufacturer DKW made a deal with Russia so that they could build Luxus 300s in Leningrad. But the website stated that the Russians then simply had proceeded to make their own version of the DKW design. It is difficult, however, to verify this information with more authoritative sources.
What does appear to be true, though, is that the DKW Luxus 300 was manufactured in about 1930. And according to Hagerty, a mint condition motorcycle of this make and model would go for about $2,500 today. It’s fair to say, mind you, that the one that came out of the ground in this video is not in mint condition.
Back on YouTube, Yuri Gagarin continues to upload videos of his group’s finds. There are only four more of his videos more popular than this one, however. One is about German WWII trenches, two involve the apparent discovery of weapons, and the last sees the detectorists open a mysterious box. So it seems that there is no end to what you can discover with a metal detector.