Sea mine disposal operation disposes of 20 historical pieces of ordnance

The EML Admiral Cowan, flagship of the Estonian Navy.
The EML Admiral Cowan, flagship of the Estonian Navy. Source: Merevägi/NATO/Social Media

A historical ordnance disposal operation in Estonian waters found twenty objects this week, along with one previously uncharted shipwreck, the NATO Force Integration Unit in Estonia reports.

Vessels from Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group 1 (SNMCG1), along with Estonian Navy (Merevägi) allies, carried out the operation this week, ending Friday.

Vessels taking part included the Norwegian Navy's HNoMS Måløy, which was involved in detonating a piece of historical ordnance – a sea mine in other words – in the Irbe Strait (Kura Kurk), between the southern tip of Saaremaa and the Latvian coast (see video below).

Estonia's inshore coast is peppered with sea mines and other relics of World War Two and other conflicts, with the coast of Saaremaa and environs being one particularly notorious hotspot.

President Kersti Kaljulaid herself was able to witness a similar detonation earlier this year.

The Merevägi centers on minehunters, mainly British-built Sandown-class vessels including the force's flagship, the EML Admiral Cowan, and minelayers, comprising two Danish-built Lindormen class vessels. 

Historical Estonian Navy vessels from the First Republic – including the EML Lembit, one of two submarines built to order for the Estonian Navy - and other eras, are on display to the public at the Seaplane Harbor Museum (Lennusadama muuseum) in Tallinn, close to the Mine Harbor (Miinisadam), the Navy's principal base.

SNMCMG1 comprises vessels from the Belgian, Danish, Dutch German, Latvian, Lithuanian and Norwegian navies, as well as Estonia's.

Admiral, then Commodore, Walter Cowan was a British Royal Navy officer who commanded a light cruiser squadron instrumental in keeping sea lanes open to Estonia, as well as Finland, Latvia and Lithuania, and in defiance of Bolshevik Russian forces. 


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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