Poor conditions cut MS Estonia official investigation rival dive short

The RS Sentinel, the vessel being used by SA Mare Liberum for its MS Estonia dive expedition.
The RS Sentinel, the vessel being used by SA Mare Liberum for its MS Estonia dive expedition. Source: SA Mare Liberum

Divers conducting initial exploratory work as part of a private sector investigation into the wreck of the MS Estonia, a passenger ferry which sunk in September 1994 with the loss of 852 lives, had to be cut short Sunday afternoon after just a few minutes, due to poor visibility.

Jakob Olszewski, dive team leader said: "The completely murky water prevented us from making any progress beyond the safety line."

Divers were only able to spend minutes on the sea bed.

The expedition attracted media attention when announced earlier this month, as it is in effect a rival to the official joint Estonian-Swedish dive planned for next year, and which held its preliminary surveys in summer.

The private dive is funded by the SA Mare Liberum foundation and is supported by the Postimees Group, which publishes the newspaper of the same name and operates two major TV and radio channels.

The expedition team arrived on-site last Wednesday and initially used sonar and submarine robots, from the surface, with volunteer divers from Germany making the first dive attempt Sunday afternoon.

The dive went to a depth of 80 meters and, Olszewski said, while visibility had initially been good, it was as expected poor once nearing the wreck.

A remote-controlled dive robot followed on from the divers and made more significant findings, BNS, also part of the Postimees Group, reports.

Just over 40 people are involved in the expedition, nearly half of them crew members, while six media personnel are included in the total number

The vessel in use, the RS Sentinel (see photo) is a specialized diving operations ship and sails under the Maltese flag, BNS reports, while onshore interviews of survivors of the 1994 disaster, as well as 3D modeling of the bow using tech not available in the past are also to take place.

SA Mare Liberum is managed by former state prosecutor Margus Kurm, who in 2005-2009 was the head of the committee for the investigation of the sinking of M/S Estonia and who in recent months has expressed doubt about the official explanation of the sinking – a sheared-off bow visor leading to water flooding the vehicle decks – in particular following a documentary which aired on Swedish television in 2020 which appeared to show large holes in the wreck's hull.

The MS Estonia sank in the small hours of September 28, 1994, while en route from Tallinn to Stockholm. The sinking is the largest maritime disaster in peacetime in the Baltic Sea, killing 852 people from 17 countries, and second-largest peacetime maritime disaster ever, so far as European vessels go, after the Titanic. 137 people survived.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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