A privately funded rival dive to the main investigation into the fate of the MS Estonia, which sank in 1994 with the loss of 852 lives, finished its work Thursday, with concrete findings now to be sent for analysis
Expedition leader Margus Kurm said: "The success of every project can be assessed in the light of the set objectives. Looking at the goals we set before the expedition, they were generally met. The weather and visibility near the wreck were not perfect; however, we managed to do almost everything we needed to do."
"What slightly even exceeded our expectations was the survey of the wreck's car deck. Despite very poor visibility, our underwater robot entered the car deck at a depth of some 60 meters and registered that two of the doors leading to lower decks are closed and undamaged," Kurm continued, adding that material collected will be sent to experts for analysis.
One of the investigations finds has been mystery transmitter beacons, which the team say have been installed on the sea-bed and close to the wreck, and were likely the source of interference in equipment during an official dive in summer, but who placed them there, why and when remains unclear.
The project is organized by a private sector foundation set up by relatives of victims of the 1994 disaster, with the largest single contributor to funding being the Postimees Group, a media concern which publishes the daily newspaper of the same name, its regional variants and the BNS newswire.
The vessel in use, the RS Sentinel, flying under the flag of Malta has returned to port in the Netherlands.
The site is protected by a grave peace agreement involving Estonia, Finland, Sweden and several other countries, but the legal status of conducting dives from vessels flying the flag of countries not party to the agreement, such as Malta, is not clear.
Of successes, Kurm said underwater photographs of almost the entire wreck were obtained, which will enable both a full 3D model and shed more light on damage caused to the hull – one of the issues which has prompted both the Kurm-led dive and an official, joint Estonian-Swedish investigation, which began in summer and will continue next year.
Kurm, a former state prosecutor, headed up an earlier, official investigation in the 2000s.
A little over 40 people, including six media representatives, took place in the project.
SA Mare Liberum was founded in July this year.
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.
Editor: Andrew Whyte