MS Estonia wreck investigation crew takes seabed rock sample

One of the first tasks on the to-do list of a survey of the wreck of the MS Estonia, which sank in the Baltic in 1994 with the loss of 852 lives, has already been completed after a seabed rock sample was obtained and brought aboard the research ship undertaking the expedition.

The investigation is not employing human divers, but remote controlled robots have already been used in examining the wreck, which lies in around 100m of water South of the Turku archipelago.

The crew of the vessel, the Viking Reach, arrived at the wreck site shortly after midnight Thursday and through the course of that day was able to get a sample of the seabed rock in the vicinity.

ERR's Dmitri Fedotkin was on board.

This bedrock is significant in that the stricken MS Estonia impacted it upon sinking, and may be behind a significant rupture in the hull which was not known about until revealed during a 2021 dive.

The section of rock raised from the seabed is, the research team believes, most likely granite, and will be examined in the lab.

It was obtained by boring into the bedrock itself, hence the cylindrical shape of the sample (see gallery above).

Märt Ots, head of the Estonian Safety Investigation Bureau (OJK), jointly conducting the expedition together with its Swedish counterpart, said that: "Without a doubt, questions arose as to why the hole appeared there.

"There are of course two main possibilities. The first of these is that the hole appeared when the vessel sunk and made contact with the seabed. But of course, all possible versions of events must be checked out," Ots went on.

"This certainly places a major obligation on us to do our job well, transparently and to carry out investigations in a way that we can establish with certainty the final truth as to why Estonia met its fate," he went on.

Tauri Roosipuu, OJK leading expert, told ETV news show "Aktuaalne kaamera" (AK) that the first task – work began almost immediately the vessel arrived on site, despite the unholy hour – involved an underwater robot making a test dive, after which it was deployed for the bedrock sample job.

"The next task is to take an overlap sample from the wreck plating," Roosipuu said.

Two survivors of the 1994 disaster are also on board the Viking Reach, as observers, and representing the two nations who made up the bulk of the 852 people who perished that night in September – Ants Madar from Estonia, and Urban Lambertson from Sweden.

Madar told AK that: "Yesterday night, after we had arrived, we held a tribute to those who perished. The sounding of the ship's horn brought back to me that time when the Estonia had completely capsized, and its last signal was sounded, from the captain's bridge. This represented its departure, as it were."

The research work is to be conducted in shifts, round-the-clock and without interruption, to make the most of the week the Viking Reach will have at the wreck site.

Of the 989 people aboard the MS Estonia when she sank, only 137 survived.

The disaster was the second worst involving a European passenger vessel during peacetime, after the 1912 Titanic sinking.

A 2020 expedition conducted by Norwegian filmmakers revealed the large gash in the ferry's starboard side.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Merili Nael

Source: 'Aktuaalne kaamera', reporter Dmitri Fedotkin.

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