A team investigating the wreck of the MS Estonia, which sank in 1994, continued with their filming work on Sunday, and have also raised several important items, including a porthole window.
The investigation is Estonian-led and makes use of a dive robot, rather than human divers. Having already obtained bedrock samples and cut out sections of the wreck's hull, as of Sunday, glass from a smaller ferry window, a seal from a larger window, and cabling from the port side of the Estonia have been brought to the surface for investigation (see gallery).
Tauri Roosipuu of the Estonian Safety Investigation Bureau (OJK) told ERR that: "We have been continuing with the video survey of the vehicle deck."
Water entering the vehicle deck after the ship's bow visor sheared off in heavy seas is the primary official cause of the sinking.
"At the furthest extent, we reached the center of the ship, while we were also able to reach damaged areas on the starboard side, via the car deck. Later on, we re-entered the vehicle deck from the outside, accessing through the ship's damaged areas," he went on, adding that "nothing extraordinary has been observable from the inside of those damaged areas up to now."
It was a large, 40-meter gash in the starboard hull first spotted in footage obtained in 2020 which sparked renewed interest in the causes of the September 1994 disaster, which claimed the lives of 852 people, predominantly from Sweden and Estonia.
The current survey will attempt to collate the damage to the steel hull plating with the bedrock upon which the wreck lies, to ascertain if the hull damage was caused when the striking ship hit the seabed.
The window details noted above are important in assessing the strength of windows on the upper deck and which will help obtain a more accurate modeling of the chain of events as the ship sank.
As noted, the dive robot was able to film damage from inside the vessel; up to now this had only been filmed from the outside.
The 2020 footage formed the basis of a Discovery Channel documentary the following year, which asked questions about the MS Estonia's true fate. The footage had in fact been obtained in violation of an international agreement governing the grave site.
Two authorized expeditions took place in 2021; the current one is the first since then.
More recent dives and research can take advantage of tech which was not available in the years immediately following the disaster.
The ongoing investigation is being overseen by the OJK and its Swedish counterpart, the SHK, in conjunction with Finnish authorities – the wreck is located around 100km South of the Turku archipelago.
The vessel in use, the Viking Reach, sails under the Norwegian flag, while a private sector firm from that country, Reach Subsea AS, was awarded the tender to undertake the work itself.
The Viking Reach set sail from Karlskrona, Sweden, last Tuesday, arriving at the site shortly after midnight Thursday. After a brief memorial service, work started immediately and has been ongoing round the clock, on a shift basis. The Viking Reach will have been at the wreck site for a little over a week when the work finishes, as things stand.
Editor: Andrew Whyte, Merili Nael