Estonian waters give up wreck of 19th century British-built steamboat

The Success, while she was sailing under the Dutch flag, as The Fop Smit.
The Success, while she was sailing under the Dutch flag, as The Fop Smit. Source: Arendnet

Shallow water near the uninhabited islet of Keri, off the North coast of Estonia, is the resting place of an ornate, 19th century British-built packet steamer, news portal Delfi reports (link in Estonian).

The find came in the course of routine seabed mapping which the Transport Board (Transpordiamet) was carrying out using state-of-the-art tech.

At under 2 meters in depth in places, the Kalbådagrund shoal to the North, in Finnish waters, has been the undoing of many a vessel, Delfi says, and this was the case with the newly-found wreck also – after running aground, the ship, called the Success, limped on southward before finally succumbing around 15km north of Keri, in Estonian waters (both Finland and Estonia were at the time of the disaster occupied by Tsarist Russia), in a depth of a little over 60 meters.

Divers from the Estonian Maritime Museum (Meremuuseum), partnering with Finnish wreck-diving organization Badewanne, were amazed to find on closer investigation that the wreck, initially thought to be a warship from either of the two world wars, was in fact a packet steamer, laid down in 1871, which sank around 14 years later.

Keri islet has a well-known lighthouse. Source: Kaupo Kalda

Ivar Treffner, marine archeology researcher at the museum, said: "What makes this ship special for me is that it's a really beautiful vessel, built from scratch," noting both its design details and, not that it helped the Success in the end, construction quality.

"There was no difficulty in finding out ship's name – it was neatly written out on the wheelhouse – the Success," he went on.

After all this time and the way in which the ship came to grief, naturally it is not intact – the bow has sheared off completely, though the Success has escaped the worst of the trawler netting which often entangle shipwrecks in this part of the Baltic.

The location of Keri islet, where The Success sank in June 1885, in relation to the Kalbådagrund shoal and its lighthouse. The vessel ran aground on the shoal and started taking on water, sinking just 8 nautical miles short of Tallinn. Source: Google Maps

At 83 meters in length, 12 meters in beam and 10 meters in draught, the finding initially suggested a warship, though at the same time its size meant that it seemed unlikely the wreck would not tally with records of known wartime losses.

In fact, the Success, which also had sails in a ketch-type arrangement, sank in 1885, having run aground in the small hours of June 30 that year, and was according to the records carrying a cargo of wheat, oats and wood from Kronstadt, Russia, to London.

The captain had initially attempted to re-float the vessel, with the intention of sailing for Tallinn, but after several hours it became apparent, according to the captain's log, that this was a lost cause, and the order to abandon ship was given later that morning – all hands made it off in lifeboats.

The original Delfi piece (in Estonian), replete with images, is here.

According to Dutch shipping information portal Arendnet, The Success also had a spell sailing under the flag of The Netherlands, as The Fop Smit.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

Source: Delfi

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