Private expedition begins examining sunk MS Estonia

Relatives of those who died in the sinking of the MS Estonia organized a private initiative expedition to the wreck of the ferry; the research vessel RS Sentinel, responsible for this work, reached the site where the ferry MS Estonia sank on September 28, 1994 and began an examination.

Relatives of MS Estonia victims announced in early September that they had created a foundation – Mare Liberum – to support their expedition and privately investigate the wreckage of the MS Estonia that sank on the route from Tallinn to Stockholm on September 28. 1994, killing 852. , the second deadliest sinking of a European peacetime ship.

New suspicions and questions

The director of the foundation, Margus Kurm – a former prosecutor of the Republic of Estonia and from 2005-2009, the head of the investigation committee into the sinking of the MS Estonia – said that “although many different investigations have been carried out, they were not able to give survivors and relatives of the deceased comprehensive answers as to why Estonia perished.

“On the contrary, the diving operations carried out over the past two years have raised new suspicions and questions which require serious investigation,” Kurm said.

A hole in the hull of the MS Estonia, as revealed by footage from the 2020 documentary, “Estonia: The Discovery That Changes Everything” by Henrik Evertsson. Photo by Aftonbladet.

The expedition will seek answers to seven questions: why and when did the visor disconnect from the ship? ; Did the ramp fully open before the vessel sank? ; what exactly are the locations of the damage on the right bridge, when and what caused the damage? ; why and when were the intermediate walls of the ship’s stern and garage deck damaged? ; Does the ship’s hull have any other damaged locations that we don’t know ?, what objects are around the wreckage and in the supposed path of the sinking of the ship, and how they relate to the sinking of the ship ? ; How exactly did the different parts of the ship fill with water?

The first job is to examine the seabed

Using RS Sentinel, a diving support vessel owned by German company RS Offshore, Mare Liberum plans to conduct underwater research and investigate the wreckage on the seabed. The vessel has various sonar systems. , two groups of underwater robots and four divers with the necessary research and recording equipment.

“After gathering evidence, all of the collected material will be subjected to a thorough scientific analysis. In addition, a 3D model of the Estonian bow visor has been prepared, which now allows the damage of the visor to be studied from a distance, ”the foundation said in a statement.

Sentinel RS. Photo by Mare Liberum.

RS Sentinel reached where the MS Estonia sank on September 22, and the expedition’s first job is to examine the seabed with multibeam sonar.

“It doesn’t mean scuba diving – the sonar is located under the ship. The plan is to cover the entire area and map the location of the wreckage and the objects around it, ”Kurm noted.

“After that, we will conduct the first preparatory examination with an underwater robot, the purpose of which is to identify the exact position of the wreckage and find out if there is anything around it that requires further examination. detailed. If we don’t have any issues, our second team of underwater robots will start the night shift to perform a photogrammetric scan of damaged spots in the wreckage, ”Kurm explained.

Deadliest peacetime shipwreck in European waters

The MS Estonia was a 16,000-ton, 157-meter-long (515.16 feet) cruise ferry, built in 1980 at the German Meyer Werft shipyard in Papenburg. He sailed as Viking Sally (1980-1990), Silja Star (1990-1991) and Wasa King (1991-1993), before being called Estonia. The ferry, at the time the largest Estonian-flagged vessel, began operating the Tallinn-Stockholm route in 1993 and was operated by the Swedish-Estonian shipping company Estline.

MS Estonia in Stockholm in 1994.

During a scheduled crossing from Tallinn to Stockholm on the night of September 28, 1994, the ferry sank in the Baltic Sea. The vessel disappeared from radar screens of other vessels at around 1:50 a.m. EEST (less than half an hour after the first Mayday call) in international waters, about 22 nautical miles (41 kilometers) from the Finnish island of Utö.

The vessel sank to a depth of 74 to 85 meters (243 to 279 feet) of water.

The wreck of the MS Estonia is located in international waters between Estonia, Finland and Sweden, approximately 22 nautical miles (41 kilometers) from the Finnish island of Utö, at a depth of 74 to 85 meters ( 243 to 279 feet) of water.

Of the 989 on board, only 138 were rescued alive (one of whom later died in hospital). As such, this is the second sinking of a European peacetime ship, after the RMS Titanic, and the deadliest peacetime sinking to have taken place in European waters, with 852 lives lost. . Most of the victims were Swedes (501), followed by Estonians (285).

The official disaster report, released in 1997, stated that the fatal event began when the ferry’s bow door locks failed due to the stress of the waves and the door separated from the rest of the ship, pulling the ramp behind it ajar. This allowed water to enter the vehicle decks, capsize and ultimately sink the ship.

Cover: A depiction of HS Estonia in the seabed. The sunken ferry lies almost upside down.

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