Konstantin Bogdanov's Underwater Exploration Team is going to sea again. The next stage of the expedition "180 Miles to Leningrad: The History of the Tallinn Breakout on the Modern Sea Map" starts on July 16. Several wrecks have been found at the bottom of the Gulf of Finland, which have yet to be identified.
For more than two months, the specialists from the “Fertoing” marine engineering company studied the bottom of the Gulf of Finland using sonar. A lot of interesting objects have been found in the area where, according to documents, several ships sank during the Tallinn Breakout.
“The people from ‘Fertoing’, for whom, by the way, this work is pure charity, managed to complete a fairly large amount of tasks,” Konstantin Bogdanov notes. “During this season, they have established and helped us to clarify the coordinates of about a dozen objects.”
Now it's up to the underwater explorers. Within seven to ten days, they will have to dive to the bottom in order to identify, if possible, the vessels detected with the help of sonar and 3D scanning. No matter how perfect the technology, it is possible to determine with confidence the type of a sunken ship only by seeing it firsthand.
“Experience has taught us not to make premature conclusions,” explains the head of the expedition. “Once we dived, hoping to film and photograph a torpedo boat, but instead we saw a sailboat. Among the objects discovered by ‘Fertoing’, a couple of them resemble barges on the computer screen. But in fact, they may turn out to be something else – perhaps unexpected discoveries are still waiting for us.”
However, one of the found ships has been preliminarily identified. The five holds clearly visible on the sonar screen allow to assume with high probability that this is the "Vtoraya Pyatiletka" vessel that sank during the Tallinn Breakout.
The "Vtoraya Pyatiletka" was moving as a part of the No.3 convoy under numerous attacks by enemy aircraft – the ship came under attack from air raids 14 times during the passage. As a result, a bomb hit the ship, damaging its nose. The transport lost speed, but continued to move forward, gradually sinking – the bow holds were filling with water. Minesweepers and boats managed to rescue more than 2,500 people from the sinking ship and deliver them to the island of Gogland. After the second bomb hit, the "Vtoraya Pyatiletka" sank to the bottom.
So far, researchers have not been able to find the “Ausma”, which sank near the island of Rodsher – a ship similar to it turned out to be a Dutch steamer of the late 19th century. Sonar did not show anything else resembling the lost transport.
“In the area where it should lie, there are no traces of shipwrecks at all, except for the ship ‘De Ruyter’ that we’d found,” says Konstantin Bogdanov. “This confirms our version that the Dutch captain suffered a wreck due to a navigational error, although he claimed that he crashed on a sunken ship. As for the ‘Ausma’, its fate is still unclear. Perhaps, after the crew had left the vessel, it drifted for some time and now lies in the territorial waters of Estonia or on the border with it, where we cannot approach without special permission.”
However, for the time being, the members of the Underwater Exploration Team will have enough work as it is. In addition to identifying the objects found by “Fertoing”, they will have to continue to film and photograph the previously discovered "Fugas" and "Burya". Visibility has noticeably deteriorated on the latter, which complicates the work of underwater operators. The situation is complicated by the fact that the team is incomplete – the volunteers go on the expedition during the holidays, and not everyone managed to do it in July.
By the way, this season, in addition to purely expeditionary tasks, the team will help shoot a documentary. Together with underwater explorers, a film crew goes out to sea. The creative project was supported by the Cultural Initiatives Foundation.
“This is an interesting new experience for us,” says Konstantin Bogdanov. “Underwater Exploration Team took a key part in the preparation of the script and the shooting plan, our specialists in video editing and 3D modeling will be involved in the creative process.”
The expedition is supported by the Russian Geographical Society and the Presidential Grants Fund.
Read also: 80 Years Under Water
Tallinn Breakout. From August 27 to August 29, 1941, during the relocation of the Baltic Fleet from Tallinn to Kronstadt, more than 60 military and transport vessels sank and more than 15,000 people died in the waters of the Gulf of Finland. The decision on the combat operation was made urgently after the German troops had forced their way into the Baltic States. If not for this maneuver, the USSR would have risked completely losing the Baltic Fleet, leaving Leningrad without protection from the sea.