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The National Maritime Museum and Baltictech surveyed the very interesting wreck of a wooden sailing ship from the late 19th Century

Published: November 1, 2023 - 13:42
Updated: November 1, 2023 - 15:01
The National Maritime Museum and Baltictech surveyed the very interesting wreck of a wooden sailing ship from the late 19th Century
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A group of Polish technical divers from Baltictech documented the wreck of a wooden sailing ship from the late 19th century during an expedition carried out with the National Maritime Museum (NMM) in Gdansk.

The Baltic Sea holds many secrets, which it occasionally reveals to those adventurous enough to explore it. Of course, the more time you spend investigating, the more Baltic secrets you manage to uncover. This is well known to the members of the Baltictech group, who have been systematically exploring the depths of the Baltic Sea for many years. This time, during their expedition with NMM in Gdańsk, their goal was to explore the wreck of a wooden sailing ship from the end of the 19th century.

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wooden sailing ship
The wreck of a wooden sailing ship from the late 19th century, photo: Tomasz Stachura/Baltictech

Secrets of the Baltic Sea

In the past few years, the Polish technical diving group Baltictech has been mainly mentioned in the context of Baltic wrecks from the World War II era and, in particular, the search for and study of the vessels that took part in Operation Hannibal, aimed at evacuating German soldiers and civilians from the territory of East Prussia, which was being invaded by the Red Army counter-offensive.

Without any doubt, locating, identifying and documenting the wrecks of the last remaining undiscovered ships used in the largest maritime evacuation operation in history was an ambitious goal and an important step towards preserving an important heritage and not so distant history whose last eye witnesses and participants are still alive. Just like the previous actions taken together with the NMM in Gdansk during the documentation of the ‘Baltic Sea Titanics’, which is how the Wilhelm Gustloff, Steuben and Goya shipwrecks are referred to, on which, according to various estimates, between 16,000 and 20,000 people died.

Video footage from the wreck of the wooden sailing ship in the Baltic Sea: Maciej Honc/Baltictech

A sea like no other

Anyone who has had the opportunity to dive in the Baltic Sea knows how exceptional it is. What makes it special is undoubtedly the combination of unique conditions that favours the preservation of vessels made of wood. That is the reason why it is quite normal in the Baltic Sea to come across shipwrecks that are hundreds of years old, which are preserved on the bottom in the same state in which they sank. As if frozen in time.

Fortune had smiled on the expedition members and, on 24 October, weather conditions in the moody Baltic Sea made diving possible. Carrying out a project to protect maritime cultural heritage, NMM supported by Baltictech set out to sea.

The expedition to the wreck was quite a challenge and required a lot of effort from the group. The main problems that had to be faced were, apart of the depth, the significant distance from the Polish coast and, above all, the presence of an oil platform located nearby.

The weather was in our favour, the operator of the Petrobaltic oil platform gave permission to operate practically right under his nose and we were able to dive on the wreck of a wooden sailing ship.

Photogrammetric 3D model of the wooden sailing ship wreck, created by Bartłomiej Pitala/Baltictech

Exploration of the wooden sailing ship

Although the wooden sailing ship, which the Baltictech divers explored, dates back “only” to the 19th century (the Baltic Sea, unlike other seas, is full of perfectly preserved shipwrecks that are hundreds of years old), diving on it provided many emotions. Without any doubt, it is an unusual feeling when the light of your torch reveals in front of you more and more elements of an unknown wreck. Especially since, in order to reach it, you had to dive to a depth of more than 80 metres (over 260ft)…

Baltictech’s divers were able to establish that the explored wreck was a wooden sailing ship from the late 19th century. The vessel, resting at a depth of 82 metres, measures 31 metres long and 7 metres wide and was used to transport grain.

Shipwreck in the Baltic Sea
The wreck of a wooden sailing ship rests at a depth of 82 meters, photo: Tomasz Stachura/Baltictech

We knew about this wreck for many years. It is said to be a well-preserved wooden sailing ship with many interesting details. 10 years ago, divers from the Polish Navy were on it and there was even a video made with the use of an ROV.

A close inspection allowed to find many interesting details. The divers also discovered on the shipwreck a variety of artifacts. These included barrels of food, terracotta bowls, stoneware jars and glass bottles. An interesting discovery was a horizontal winch with holes for windlass handles, parts of a wardrobe, a coin, as well as pieces of ship’s equipment. It is also worth noting that there is an engraved carpentry mark on the shaft of the winch.

Although the wreck of the wooden sailing ship itself is nothing spectacular, it proved to be a great challenge. It allowed for a joint operation to be carried out with the National Maritime Museum in Gdansk, but also gave Baltictech divers a chance to prove themselves in a number of different areas. In addition to the logistical and purely diving aspects of carrying out such a deep dive away from the coast, documentation work was done, including taking photos, recording video footage and creating a photogrammetric 3D model of the wreck. All this will certainly pay off in the future expeditions.

The Polish technical diving group Baltictech, is one of the most active groups in the Baltic Sea region. Over the years, Baltictech divers have carried out countless number of expeditions, which led to the discovery and identification of many wrecks. Some of them turned out to be very important ships, which have been searched for many years. Baltictech brings together a group of divers who actively promote the Baltic Sea as the most interesting place for wreck diving in the world. One of the activities of the association’s members is to lobby for greater accessibility of Baltic wrecks to the diving community. The group finances its projects with its own funds and with the support of sponsors and private individuals.

A wooden sailing ship from the late 19th Century Baltic Sea Gallery:

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About author

Tomasz Andrukajtis
Editor-in-chief of the DIVERS24 portal and magazine. Responsible for obtaining, translating and developing content. He also supervises all publications. Achived his first diving certification – P1 CMAS, in 2000. Has a degree in journalism and social communication. In the diving industry since 2008.
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