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First artifacts recovered from Baltic sailing ship

From the wreck of an 18th-century sailing ship lying at the bottom of the Gulf of Finland, Russian archaeologists have excavated the first artifacts. The vessel, which sank in the early 19th century, is being explored by divers of the Russian Geographical Society. Specialists from the Underwater Research Centre of the Russian Geographical Society have
Published: August 17, 2020 - 12:35
Updated: July 22, 2023 - 20:48
First artifacts recovered from Baltic sailing ship

From the wreck of an 18th-century sailing ship lying at the bottom of the Gulf of Finland, Russian archaeologists have excavated the first artifacts. The vessel, which sank in the early 19th century, is being explored by divers of the Russian Geographical Society.

Specialists from the Underwater Research Centre of the Russian Geographical Society have begun exploring and documenting the wreck of a wooden vessel dating back to the early 18th century, which lies in the Russian part of the Gulf of Finland. Their preliminary findings indicate that it is probably the wreck of a Dutch merchant ship.

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Glass bottles from the wreck divers24.co.uk
Bottles recovered from the wreck photo Russian Geographical Society

The vessel was probably heading for the “Venice of the North”, as St. Petersburg, then the new capital of the Russian Empire, located in the Neva Delta, was commonly called. On closer inspection of the wreck, hundreds of glass bottles were found within the wreck, which is why the site was given the working name “Butilocznik”.

In 2018, Baltic Fleet sailors accidentally discovered an unknown object lying on the bottom of the Gulf of Finland near Lavansaari Island. The new discovery immediately drew the attention of specialists from the RTG Underwater Research Centre. In 2019, archaeologists dived on the position for the first time and ascertained that there was a wooden ship on the bottom.

The wreck lies at a depth of over 50 metres. It has no masts or anchor windlass. Specialists of the Underwater Research Centre of the Russian Geographical Society have hypothesised that it is probably the remains of a Dutch tjalka – a cargo sailing ship. According to preliminary examination, the ship probably sank in the middle of the 18th century.

Damaged bottles recovered from sailing shipwreck divers24.co.uk
Unfortunately most of the cargo was damaged photo Russian Geographical Society

Detailed research at the site began in August 2020. On board the ship, divers found an interesting cargo of hundreds of glass bottles: narrow and wide, factory-made and handmade. The glass industry of the 18th century is represented on the ship in all its diversity.

Unfortunately, most of the bottles have not survived. From the scent mark and the type of bottles, it is possible to determine what the contents of the individual vessels were. On a few types of bottles, a stamp with the liquor designation was also found. In the past, gin was stored in such vessels.

Most likely, the ship was sailing to St Petersburg and was carrying bottles of alcohol in its hold. But what exactly was their content? It is difficult to say, because now it is simply rotten organic matter. Several bottles smell of pine needles and eucalyptus,” said Roman Prokhorov, underwater archaeologist and conservator of the Underwater Research Centre of the Russian Geographical Society

Researchers from the Underwater Research Centre of the Russian Geographical Society have already contacted the staff of the State Hermitage Museum and, as they found out, there are no such vessels in the museum’s collection. The archaeological community is eagerly awaiting the artifacts excavated from the wreck.

Bottle recovered from a wreck in the Gulf of Finland divers24.pl
Bottle excavated by archaeologists photo Russian Geographical Society

Specialists continue to examine the vessel. The exact age of the vessel still remains to be established in order to understand where the ship sailed to and for what purpose. This will require painstaking work in the archives in search of traces of the unusual and mysterious vessel.

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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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