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Wreck of Leeni VT-503 military transport ship identified on the bottom of the Baltic Sea

A group of technical divers has identified another wreck in the Baltic Sea. This time it is the Soviet transport ship Leeni VT-503. Last Monday, June 7, we reported that the SubZone group had identified the wreck of the Finnish the patrol vessel Uisko. Meanwhile, on 10 June, they managed to determine the name of
Published: June 12, 2021 - 09:00
Updated: July 22, 2023 - 22:45
Wreck of Leeni VT-503 military transport ship identified on the bottom of the Baltic Sea

A group of technical divers has identified another wreck in the Baltic Sea. This time it is the Soviet transport ship Leeni VT-503.

Last Monday, June 7, we reported that the SubZone group had identified the wreck of the Finnish the patrol vessel Uisko. Meanwhile, on 10 June, they managed to determine the name of another World War II vessel that sank in the waters of the Gulf of Finland. This time the wreck of the Leeni VT-503 military transport ship was identified.

SubZone group explores the wreck of the Leeni
The wreck was located in 2009, but only now has an attempt at identification been made Photo: SubZone ltd
The Tallinn Disaster

The vessel, like many other Soviet ships and vessels at the time, sank during evacuation of Tallinn. Their destination was the heavily fortified seaport of Kronstadt on Kotlin Island, some 30 km north of St Petersburg. The military transport ship Leeni VT-503 met its destiny on 21 August 1941.

wreck of the military transport ship Leeni
The vessel sank after running into a mine on 21 August 1941. Photo: SubZone ltd

At one point the unit was attacked from the air by Luftwaffe planes. The crew started to manoeuvre frantically trying to avoid more bombs, which were falling nearby. Unfortunately, at the height of Cape Juminda she sailed straight into a mine. As a result of the explosion, the Leeni sank and 209 people lost their lives. Available records indicate more than 200 were on board at the time.

Diver going down to the wreck
Visibility on the wreck was very poor, making documentation difficult Fot Fot SubZone ltd

It is worth noting that a total of around 70 Soviet ships and vessels Juminda minefield total of around 70 Soviet ships and vessels were sunk. Most during the evacuation of Tallinn, for which the terms “Soviet Dunkirk” and “Tallinn disaster” have become synonymous.

Unit name plate found on wreck
The wreck was successfully identified after a plaque was found with the first name of the vessel Photo: SubZone ltd
Identification

One wreck, which we found in 2009 during a sonar search, has not been identified to date. The dive to check the wreck took place on 10 June, with ideal weather conditions. As the wreck is located in a busy shipping lane, the support from Estonian traffic control was very welcome. Although the visibility underwater was excellent, it was only to the depth where the wreck of the Leeni is located. A few metres above the bottom the water was more like milk, making it difficult to take photos and videos reports the SubZone team

diver illuminating the plaque with the first name of the Leeni wreck
Despite the years, the name Dordrecht is still clearly visible Fot. Sami Paakkarinen

The final identification came when the team found the board of the shipping company. Exploring the wreckage of the military transport ship Leeni, Sami Paakkarinen noticed a plaque attached to the side with the first name of the vessel visible.

Archival photograph of the ship Leeni aka Dordrecht
Archival photograph of the vessel then operating under the name Porthos

The vessel was built at the Wood, Skinner & Co shipyard in Newcastle, commissioned by the Dutch shipowner Van Ommeren Shipping. The British shipbuilders completed construction in 1891 and the Dordrecht ship then set out to sea as a timber freighter. The vessel measured 83.7 metres in length and was powered by a 3-cylinder triple expansion steam engine with 1,000 horsepower. It is interesting to note that in less than 50 years the new owners changed the name of the ship as many as nine times.

The SubZone team worked as follows: Sami Paakkarinen, Mikko Paasi, Jenni Westerlund, Laura Tuominen, Immi Wallin and Markus Santasalo.

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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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