The previously unknown holes in Estonia’s wreck have made the Swedish Accident Investigation Board want to re-examine the ship. A ten-day feasibility study with sonar at the sinking site is now beginning, in search of answers.
On Thursday, a Swedish and an Estonian ship left their home ports to participate in the new investigations of Estonia’s wreck. Starting on Friday, the Swedish Accident Investigation Board will carry out a ten-day feasibility study, to determine what measures are needed to continue to be able to examine the previously unknown holes in the wreck.
The diving operation has been made possible with an amendment to the law on grave peace from 1 July.
Data on the vessel and the bottom conditions will be collected using sonar and sonar methods.
– We will have equipment mounted on the ships, which drags the ships in the water and we will put sonar equipment on the bottom around the ship, says Jonas Bäckstrand, chairman of the investigation and deputy director general of the Accident Investigation Board Norway.
Details of holes
The data will later be visualized with the help of researchers from Stockholm University, a work that can take up to three months. An underwater robot with a camera should also take pictures.
– But we are planning the main photo documentation for the spring. Among other things, this has to do with the visibility conditions being judged to be the best then, says Jonas Bäckstrand.
The background to the investigations is the information about previously unknown holes in Estonia’s starboard side that was shown in a TV documentary last autumn. That side of the ship used to be down towards the bottom, but is now more visible, according to Jonas Bäckstrand.
– Then we believe that it is important to document and investigate this side of the ship and the damage that is there.
Ceremony on board
Before the feasibility study begins, a ceremony will be held at the sinking site with church representatives from Sweden, Estonia, Latvia and Finland.
– A ceremony will be held to emphasize the importance of respect. After all, it is a burial site where we carry out our work, says Jonas Bäckstrand.
From the Swedish side, Tuulikki Koivunen Bylund, bishop emeritus of the Church of Sweden, will participate, who will read a Bible text and say two prayers.
– It is an honorary assignment. I was a priest in Uppsala when the accident occurred and it really shook the whole town. Several groups from Uppsala died. It was a heavy reminder of the shortness of life, she says.
As the peace of the grave has been lifted, Estonia took the initiative for the ceremony, she says.
– Grave peace is very important to us in the church. It has to do with respect for man and the value of man, even the deceased man, and we are very strict about that even when it comes to our cemeteries.
Hope wreckage is found
The survivor and relative representative Rolf Sörman has also been invited as an observer. He hopes to have the opportunity to suggest areas that may be interesting to explore, where there has been much discussion or conspiracy theories.
– It feels great to be a part of it. I can think that the staff of the new accident investigation have acted very differently, in a positive way, but 27 years too late.
Rolf Sörman and many other survivors feel that the course of events in the accident report does not correspond with their own memory images. He does not believe that the influence of the feasibility study will be particularly great, but still believes that it can help to dismiss some theories, for example about what happened to the salvaged bow visor.
– What I hope for is that you will be able to find wreckage, it has been very debatable where the visor was found and under what circumstances. Some say that it remained on the bow and in that case you should be able to find impressions at the bottom.
Large parts of the bottom covered
An aggravating circumstance surrounding the survey is that large parts of the bottom are covered with geotextile and that about 300,000 cubic meters of sand have been spread around the ship. In practical terms, the weather could also be a challenge, according to Jonas Bäckstrand at the Swedish Accident Investigation Board.
However, he believes and hopes that the documentation collected will be able to curb speculation about the accident in the future.
– We hope that as many facts as possible will be obtained in order to be able to make assessments as to whether these holes have affected the sinking or not.
The passenger ferry Estonia sank in the Baltic Sea on the night of 28 September 1994. The ferry had left the port of Tallinn the night before, but capsized barely halfway to Stockholm and sank in less than an hour.
852 people died in the disaster. 501 of them were Swedes.
137 people were rescued.
The International Accident Investigation Board’s most important conclusion was that the brackets and locks for Estonia’s bow visor were undersized. The ship capsized as a result of large amounts of water rushing into the car deck.
Survivors, relatives and other committed people have, however, demanded that the rapid course of events when Estonia sank must be further investigated.
After the documentary “Estonia – the find that changes everything” was broadcast on Discovery, the accident commissions in Sweden, Finland and Estonia have initiated a new investigation.
In order to be able to make new dives at the wreck site, the Swedish Accident Investigation Board requested that the government amend the law on grave peace.
On July 1, 2021, an amendment to the law on grave peace came into force. It contains an exception to the ban on diving, which covers activities conducted by an authority in Sweden, Estonia, Finland, with the intention of investigating the shipwreck.
Starting on July 8, the Swedish Accident Investigation Board will carry out new investigations into the accident site and Estonia’s wreck. The visor that fell off during the sinking will also be examined. The holes in the ship will be photo-documented in the spring of 2022.
Source: Nyteknik – Senaste nytt by www.nyteknik.se.
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