Expedition discovers third hole in MS Estonia hull

The expedition discovered a third opening in the starboard side of the hull of sunken passenger ferry MS Estonia on Thursday morning. PHOTO: Kuvatõmmis videost

While recent years have revealed two holes in the starboard side of the hull of sunken passenger ferry MS Estonia, the private Mare Liberum expedition discovered a third opening on Thursday morning.

An autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) was used to study the starboard hull at night. Previous attempts had been made to study the hull that is hidden behind a grayish wall of sediment, while both larger AUVs and divers failed to access the area. The visibility has been so poor at the depth of 80 meters that divers were forced to return to the surface immediately.

A smaller AUV was then brought in to study the starboard hull. The device had until then been used by Linus Andresson to take thousands of photogrammetry images to assemble a 3D image of the hull. The risk paid off as the smaller AUV managed to squeeze in between the wall and the hull.

“The most important thing to report is that studying the starboard hull with a smaller AUV, we managed to access the section of the hull between two larger tears. We could not see all of it, while we managed to get some way in and film the hull,” expedition lead Margus Kurm said. “What we found was another opening.”

Kurm had not had time to review the material on Thursday afternoon. “It is an eye-shaped tear that is horizontal in shape and widens in the middle. The injury penetrates the hull and is smaller than the two known holes,” Kurm said.

The former prosecutor emphasized that it is a smaller opening the full extent of which is difficult to assess as the AUV could only film it up close. “However, it is not a separate breach in another area. The discovery is that of a third tear near the two existing ones,” Kurm explained.

A documentary aired last fall discovered two previously unknown breaches in the hull of MS Estonia.

The research vessel RS Sentinel has now concluded its work at the site and is returning to port. Kurm said that the expedition team managed to do almost everything it set out to achieve, despite poor visibility around the wreck. In addition to discovering the third tear in the starboard hull, the team managed to put together a 3D image of the hull and study the ferry’s car deck, discovering that middle section car deck doors are intact and closed. “We will now systematize the material before handing it over to experts for analysis,” Kurm said.

The material will be studied by Andrzej Jasionowski whose company SophusQuorum Pte. Ltd. specializes in underwater expert analyses. Jasionowski was part of the SSPA consortium in 2005-2008 that carried out various MS Estonia surveys for the Swedish government. The scientific analysis should be completed by spring.