Baltic Storm

Posted: 18. aug. 2010 in Life, Society
Sildid:, , , , , , ,

Couple of days ago I re-watched some short documentaries about the biggest shipwreck in last 30 years – the sinking of M/S Estonia. The Estonia disaster occurred on Wednesday, 28 September 1994, as the ship was crossing the Baltic Sea, en route from Tallinn, Estonia to Stockholm, Sweden. Estonia was carrying 989 passengers and crew. Most of the passengers were Scandinavian while most of the crew members were Estonian. Out of a total of 989 passengers and crew on board 138 were rescued alive but one died later in the hospital. The accident claimed 852 lives (501 Swedes, 285 Estonians, 17 Latvians, 10 Finns and 44 people of other nationalities: 1 from Belarus, 1 from Canada, 1 from France, 1 from the Netherlands, 1 from Nigeria, 1 from Ukraine, 1 from United Kingdom, 2 from Morocco, 3 from Lithuania, 5 from Denmark, 6 from Norway, 10 from Germany, 11 from Russia) by drowning and hypothermia.

It was a big tragedy in Estonia and Sweden. I remember that our family had just moved to a new apartment, there were boxes lying around everywhere. I had just started my 1st grade in school. It was an early morning before school and when we put the radio on and then we heard about the accident. Although anyone from our family or friends weren’t on that ship it still influenced all of us, it just was such a tragic event. I remember that I collected some newspaper cuts about it and I’ve always wondered what really happened on that ship, why did it sink.

The official version about the sinking of M/S Estonia is the following:

The first sign of trouble onboard the Estonia was a strange sound of metal against metal heard around 01:00, when the ship was on the outskirts of the Turku archipelago but an inspection of the bow visor showed no obvious damage. At about 01:15, the visor separated and the ship took on a heavy starboard list. At about 01:20 a weak female voice called “Häire, häire, laeval on häire”, the Estonian words for “Alarm, alarm, there is alarm on the ship”, over the public address system. Just a moment later an internal alarm for the crew was transmitted over the public address system. Soon after this the general lifeboat alarm was given. Soon the vessel lurched some 30 to 40 degrees to starboard making it practically impossible to move safely inside the ship. Doors and hallways became deadly pits. Those who were going to survive were already on deck by then. A Mayday was communicated by the ship’s crew at 01:22, but did not follow international formats. M/S Estonia directed a call to M/S Silja Europa and only after making contact with her the radio operator uttered the word “Mayday”. In English, the radio operator on Silja Europa replied: “Estonia, are you calling mayday?” After that, another voice took over on Estonia and the conversation shifted to Finnish. The Estonia crew member was able to provide some details about their situation but due to loss of power, he could not give their position. This delayed rescue operations somewhat. The ship disappeared from the radar screens of other ships at around 01:50. Mariella arrived at the scene of the accident at 02:12, the first rescue helicopter arrived at 03:05. The official report blamed the accident on the failure of locks on the bow visor that broke under the strain of the waves. When the visor broke off the ship, it damaged the ramp that covered the opening to the car deck behind the visor. This allowed water into the car deck, which destabilized the ship and began a catastrophic chain of events.

But the survivors, the family members of the people who had died were not satisfied with the official report. And there are to this day big questions marks. First of the all the metallic sound that everybody on board heard – where did it came from? Secondly, why did the ship sunk so quickly? After the accident the Russians offered submarine to help the rescue operation or the investigation – it was denied by the Swedish government – why? It would have helped a lot. Then the big mystery with the survivors – first reports say that the second captain Estonian Avo Piht had been rescued and was treated in Turku hospital, also Estonian twin-sisters who were dancers were on the list and were seen but after-wards they were declared dead/missing. One nurse from Turku hospital had personally known captain Avo Piht and saw him there but later took back her saying and stated very strongly that she does not want to discuss the matter anymore. Where did the people go? If they had been rescued, they were in the hospital – why are they now missing? Why no one still  knows anything about them? When the investigation of the shipwreck began the Swedish government decided that the wreck of the ship won’t be pulled up from the sea and they declared the place a “wet grave”. The people were very against it but they didn’t change their decision. At one point they started to fill the area of the wreck with concrete – fortunately it was discovered and this time they stopped their activity and let it be. I’m asking myself – why do they have to cover it up? Why won’t they investigate it more? In the documentary I saw the divers who went down to Estonia said that tens and tens of human remains are laying there around the wreck – they could be easily brought out, given back to the relatives so that they could bury them and give them final peace. But the Swedish government does not allow it. Why?

Due to these questions there are many conspiracy theories. For example:

1. In the autumn of 2004, a former Swedish customs officer claimed on the Swedish television program that MS Estonia had been used to transport military equipment in September 1994. The Swedish and Estonian governments subsequently launched separate investigations, headed by Court of Appeal President Johan Hirschfeldt and Republic Prosecutor Margus Kurm, respectively. Both investigations confirmed that military equipment was aboard the ship on 14 and 20 September 1994, though it remained unclear if any such equipment was aboard the ship at the night of the disaster

2.In 1999, the Joint Accident Investigation Commission responded to rumors in the media of bombs having caused the accident. In the original report, they had already ruled out traces of explosion in the visor, but after analysis of the videos where suspected bomb-like objects had been seen, an explosion as a possible cause or contributing factor in the accident was totally closed out. In 2000, American adventurer Gregg Bemis and his crew dived to the wreck and filmed the damages. They also recovered pieces of metal, which were given to various laboratories for analysis. Stephen Davis, writing in the New Statesman in May 2005 claimed that laboratory tests had confirmed evidence of explosion in the metal. Davis further claimed the ship was carrying a secret cargo of military equipment smuggled from the Russians by the British MI6 on behalf of the CIA as part of ongoing efforts to monitor the development of Russia’s weapons, and that this would explain Britain’s signing of the Estonia Agreement.

3. The German journalist Jutta Rabe also carried out her own investigations, resulting in a book. The book was turned into the fictional 2003 motion picture Baltic Storm (with actor Donald Sutherland) which portrays the Russian secret service as being responsible for the sinking, and the Swedish government’s attempts to cover up the causes for the disaster. Rabe also claimed that she was scheduled to have an interview with Odd Engström, a former member of the Parliament of Sweden, about the real background of the disaster a day before he died.

Now, I don’t know if these conspiracy theories are correct or not but I do know that there are too many unanswered questions about the accident and too much secrecy. Only thing that was positive about this accident is that it made almost the same impact as Titanic did on its time – ship companies overlooked their ships and made improvements to secure the safety of the passengers. In 1999, special training requirements in crowd and crisis management and human behavior were extended to crew on all passenger ships as well as amendments to watch keeping standards. The bow visors of the ships were re-looked at and a double waterproof door was added to the car deck.

I didn’t lose anyone in this terrible accident but I still feel strangely connected to M/S Estonia. I am not happy with the investigation results. If I am not happy than the families of the victims are definitely not satisfied with it. I think there should be another investigation from outside experts to conclude what really was going on in that ship and also what had really happened to the victims who were reported to be rescued but were declared dead some time later. I think that the 852 people who died deserve to finally find peace and the peace won’t come until there is clarity and truth. On 28th of September this year there will be 16 years since the accident and still there is no peace for the victims.

Short clip of the M/S Estonia before the shipwreck:

Trailer of “Baltic Storm”:

  1. fahrenheit666 ütles:

    Hi Kadri!

    I stumbled upon your blog after i accidentally stumbled upon your metal news, a good idea of yours.

    It made me very glad to see someone remembering the Estonia catastrophe. However i guess you view this issue quite differently in Estonia than we do in Sweden. Here it seems almost forgotten. Eccept for those who lost family and friends in the sinking… which it obviously was.
    Maybe you already know some of this but i have some more information that might be of interest to you.

    DIS: the biggest relative association hired Henning Witte german born international lawyer working in sweden with primarily german swedish relations to sue the Meyer wharf for having built a substandard ship. But after 2, 3 years of having to conduct his own investigation and which wasnt even his job he came to the conclusion that an incredible cover up was being perpetrated, putting the lid over the so called investigation. Remember Hening Witte wasnt the wreck commission but he had to conduct his own investigation since the official investigation didnt do any investigation. SCARY!

    Just a few things. I can tell you a lot more…
    The survivours where treated more or less like prisoners when they to the Stockholm harbour. Morre like witnessess than survivors.
    The official investigation claims that the cargo deck was not investigated. WHEN THE CAUSE OF THE ACCIDENT OR SHOULD I SAY MASSMURDER WAS BECAUSE OF A FAILURE ON CARGO DECK! Yet still in the official diving films one of the divers say “We are now on cargo deck.”
    On the wreckage site one inspector threw the atlantic lock back into the ocean saying it was to heavy to take with them on the helicopter. Yet it is probably the single most important piece of wreckage material since it locks the bow visor! The failure that is claimed reason for the death of 851, 852 we dont know how many died for sure. Yet there were several barges on the site that could have brought the atlantic lock to safety on land.

    Both Der Spiegel and Svenska Dagbladet (swedish newspaper) wrote articles about the bombs onboard.

    Out of the 4 hinches holding the car ramp in place (behind the bow visor) 3 were damaged and on one other was a package attached. This package said an MI6 explosives expert was most probably a bomb.

    The car ramp is still in its place and an a diver can not get past it. This could not have caused such a massive leak as to sink the ship in 45 minutes.

    Several survivours (eh witnessess) tell of seeing other holes in the hull. About the size of a road tunnel. They have prefered to stay anonymous.

    Other witnessess or survivours tell of a fishing boat that was following the Estonia and collected a few special people while throwing others that tried to get onboard back into the sea.

    News went out quite early just a few weeks after the sinking that the bow visor had been found. Then nothing more until about month later the bow visor had been found. However a big piece of metal about 10 x 7 meters was first found. This never reached the news.

    There are several cuts and mutes in the official diving films. Parts are missing.

    Altough the important cargo deck is supposedly not investigated the divers spent a lot of time searching a number of cabins looking for something special. Whatever that might have been it was more important than the actual cause of the “accident.”

    I guess you already know a lot of this. Please write back if you find it interesting and do check out my blog. It might give you some things to ponder a s well as good music.
    I like your blog. It has some serious issues and not just irrelevant crap like most bloggers.

    A funny coincidence is that i was in Tartu last week visiting two friends.

    All the best and a merry christmas!

  2. sehwerte augen ütles:

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    can i do it please help out.

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