Helsinki, Finland – August 12th, 2016
Letutšij (Летучий) and Ispolnitelnyi (Исполнительный) were part of an eight ship convoy — all “Leutenant Burakov” class — on their way from Helsinki to Moonsund, today known as Väinameri between mainland Estonia and the islands of Hiiumaa and Saaremaa. The convoy was supposed to lay mines in an operation which aimed to block fairways used by the Germans on the Northern Baltic Sea. Together with stormy weather and high wave action, both ships lost stability and capsized. The story of the ships and our report on the first dives to Ispolnitelnyi can be found from here.
2016 – The Wreck of Letutsij is Finally Found!
Two years ago we were able to identify the wreck of Ispolnitelnyi, and the story was published on the 12th December 2014 on the centenary of the sinking. Now, almost two years later, we were able locate and identify Ispolnitelnyis missing sister ship — Letutšij.
Based on the convoys route plan, the first challenge was to figure out if the convoy had been able to keep its course during the stormy weather — or — had the ships deviated from their planned course. One hint came from an old eyewitness account. When Letutšij sunk, the masts of the light German Imperial Navy cruiser Magdeburg had been visible. Magdeburg had run aground in a foggy whether near Osmussaar in late August 1914. We also knew, that Letutšij sunk an hour after Ispolnitelnyi.
The wreck rests on the seabed in an upright, slightly vertical position. The stern is completely buried in clay. This phenomena is typical in the Baltic Sea and Gulf of Finland and quite often the wrecks can be deeply buried in the sediment. Based on the condition of the wreck, it seemed that trawling had not caused any major damage, and no trawl nets were present at the site. However, it seems likely that a trawl has at least once swept over the site. Nevertheless, the wreck is in a much better condition than her sister ship, Ispolnitelnyi.
Letutšij had a very light bridge structure which was typical for the Leutenant Burakov class. Over the time the bridge had collapsed, and only a pile of pipes remained. Near the area where the bridge used to stand we found the engine telegram, but no wheel. Maybe it is resting somewhere close by on the seabed. The torpedo launcher was intact in its place and well preserved. The identity of the wreck was confirmed by the French shipbuilders plate that was visible through an open deck hatch to the engine room.
The wreck site is a maritime grave and it has considerable historical significance. We wish that the wreck will remain untouched for the future generations and that divers would respect the site as the final resting place of the sailors who lost their lives in the incident.
Leutenant Burakov Class:
2014 Marked the Centenary of World War I
According to UNESCO, underwater cultural heritage from World War I has not yet been comprehensively researched despite the fact that it bears witness to one of the most important conflicts in recent history. This heritage is also highly threatened by metal recovery and treasure-hunting. Badewanne encourages all divers to exercise a sense of responsibility and to respect our common and unique submerged legacy, that is one-of-a-kind. We hope that all wreck sites, regardless of their age would remain untouched for the future generations.
More information about the World War I underwater cultural heritage can be found at UNESCO.
Media contacts & further information
Badewanne diving team is a non-profit organization representing a group of voluntary divers that have been documenting shipwrecks in the Gulf of Finland (known during WW II as “Badewanne”) for more than 20 years. We are a multitalented team with a broad skill set on underwater video, still photography, drawing & painting, 3D modelling, underwater engineering, marine biology and environmental sciences.
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