A mystery 18th century shipwreck found in the Gulf of Finland

Helsinki, Finland – April 12th, 2011 – Free for immediate release
Suomenkielinen versio:

An unknown 18th century shipwreck with guns on-board has been found outside Helsinki in the Gulf of Finland, at over 60 meters depth. The documentary material reveals the wreck remarkably well preserved.

With this release we hope that the material we bring to daylight will ring the bell amongst the marine historians and researchers in Sweden, Russia, United Kingdom and other countries active in the area some 200 years ago, so that the wreck could finally be identified

A target resembling a shipwreck was discovered during the Finnish Maritime Administration’s routine seabed surveys in the Gulf of Finland in 2003. Originally the finding was suspected to be a merchant vessel with limited significance, but the initial underwater documentation undertaken by Finnish wreck research team Badewanne revealed that the discovery was much more interesting than originally thought. The wreck site has been documented by Badewanne since summer 2004, with a research permit from the Finnish National Board of Antiquities. Mixed gas diving techniques, involving breathing of helium-oxygen mixtures, have been used in the work due to depth in excess of 60 meters at the wreck site. The wreck site has been documented using digital still and video cameras, and the research results are slowly lifting the curtain of secrecy covering the mystery wreck.

The ship’s hull, deck guns, bell and many other details are still in surprisingly good condition. Even the lion figure on the port side cathead is still intact. The masts have been broken off possibly due to a collision at the time of her sinking, but the bowsprit is still in its original place.

The wreck has 12 gun ports on one deck, with six guns still present in their original positions. Whether more guns were present or if they were taken over board in an effort to save her at the time of her sinking is unknown. In addition to deck guns, other details lying on the deck include remains of ropes, buckets, remains of a steering wheel and stock of a rifle. Ship’s figurehead, a man figure, is lying on the seabed, just under the bow. Hatchways on gun deck are open, and remains of a barrel and pieces of wood are visible in the silt underneath them.
The documentation work by wreck research team Badewanne has been completely non-intrusive, utmost care has been taken to protect this pristine discovery.

Despite research effort, the ship’s identity remains a mystery. Ship’s bell is still in its place, and if raised and preserved, it might eventually reveal the wreck’s identity. But at this stage the Finnish National Board of Antiquities is not planning a lifting operation.

“With this release we hope that the material will ring the bell amongst the marine historians and researchers in Sweden, Russia, United Kingdom and other countries active in the area some 200 years ago, so that the identity of the wreck would be finally revealed”, says Jussi Kaasinen from the wreck research team Badewanne.
Because the accurate identity is missing, the team Badewanne has given the wreck a code name “Donald Duck wreck”, as its general appearance is similar to the way ship wrecks are usually illustrated in Donald Duck comic strips.

“The unique environmental conditions of the Baltic Sea, i.e. low salinity, constantly low temperature and darkness at depth hinder or slow down biological, microbiological and biochemical decaying processes, have all helped to preserve not only this wreck, but also countless others! These include the Dutch merchantman Vrouw Maria – another 18th century wreck which has captured wide international interest after its discovery in 1999 in Finnish waters”, says Juha Flinkman, underwater cameraman in wreck research team Badewanne, as well as a marine scientist working at Marine Research Center in Finnish Environment Institute.

“The Baltic Sea has for centuries been a major waterway through which all commerce to and from Russia has taken place. As such, its control has also been a major source of conflicts in the area. Multitudes of well preserved wrecks lay on its seabed waiting to be discovered – a fact that has more often than not overlooked”, says Flinkman. “With this release we want to do our part in understanding, discovering and protecting these wonderful remains of human activity and enterprise. We also see it as our task to show the general public these incredible discoveries which only few can reach.”



About Badewanne Oy

We are a group of divers that have been documenting shipwrecks in the Gulf of Finland for more than 15 years. We are a multi talented team with a broad skill set on underwater video, still photography, drawing & painting, 3D modeling, underwater engineering and marine sciences.
Additional information: www.badewanne.fi

Media contacts

  • High resolution originals of the media content shown, general media enquiries, photographs, HD video material and other
    content – including the research report: Wreck research team Badewanne, info(at)badewanne.fi
  • Juha Flinkman, juha.flinkman(at)ymparisto.fi, +358-50-501 8666
  • Jussi Kaasinen, jussi.kaasinen(at)iki.fi, +358-50-523 4497
  • Finnish National Board of Antiquities, the national authority
    responsible for preserving Finland’s material cultural heritage: www.nba.fi