MOSCOW, May 7 (RIA Novosti) – A group of Russian divers searching for sunken World War II submarines in the Gulf of Finland instead came across a ship belonging to the Imperial Russian Navy, whose sinking in 1857 remained the worst Baltic Sea disaster for almost 140 years.
A search expedition for wrecks of World War II submarines in the Baltic Sea began on May 1. Its main objective was to find the Soviet fleet’s Shch-320 (Shchuka class) submarine, which was lost on October 27, 1942 after apparently hitting a German mine.
“During hydroacoustic sensing, a large object was discovered on the seabed and was tentatively identified as a vessel. It turned out to be the Lefort, an Imperial Russian Navy Baltic Fleet sailing battleship that sank in the fall of 1857. Her whereabouts had remained unknown until now,” Col. Andrei Bobrun, the chief spokesman for the Western Military District, said on Monday.
Divers who examined the wreck said the ship’s hull was well-preserved. They found crew members’ remains, firearms and other weapons, tableware and naval equipment.
The Lefort capsized and sank in rough water on September 23, 1857 while en route from Reval (present day Tallinn, Estonia) to Kronstadt, killing all 826 people on board: 756 crew and officers and 70 members of their families (53 women and 17 children). The sinking of the Lefort remained the worst Baltic Sea naval accident until the 1994 Estonia ferry disaster that killed 852 people.