Back on the boat, we mull over our second dive. Should we return to the E Russ or cruise for another hour to find the Russian submarine Akula?
A difficult decision, because we haven’t explored nearly enough of the E Russ, but the sea state is on our side to locate and dive a different wreck. So we unanimously agree to move on to check out this sub, hoping the vis will be as good.
With the long travelling distances between these wrecks in Estonia, I can imagine that one might have a tough time at sea. We’re lucky today, now with very little wind, and I find a comfy place on deck to while away the time.
The wreck-site is again buoyed with a solid yellow marker, and loosely we agree to follow Egert again.
We will be the first divers in the water but this being an intact submarine, other than some mine damage to the bow and stern, getting disorientated is not a consideration and guiding not essential.
Again the green fog clears as we drop through the 3m layer of soup. The temperature gradually drops and I begin to pump some air into my drysuit to stave off the cold and the increasing squeeze.
Then I leave the line, turn 180° and, laid out as if it had sunk yesterday, is the highlight of our trio of Baltic Sea trips. The best really has been saved until last.
Top: Susanne with a propellor on Akula. Above left: Naval mine. Above right: The submarine’s conning tower.
Construction of the Akula began in a St Petersburg shipyard in 1906. It was a new design concept, created by naval architect Ivan Bubnov with an increased range of action in mind.
The sub was launched three years later and found to be slower than anticipated.
In November, 1911, the Akula entered active service in the Baltic Fleet, and the following year transferred to the 2nd Submarine Brigade. It tallied up 19 patrols until, while carrying naval mines on a deployment mission in 1915, a mine sent it with its 35 crew to the seabed.
From the bow we can view at least half of the wreck’s 40m length. The visibility is outstanding and, my head roaring with excitement, I don’t feel the cold at all.
We stop for a nose at the conning-tower. Looking down to the seabed from there, on the listing port side, we can see four of the dome-like naval mines Akula was carrying. We take a tentative closer look, bottoming out at 30m.
The Akula has four propellers and I position Susanne by a starboard screw to squeeze off a few shots.
Beside them some explosion damage is evident in front of the rudder. Looking up, I see the lights of the rest of the dive-team coming our way.
Back at the conning-tower, we examine its construction. Much of the metal is not corroded, with one shiny piece standing proud and looking almost immaculate.
I leave Susanne to carry on the dive with the team, having puffed through much of my air in just over half an hour, and head for the mooring-chain to begin my ascent and wait out my short stop.
With one last look back at this magnificent relic, I think about those 35 souls that remain inside and head for that layer of soup above me for the last time.
From Finland to Sweden and on to Estonia, the Baltic Sea has enchanted, excited, exhausted and exhilarated me.
It’s been freezing, fun and sometimes frustrating – but that is the essence of exploration and adventure diving.