Lying on the seabed at a depth of 60m lay the undisturbed remains of the Pallada, one of the first battleships to go down during the First World War almost exactly 100 years ago.
“It was a heart-stopping momemt, says diver Jouni Polkko. “Pallada was one the very last remarkable wrecks that had yet to be located.”
The team just observed and took photos. Out of respect, they did not touch anything and did not enter the wreck — partly because at 100 years old, it would have been too dangerous and difficult to do so.
This is just another 'day in the office' for the members of Finnish diving group Badewanne — literally 'bathtub' – the nickname given to the Baltic Sea’s Gulf of Finland by German sailors during the second world war.
The secretive group of 17 divers have been exploring shipwrecks in the Gulf for more than 20 years.
In the dark waters of the Baltic Sea, cold temperatures and low salinity create the perfect formula for the historical preservation of underwater monuments to ships, lives, and battles lost.
Team leader Juha Flinkman, a renowned tech diver and marine scientist explains what motivates them.
“When a ship sinks, it quite often disappears entirely from the eyes and general consciousness of people.
Nowhere on land, save some extremely rare archaeological excavations is it possible to see history in a way one sees it when diving a pristine wreck. Down there, time has ceased to run its course, and everything is just as it was when the ship sank.”
The group started out as a group of friends from a university dive club. They made videos of shipwrecks for the Finnish War Museum which evolved into work with the Navy, Coast Guard and Environmental Institute, then television shows.
Flinkman describes the emotions of finding a wreck as a 'cocktail of joy, success and sometimes also confusion because what you find wasn't what you were looking for'.
The wrecks are mostly found at a depth of between 40m to 80m and while there aren't sea currents to contend with it is still highly challenging due to darkness, poor visibility, cold and shipping traffic.
The team are currently interested in submarine warfare and looking for both German and Soviet wrecks. They have also explored ancient sailing shipwrecks from the 17th to the 19th centuries.
“Diving a 240 year old wreck, and seeing everything just as it was described in contemporary documents is a mind blowing experience,” says Flinkman.
“There is no gold, only a wealth of stories to be told, all exciting, many sad and all accessible only by intensive work in research and diving.”