The first expedition to explore the ship “Lefort”, which was found in May 2013 by participants of «Regards to ships of Great Victory» project not far from Bolshoy Tuters Island in the Gulf of Finland, the Baltic Sea, started on June 9th 2013.

The main goal of the expedition was to gather information, shoot a film for RTR TV channel and create a virtual museum of this unique sailing ship. This expedition was an unprecedented one. The Baltic fleet and Ministry of Defense of Russia allocated “Sibiryakov” survey vessel as a base ship for divers. Divings were performed from the board of RK-311motor boat.The members of the expedition made more than ten scuba divings up to 70 meters deep. External parts of the ship and the area nearby were explored by remotely controlled robot diver “Falcon”.

“Baltic Legend Lefort” project became a part of a “Transneft” charity program timed to the 20th anniversary of the company. “Transneft” gave financial support on both stages: diving and creation of virtual museum. The expedition was organized by NP “Reconnaissance diving club” with support of Nikolai Kovalyov, State Duma deputy Army general and Russian Geograðhic Society. “Tetis Pro” company became a technical sponsor of the expedition. It granted equipment to make a series of 70 meters deep divings and ensured the work of remotely controlled robot diver for under-water video filming.

Battleship “Lefort” was discovered by «Regards to ships of Great Victory» expedition on May 4th 2013 when exploring ground by sonar “Neman GBOE” north to Bolshoi Tuters Island. The aim of this exploration was to find submarine Sh-320, lost in 1942.

3D panoramic photos of expedition


June 29th 2013 05:00 — Travel Notes

We are driving straight to the rising sun, which hangs on tree crowns. 170 km are left to Lomonosov – a pre-arranged meeting place of the expedition. A survey vessel “Sibiryakov» from Ministry of Defense of Russia should wait for us there. For the next week it will be our expeditionary vessel to live and work on.

Our car is the first of three cars on the route. The car of Konstantin Bogdanov and Olga Akulova is 120 km behind. The third car en route from Gelendzhik with Sumbat Alexandrov and Nikolas Kudryashov got lost far behind in traffic jams somewhere near Moscow. The rest of our expedition team should already wait for us in Lomonosov. The second expedition ship – RK-311 (“Flamingo” project) with Andrey Sinitsyn is planning to put to sea from Vasilyevskiy Island and join us near Gogland Island. Just from the board of this vessel a researcher from Instrument-making Research Institute Evgeny Tutynin first saw on screen of “Neman-GBOE” sonar a hull of a sailing ship. In was in May in the course of the expedition «Regards to ships of Great Victory».

This happened at the end of a wearisome day of May 4th. The day before a submarine C-9 was found. It wrecked in 1943 on a German minefield somewhere near Neugrund sandbank south-east to Bolshoi Tuters Island. We planned the second diving to C-9 to make photo and video filming and choose a place to install a memorial tablet. But our plans didn’t come true. We were just one mile from the diving point, when a border patrol sent to captain of our RK-311 a signal ordering to stop movement. The reason for this order was that FORMALLY there were only two areas in our permit for search work: area of Bolshoi Tuters Island and area of Gogland Island.

The Baltic was still like a mirror, the sun was unusually hot for the beginning of May. Assembled and ready for diving equipment was on the deck and we were trying to pick up mobile communication and get in touch with those, who could help to settle this problem of “extra mile”. The border patrol requested the head of our expedition Konstantin Bogdanov to send by fax a letter for Duty Room Officer of Border Guard department in Saint Petersburg asking a permit for diving in this area. It was clear for them, that we had no fax on board and we were in the middle of the Gulf of Finland, so we decided to move for search of submarine Sh-320 as another aim of our expedition. Presumably it wrecked north to Bolshoi Tuters Island.

The search area kept within allowed area. While we were preparing a letter to the Border Guard Department and tried to solve a problem how to send it to Duty Room Officer by fax, other members of the expedition were watching in turn the sonar screen, which was showing bathymetric chart over former German minefield. In the area, marked by Michael Ivanov as the most likely wreck site, submarine Ù-320 was not found. We decided to cover the whole route of forcing the German minefield, which was recommended in 1942 to soviet submarines. There was such a notion at that time as a “recommended route”. Four hours passed. We were close to make a decision to cease our search and move towards a bay of Gogland Island, but suddenly when we were over the last line of mine defense, Eugeny shouted from the hold: “There is an object on the ground, turn around!”.

We all rushed to the screen. We saw a large spindle-shaped object, about 60 meters long. Hull lines obviously are not of a submarine. We begin to prepare for diving and suddenly we find out that the depth to the ground is 70 meters. And we have Òõ 21/35. We cannot pass neither on oxygen nor on nitrogen. With grief and envy we help Michael Ivanov to prepare for diving. He has a closed cycle apparatus and mixed gas allows diving to this depth.

We have two hours of agonizing suspense and finally already on board Michael makes an intriguing pause and says: “Ladies and gentlemen! One hour ago I was on board of “Lefort” battleship”.

It is difficult to describe emotions of members of the expedition at that moment. Tiredness and irritation with the situation turn into euphoria and delight with what happened. And it comes an understanding of how providence purposefully led us towards this discovery. After all just misunderstanding between our expedition and border guard representatives resulted in discovery of one more and maybe the most brilliant Baltic Legend. Next day the conflict was settled and later on border guard of FSB contributed to our expedition. But if it were not for this conflict on May 4th 2013, battleship “Lefort” probably would not have been discovered till now.

Ivanov Aleksey

June 30th 2013 20:49 — Telephone interview for Underwater portal Tetis.

Aleksey, please tell us a few words about the first day of the expedition, what is the situation?

Today we have been waiting for good weather all day long. Inshore boat RK-311 appeared at 11 a.m. All the diving will be directly from it. The weather didn’t allow the boat to moor to “Sibiryakov” and it went to the other side of Gogland Island. We decided to move closer to it and now we hide ourselves behind the Gogland. Later on according to the weather broadcast the wind will die down at night and tomorrow at 5 a.m. we are planning the first group to board “Sibiryakov”.

It means that you had no diving today?

Just now we finished check-dive in a bay of Gogland Island. But we had no diving to ”Lefort” today. They promise a “window” in the weather tomorrow. We will try to get into it.

What is your impression of the check-dive? What do you think about interaction of different services and teams of the expedition judging by the results?

It is good. We are in the process of adaptation among team members. Video and photo teams have been formed. We model and try out interaction of cameraman and lighting engineers for 3D photo and video in the mess-room on board of “Sibiryakov”. In other words, we model where will be a cameraman, how the light will be set out, who will hold it, how will all the movement occur. And we also prepare all the equipment, fill all gas bottles so as to start diving as soon as the weather permits.

Aleksey, please clarify, what teams are formed on “Sibiryakov” and what are their main tasks?

We formed 3 main teams, each of them will have its own tasks. One team will carry out investigation and establish the cause of “Lefort’s” wreck, will make a layout of the ship on the ground and will try to get into lower decks and into holds. Another team will make 3D photos, in other words create a 3D panoramic view. And one more team will be engaged in video filming.

Well, we wish you good luck for the next day, a fine weather and achievement of main goals. See you tomorrow in the evening!

OK. Thank you, see you!

July 1st 2013 21:01 — Telephone interview for Underwater portal Tetis.

Good afternoon, Aleksey!

Good afternoon!

This is the second day of the expedition, and first of all it’s interesting to know, did the weather allow you to make the first diving?

Yes, today the weather gave us, at last, a “window” without wind. All the expedition entered the diving area at 7 a.m. The first diving series was held in accordance with prescribed tasks. Most of the divers, who are there for the first time, had a first-hand diving and external examination so as to know how to work on this object in future. People, who had been on “Lefort” during the expedition in May, chose spots for cameras for 3D modeling. We chose quarter-deck build-up and mounted a stand on it. Basically all the tasks for the first series of diving were performed. Michael Ivanov as one of the most experienced divers in our team and an expert of the expedition for this area and this object made external examination of the ship on the ground.Thanks to a wider time window those who had prepared mixed gas could make the second diving during the day. They have just returned, they have performed planned tasks on video fixation of lower steering wheel and tasks on 3D modeling. These are the results of the first day.

What are your emotions of what you have seen? Were your expectations close to reality?

Visibility is in fact just the same as in May, in other words 4-5 meters at best. Of course, we expected better visibility, because in May it is usually worse because of melt water. But still at present visibility is not so good. Those who dived to the object for the first time had of course very strong emotions. One has in fact no chance to dive on such an object, namely on a wooden sailing ship such a size. And there are no other objects in Russia as “Lefort”. Just imagine: a wooden mast having two-three girth! And it is just a mast.

And from professional point of view how difficult will it be to implement the task? Is everything quite achievable or, based on the results of the first day and the first situation assessment, there could be some “ambushes”?

The main difficulties will be with 3D modeling because of poor visibility. The light we have cannot break through suspension on decks and inside the ship. The light gives very steady flare on the whole plane and in fact we cannot see the picture, the details. Our cameras cannot work with autofocus and we have to switch to manual focusing. The most difficult part will be with 3D modeling. We will cope with video filming, as for establishing the cause of wreck and penetration into inside quarters, these things are predictable and we can see no troubles for the time being. And as for panoramic shooting – we have big difficulties already now.

I see. What are your plans for tomorrow?

They promise strong breeze tomorrow till 14.00, therefore the first half of the day will be for preparation, that is filling of mixed gas, checking of equipment. We plan to install “Falcon” remote control apparatus on board of RK-311 so that to inspect as much as possible with its help. To inspect the deck, exterior details, to search the bell and some specific features along the perimeter in order to concentrate tasks of divers on objects discovered by the device.

OK. We wish you good luck, let your plans be accomplished precisely. Talk to you tomorrow!

Thank you! Talk to you later!

Anton Nozdrin interviewed Aleksey Ivanov.
Underwater portal Tetis.

Activity report by Michael Ivanov on the first diving to “Lefort” within the framework of the expedition

During the first diving a permanent safety line was installed on the broken mainmast in order not to waste time to buoy rack in future and to be able to moor expedition vessel right over “Lefort”.

Further the ground under latrine and transom was examined in order to find rosrtum and stern decorations. As a result elements of gilded eagle were found on rostrum as well as parts of transom decorations.

Gunports and cannons of portside were also examined to check their condition and integrity.

Besides the depth on the ground around the ship was measured to determine how deep «Lefort” has sunk into the ground. The results of measurements showed that the ship has gone down till the level of accommodation deck.

July 03th 2013 11:04 — Telephone interview with Konstantin Bogdanov, the Head of expedition for Underwater portal Tetis.

Hello, Konstantin!

Good afternoon!

We are now somewhere in the middle of the expedition, as far as I understand, therefore we have lots of impressions. What is the better way to start with?

If you are in the middle, so you can sum up some results. And, of course, it is interesting to know how it goes with remote control submersible devise. Did you manage to launch it?

The weather finally allows us to work in normal conditions, therefore we resumed diving yesterday in the afternoon. Intermediate results are as follows. First we came to understanding how to make cycloramas in poor visibility of the Baltic waters. So we have plans to try to get first cycloramas today. And we also continue to make video and to survey upper deck and quarter-deck build-up. We had the first submersion of “Falcon” remote control apparatus. It is surely an interesting experience. It is interesting because the device gives a very good picture and of course sees such details, which human eye can miss during diving. Therefore usage of this devise makes the survey of some details mush easier. Maybe we will use it further today to survey deep part in the area of 65-67 meters alongside. We have an assumption that some of fragments of outer bordering, some of decoration fragments including maybe letters of the name could have fallen off because of time, drag-nets and nets and are lying somewhere near the hull. One of the tasks for operator of this device is to try to find these fragments.

Tell me, does rough sea make the work of remote control apparatus difficult and if it so, to what extent?

Rough sea? As for the apparatus itself, rough sea does not influence its work. Much depends on the type of the carrying vessel. We have “Flamingo” type as a base vessel and surely 2-3 force roughness is felt pretty good. It is rather inconvenient for the operator and for the support team, which must be on board and pull the cable of “Falcon”. There are at least two-three of them, and rough sea could be of significance for these people. If you work from board of a large survey vessel or some more or less stable ship, you will have no troubles in bad weather at all. The most crucial moment might be possible tipping of the cable on some parts or wrecks of the ship. To my mind it is the only threat, and all in all the apparatus helps a lot to accomplish expedition tasks, namely such exploratory from the point of view of outer hull investigation.

Is the apparatus in the water at the same time with the divers?

No, we launch it afterwards because its rudder screws when coming close to the hull or deck of the ship nevertheless rise turbidity. Since our main task is to make photo and video, our work goes in such a way that we precisely divide operating zones for different groups. Video group works separately from photo group, yesterday they even went one after another not to hinder each other and not to stir water. There is a thick layer of suspension on the ship and around it due to time, ground structure, lots of “tissuelike” items, numerous human bodies, rigging elements and wood itself, which somehow crumbles. Therefore with the slightest movement it goes up and visibility worsens drastically. That is why we separate work groups as much as possible.

I see… Then, following the tradition, will you tell me in a few words about your plans for tomorrow.

For today. Today we are planning to make first panoramas and, since we are shooting documentary film about “Lefort” ship, we will try to make good shots. Because yesterday showed nevertheless that… Whatever is people attitude towards “Lefort”, it’s a treasure, a historic event and so on, we feel that firstly it’s a big common grave. And with every diving and every new sight along the deck the eye marks new and still new details of this tragedy. A lot of people round masts, they might have been holding on masts while wrecking. A lot of people in cabins, people along the side, so that’s how they were holding on the shrouds and rigging elements trying to keep themselves from washing overboard and thus they remained. There are several skulls over there, hands and legs; anyway, it needs to be considered, because yesterday, for example, at a certain moment some part of devices and video equipment failed. The photo camera began to misbehave, the camera started to lag and so on and so forth… That’s how the things go….

Some mystic influence, isn’t it?

Well, no, surely it might be accidently, but taking into account the professional level of our team members. I can’t assume that someone could have forgotten to fasten something or to press a wrong button, they have been living, working and shooting with this equipment many years, so there could be something of the kind…

Well, a task of no simplicity is confronting you…


And I would like to add. Surely, it's very important to have a good equipment. What’s interesting, my personal impression is that my diving suit “Whites” in which we dive is just up to me . I have a longtime problem: each time I use some dry suit there is no such size of foot. I have to cut off standard high overshoes or socks, to order extra pairs for my big sized feet and to reglue. And my experience in regluing was not successful in most cases, it becomes inconvenient to put them on or to take off. But as for suit “Whites” I put it on at once and it suited me so to say up to all the parameters and the high overshoes that in a complete set also suited me. That is the way for the first time in my life in thus expedition I dive in such an absolutely comfortable dry suit that is up to all my parameters and nothing should be conceptionally elaborated beforehand. It’s also a very interesting observation. And of course for such diving and in such conditions of diving, when the temperature is 4oon the ground and the visibility…Well, there is some visibility, but you need a very good light and very good equipment is very important, surely as well as comfort.

And what underwear do you use?

Aqua Lung underwear.

OK. Then we wish you good luck in such a difficult deed, to make a good professional interesting but not overloaded report in such an ambiguous place. We will be happy if you send us, well, of course, not completed panoramas, but some detailed shots of the ship itself, its parts, details of interior even if they are not of ideal quality. We will publish them with pleasure. OK.

Well, but we are still on the way to good shots because the sea is stormy, so to say the weather is changeable. Out of three expeditional days we use only one and a half for full-fledged diving. But we will try to do our best!

OK. Thank you! Good luck! Hear from you soon!

Thank you! Good bye!

The interview with Konstantin Bogdanov was taken by Anton Nozdrin.
Underwater portal Tetis.

July 4th 2013 15:05 — Telephone interview for Underwater portal Tetis.

Hi, Aleksey! How are the things going today?

Good afternoon, Anton!

The weather has completely returned to normal, the sea is dead calm today. Yesterday the weather was also very good. We worked well, we shot a video picture, a 3D panorama, but because of poor visibility it is not clear yet if it’s good or not. Our specialist has not proceeded the picture yet, that is practically shooting has been made but the result is not clear yet.

The group, which works with Roman Prochorov for archeology, made the outer survey of the ship, counted the gun ports. Yesterday a length bar was spread from the foremast to the mainmast so that it could be possible to bind, to measure distances, and to make up a precise plan-scheme of the ship on scale. And that is what was done yesterday.

From today’s morning our video group made a video of rostrum, a fragment of bowsprit, latrine tubes, and a life boat. The 3D panorama group technically made 3 panoramas, the results of which is yet difficult to estimate, since there must be a processing stage. And the archeological group looked for the inscription on the ground astern. The inscription is not found, since the board, on which there was the inscription was most likely torn off. The board alike was found, but it is too big and it is impossible to turn it over or pick up. The group also counted the number of guns on starboard, upper-deck and the first gun-deck. The second gun-deck is closed and gun ports are also closed, therefore it is difficult to count the guns. Well, and the same group dived to the ground in the area of rostrum and surveyed the rostrum figure.

All of us are in combative mood, now we are filling apparatuses and robot is going to work on “Lefort”. And in the evening about 7 p.m. the second diving series is planned to be made for today.

The interview with Aleksey Ivanov was taken by Anton Nozdrin
Underwater portal Tetis.

July 5th 2013 11:00 — Travel Notes

Yesterday we were in the sea till midnight, the divings were made by cut-off number of divers since the tiredness is still accumulating and it’s hard to make two long decompression divings a day. 3 teams worked under the water. Michail Ivanov made a survey of all interior quarters of the ship, Yevgeny Abramov and Sumbat Aleksandrov made a technical video of the second boat, which was found on the ground in the area of port side stern. A great number of porcelain ware and kitchen ware was found in this very area as well. It might have been washed out of the admiral salon while the ship was on the ground. It was mutually agreed, that no artefacts should be picked up and taken in the course of this expedition. All things found are left in their places. The only thing is made – a light cleaning just to make photo and video shooting.

During the evening diving we also found the most successful form of interaction between “Falcon”, supplied by the Tetis-Pro Company and the divers. The robot went under water before the team of divers and mastered in detail the technical shooting of the stern, the starboard, the rostrum and the ground in the rostrum area. Due to experience accumulated by the divers during the divings and knowledge of the peculiarities of the ship we managed to lead the robot precisely in the shooting area and to shoot the necessary material. “Falcon” significantly widens the possibilities of the divers allowing to survey in detail the ship fragments, specifics of its construction. It completes the picture of the tragedy and having no time or gas limits it can count guns, artefacts and measure distances and depths.

During the evening divings there happened a very funny thing. It happened that one group was on decompression and the other went on the ship. They met in the same point and one simultaneous breath out of the two groups gave a big gas spike on the surface in one point. This was perceived by the support team as an indication of an emergency situation, so the decision was made to launch “Falcon” once more to count the divers which were under water. As a result during an hour of decompression we were entertained by the robot spinning around the runner and winking with its eyes-headlights.

Today our plan is to have a rest in the first half of the day and in the second half - diving, which will be the last one in this expedition. Storm warning is given for tomorrow and our hospitable “Sibiryakov” received an order to return to its home port. Therefore tonight we are coming back to St. Petersburg and our expedition is coming to the end.

I would like to say a few words about the equipment. As for me, and I think many people will agree with me, the main criteria of quality of diving equipment are primarily its reliability and ease of use. Nearly all the open-circuit SCUBA divers participating in the expedition use Apeks regulators both for their doubles and deco stages, while the same brand of regulators are used for bailout bottles of CCR divers. The Apeks models used for doubles are TEK3 and DS4 with XTX50 second stages, and for deco, XTX40 in combination with DST first stages. Diving conditions are hard, temperature on the ship is not more than 4o C On decompression it is a bit warmer. By now we had no problems with regulators in this expedition. If in expedition in May we periodically had to switch to back-up on the ground and open and close manually valve of decompression balloon in rhythm with breathing because of regulators subfreezing, and now we have no such a problem at all. We used in our previous expedition regulators of other manufacturers. Struggle with equipment took significant part of time on the ground. Now we are able to fully concentrate on diving tasks without listening to every breath in order to notice in time when first stage on spark starts to grunt. Apekses give very stable light breathing regardless of what you are doing: standing on decompression or doing some hard work on the ship.
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