Remembering the Estonia ferry
Archived Articles 28 Sep 2007 Eva VabasaluEWR
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(The Last Handbill and Timetable for m/s Estonia (Never officially released):

"We’ll take you on a cruise that isn’t like all other cruises. You’ll arrive to Tallinn, the newest and most exciting resort in the Baltic." "Welcome on an easterly voyage different from others.")


September 28th marks the 13th anniversary of the Estonia ferry sinking, the worst disaster to have occurred in the Baltic Sea in peacetime. The vessel purchased by Nordström & Thulin AB & Estonian Shipping Co. in October 1992 was renamed Estonia beginning its Tallinn-Stockholm route on January 1, 1993. Nearly everyone in the country of Estonia had at one time or another made this crossing. Passengers boarded the ferry at Tallinn port, terminal B about 7:00 p.m. Tuesday, September 27, 1994 for what was to be a routine crossing, carrying a total 989 people expecting to dock in Stockholm at 9:30 Wednesday morning.

On board no one was concerned about the winds or the grayness of the Tuesday evening. The 1980 German-built vessel plowed through the water unperturbed by the 5 - 6 metre waves as passengers danced to live music with some difficulty due to the motion of the ship and spectators sipped drinks in the Baltic Bar. A karaoke competition was on-going in the Admiral Pub, exceeding its 1:00 a.m. curfew since everyone was having so much fun.

Almost halfway to its destination the ship began to list to one side but no one knows why. Ten minutes later there was three feet of water in the car deck. Then furniture and fixtures dislodged and as people slid and fell, many are crushed and killed. Pandemonium broke out. Some passengers were frozen in confusion and fear unable to move. People began to abandon the ship jumping into the black icy waters and sinking so far into its depth they don’t expect to surface. About 300 passengers had a mere 15 minutes to realize the seriousness of the situation, to then mountain-climb their way to exits, cut rafts and lifeboats and find lifejackets. Everyone was clawing for their life as the swirling heavy seas wash people in and out of lifeboats. In horror they watched in the moonlit sky as the huge ferry sank stern first into the abyss. The screaming and crying stopped as massive amounts of bubbles emerged after the capsizing. A Mayday alarm had been transmitted and the „Mariella“ arrived 50 minutes later but with great difficulty was only able to save about 12 people. Many died from hypothermia waiting for helicopters, which had trouble with cables breaking as they tried to raise the lifeboats.

In total only 94 passengers were saved, 80 men and 14 women, most between the ages of 20 - 54. Eleven children under 12 fared the worst with no survivors. The youngest was 2 months old. Of the 43 crew who escaped in their orange suits 31 were men and 12 were women. The majority of the victims were Swedes (502) and Estonians (280). Among the others who perished were Latvian, Russian, Finnish, Norwegian, Danish, German, Lithuanian, French, Dutch, British, Canadian and Nigerian nationals, a total of 852 dead.

The vessel sunk south of the little island of Utö, Finland at a depth of 70 - 80 metres. There remain differing theories as to why this catastrophe happened.
 
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