During the first week of the international mine clearance operation Open Spirit in Estonian waters, 67 explosive devices from the period of the two world wars were found, of which 30 have been deactivated. Most of the mines were found between the Gulf of Finland islands of Naissaar and Aegna near shipping lanes, military spokespeople said.
Historical mine charts show that during the world wars, mines were first and foremost laid near the most important shipping lanes, which is why it will take decades to clear all of them, the commander of the operation Cmdr. SG Ivo Värk said. "The introduction of new sonar and modern sensors makes it possible to find mines in very difficult situations and areas in which the older equipment was ineffective," he said.
Of the explosive devices found thus far, 66 are naval mines and one an aerial bomb. In addition, the units have found four shipwrecks near the island of Hiiumaa and one in the Gulf of Tallinn. Their origin is unknown and requires further study.
Running from 14-25 May, Open Spirit is the biggest mine countermeasures operation in the Baltic Sea this year, with almost 700 naval personnel and 19 ships from 12 countries participating. The areas of operation are in the Bay of Tallinn, in the waters off the islands of Hiiumaa and Vormsi and the straits between Estonia's western islands.
The Baltic states take turns hosting Open Spirit. Last year the exercise was held in Latvian waters and in 2010 in Lithuanian waters. Since 1994 around 700 explosive devices have been found in Estonian waters in the course of mine clearance operations.
Sixty-Seven Mines Found in First Week of Open Spirit Exercise