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The Baltic Sea offers the best diving in the world. It contains tens of thousands of intact, undisturbed shipwrecks from every era. Granted, there are some challenges in reaching them, such as deep, dark, cold water and that they are often some distance from shore. Our aim in this book is to bring the readers with us down to the wrecks and hopefully convey what we feel when we visit them. How do you visualise a feeling? This book is an attempt to do just that.
The large number of shipwrecks in the Baltic Sea is the result of a combination of factors. One is the fact that since the last Ice Age, people living around the Baltic have engaged in maritime trade and even migrated across the sea. Over the centuries, the countries bordering the Baltic have also come into conflict with one another on numerous occasions. Many of the vessels that we describe in this book were sunk as a result of armed conflict. Ships have also ended up at the bottom of the Baltic in the course of commerce, wartime evacuation and exploration. They have remained frozen in time since the moment they disappeared below the surface.
Furthermore, the sea presents dangers in the form of sudden storms, perilous archipelagos and treacherous shallows. The Baltic seabed has become an immense underwater museum with perhaps as many as 100,000 shipwrecks.
The Mars went under during a battle in 1564. She was one of the largest warships of her era, with an estimated length of 45 m (148 ft). She was built to dominate sea battles and to embody Sweden’s new status as a major power in the Baltic region.
Because the water in the Baltic is cold and brackish, the shipworm (Teredo navalis) does not thrive there. In warmer and saltier seas, these creatures consume any wood that ends up on the seabed. This means that ships that go down in the Baltic largely remain. Everything is preserved. Medieval wrecks are still being discovered today. Even on iron- or steel-hulled ships, much of their interiors are made of wood: walls, ladders, stairs, cabins, bridges and galleys. The deeper wrecks are free from plant growth, so their details are clear and easy to observe. Often it feels as if a crew has only just left a vessel.
Shipwrecks become time capsules that display a fascinating mix of gentle slumber and brutal drama. The vessels provide windows into bygone eras. Not just in terms of how people lived at sea at various times, but also how they travelled, traded and fought – and most importantly, how they thought and felt.
The photos in this book enable everyone to visit these shipwrecks, and we hope they convey the feelings we divers experience when we explore them. They are captured moments that tell a story and allow us to reflect.
The royal ship Svärdet was lost on 1 June 1676 outside Öland during one of the largest naval battles in Swedish history. The sailing crew was about 400 people. Everywhere on the wreck there are huge cannons in bronze, a little reddish in color, beautifully decorated.
We wouldn’t be sitting here without the people who went before us and blazed new trails – new diving techniques, new equipment, new ways to search for wrecks, to take photos and so many other things. Thinking differently and innovating – not settling for existing equipment and techniques. Pushing forward. Similarly, this book would not have come about without a large group of people who have accompanied us along the way and supported us in so many ways. Like everything else in life, you can’t achieve much on your own. But in a group, the sky’s the limit.
This book is the result of many years of work. We have been working and diving together for 23 years. Over the 12 years we’ve been working on the material for this book, our group has completed around 3 000 dives.
Since 1998 a total of 21 divers have been with us on board our diving vessel the Triad at one point or another. Since 2012 we’ve worked with a smaller recurring group: Niklas Adolfsson, Johan Alexandersson and Jan Petersen. All three are good friends and highly skilled divers who have what it takes to constantly push the boundaries so we can achieve what we want together down at the wrecks. We’ve spent many chilly hours together on our way back up to the surface over the years. It would not have been possible to take these photos without you.
A moment frozen in time inside a cabin on the German ship Aachen. She was hit by a torpedo during World War One. The torpedo was launched by the English submarine HMS E1 in the summer of 1915 outside the island of Gotland.
Jonas Dahm is a diver and underwater photographer. Through the images in this book he aims to tell the stories of these ships and the people who sailed on them. History is his main focus on every dive. His images give the viewer a unique opportunity to see these wrecks just as they appear on the seabed – an experience otherwise accessible to only a few divers.
Carl Douglas is a historian, diver and photographer. He is motivated by a strong curiosity for hidden stories as well as a passion for the sea and for doing things together in order to achieve common goals. He possesses a boundless enthusiasm for finding shipwrecks and missing aircraft – everything from famous ships to smaller, less well-known vessels. By telling the stories of these ships and the people who worked on board them, accompanied by Jonas’ images, Carl seeks to honour those who sailed.
In June 1952 two Swedish airplanes was shot down over the Baltic Sea. The first plane to went missing was a DC-3. Three days later a Catalina seaplane searching for the missing DC-3 was attacked and forced to make an emergency landing on the sea. The crew was picked up by a passing West German freighter
Foundation Voice of the Ocean
Rydboholmgård, 184 94 Åkersberga Sweden
Project Manager Ocean Knowledge
Communications & Project Manager