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  A. New Evidence
2. The Rabe-Bemis Diving Expedition in August 2000

Gregg Bemis and Jutta Rabe met at the AgnEf Seminar in Stockholm in May 2000 and decided to join forces and organise a diving expedition to the wreck of the ESTONIA. While Gregg Bemis provided the equipment required and established contact to a low cost amateur diving group, it was the task of Jutta Rabe to find a suitable vessel and to take care of the media. Since about 20 people had to be taken onboard plus crew a relatively large vessel had to be chartered, which needed to be suitable as a divers’ platform and also needed to be able to tow the towfish of a side-scan sonar.

After some time the vessel “One Eagle” was found at Cuxhaven. It was the previous survey vessel “Komet” having been in service for almost 30 years for the German Hydrographic Office. It was then owned by a St. Vincent company and manned for the particular charter by a German crew. Name and port of the vessel were kept secret until departure on the 19.08.00.


Onboard were

  Gregg Bemis plus 4 US ROV and sonar operators =5
  Jutta Rabe plus 1 cameraman plus 3 SPIEGEL® people = 5
  9 divers plus 1 doctor = 10
in total  
= 20

It was initially planned for Gregg Bemis and Jutta Rabe to board the vessel off the island of Rügen in order to avoid that the two publicly known names had to be put on the crew list and not to pass through the Kiel Canal but sail through the North Sea round the Skaw. Both proposals were rejected by Gregg Bemis. They all sailed from Cuxhaven via the Kiel Canal, and therefore all their names were on the crew/passenger list, which had to be handed over to the Cuxhaven Immigrations Office by the master of “One Eagle” before departure. This list was subsequently in the possession of the Swedish Coast Guard when they boarded the “One Eagle” upon her arrival on site. Everybody onboard was easy to identify and warned that he/she would face imprisonment in case he/she should enter Sweden or any of the other signatory countries of the “Grave Place Convention”.


Day 1 - Tuesday, 22.08.00:

“One Eagle” arrived on site on Tuesday, 22.08.00, a.m. and was met by one Swedish and one Finnish Coast Guard vessel of which the Swedish one took the lead. During the morning hours up to 9 boats with Swedish, Finnish, Estonian and German journalists and camera teams showed up and were demanding interviews and were filming whatever they considered to be worth filming. The weather was good.

The operations commenced shortly afterwards by putting the side-scan sonar into the water. Unfortunately the towing gear became entangled in the propellers of “One Eagle” and was cut off, the towfish with cable was lost. The operation was discontinued for the day due to the chaotic coordination problems onboard. The weather deteriorated during the night and the vessel drifted towards the Estonian coast. The Coast Guard vessels stayed on site.


Day 2  - Wednesday, 23.08.00:

Wind: North 5 increasing, waves: 2-3 m, increasing, no work possible.
“One Eagle” was launching the Rov and the search for the towfish commenced, which was finally found in the evening together with 140 m of cable and a buoy was dropped for pick up next morning. During this Rov search for the towfish some bodies were found on the seabed.


Day 3  - Thursday, 24.08.00 :

Weather improvement to NW 3-4, waves 1 – 1.5 m.
4 journalist boats appeared, Rov and diver activities from “One Eagle”. Coast Guard helped to keep the journalist boats away from the divers. The master of “One Eagle” informed the Coast Guard whenever the divers went into the water and when they were back onboard.
Neither the towfish nor the wreck was found by the divers. The Rov was blocked the whole day with a new search for the towfish.


Day 4  - Friday, 25.08.00 :

Wind: N 5, waves: 2-3 m. “One Eagle” operated the Rov. The Finnish Coast Guard vessel was replaced by a destroyer, the Swedish Coast Guard vessel was replaced by Coast Guard 005 which appeared to be a surveillance ship. Thereafter no more satellite communication was possible and the GPS navigation system was sometimes confused. “One Eagle” pulled the Rov cable into the bow thruster, this caused a big short circuit in the control unit of the Rov which became allegedly damaged beyond repair possibilities. The divers could not find the wreck which they have only seen once on the final day. After it turned out that a new control unit for the ROV was nowhere available on short notice and the divers were unable to find the wreck, Gregg Bemis declared the expedition to have failed and ordered to return to Cuxhaven. In this hopeless situation Jutta Rabe managed to find a replacement ROV in Germany which was brought onboard already 1½ days later and the investigation continued.


Day 5  - Saturday, 26.08.00 :

Divers found the wreck and the detailed investigation and filming of pre-selected areas commenced.


Day 6  - Sunday, 27.08.00 :

The diving work continued.


Day 7  - Monday, 28.08.00 :

The diving work continued.


Day 8  - Tuesday, 29.08.00 :

The last day: Weather good. Divers cut off two pieces of metal from the explosion area in the upper starboard front bulkhead and the Rov filmed the bow area as well as the starboard side. At 18.00 hours operation completed and return trip.


Day 9  - Wednesday, 30.08.00 :

At sea on the way to Kiel, Swedish Coast Guard activities around “One Eagle”, the vessel proceeded south of Bornholm outside Swedish/Danish waters.


Day 10  - Thursday, 31.08.00 :

At 19.00 hours the vessel was moored in the Kiel Lock and Jutta Rabe and Gregg Bemis left the vessel while the divers continued to Cuxhaven.
Finally it has to be mentioned that the operation did not proceed completely undisturbed by the Swedes and Finns because there was always a “little of something”.
In detail:

  • The satellite telephone was cut off after the third day on site.
  • An additional satellite telephone installation from DER SPIEGEL was disturb-ed all the time and only ‘scrambled’ word fragments could be understood.
  • The computerised GPS system of Polaris images was disturbed and showed malfunctioning and incorrect positioning.
  • One Eagle’s own GPS system behaved similarly.
  • The Swedish Coast Guard closely watched and filmed all the time very near the activities and was deliberately trying to mislead One Eagle’s master during the search for the wreck.
  • Coast Guard air planes and helicopters were performing day to day very intensive surveillance work, by flying past the One Eagle at a short distance and performing rescue exercises.
  • The Finnish Coast Guard carried out a water-spraying exercise while the Estonian Navy was performing a mine-hunting exercise nearby.
  • Several times Swedish warships passed very close to One Eagle and all this in spite of the fact that according to the laws of these countries – Sweden, Finland, Estonia – the area was a graveyard from which all activities were banned.
note   Note: Jutta Rabe has described the expedition in her book “DIE ESTONIA” (Delius Klasing, 2002).
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