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  A. New Evidence
2. The Rabe-Bemis Diving Expedition in August 2000
2.3.3 The bow ramp - Page 6


In summary of the above explanations it has to be concluded that the bow ramp has been opened and subsequently closed between June 1996 and August 2000. When comparing the state of corrosion of the new damages with the development of the corrosion from October 1994 to June 1996 (first available videos 02.10.94 and last available videos June 1996), it has to be assumed that the last opening of the ramp occurred about two years before, i. e. sometime in 1998.

Due to the almost upside-down position of the wreck it has to be assumed that the ramp was opened by means of a wire of a surface vessel having been turned around the bow ramp as indicated by the picture shown under (3) above and pulled upwards/forward against the forepeak deck. The wire had to be kept tight to assure that the ramp was open while divers were working inside the car deck for whatever purpose. Since the sea is very seldom completely calm, it has to be assumed that the surface vessel made some movements whilst the wire was holding the bow ramp tight against the forepeak deck. As a result of these movements excessive loads must have acted on the wire and the ramp

which consequently caused the cracking of the lower transverse girder at the two intact hinges as explained under (1) above. The additional damage to the lower part of the starboard outer vertical girder of the bow ramp explained under (2) above was caused when the ramp was pulled with excessive force against the forepeak deck.

All this - in the view of the German ‘Group of Experts’ - is sufficient evidence for their assumption that the bow ramp was opened from the surface or from below the surface at least once between June 1996 and August 2000, probably in 1998.

Since the forbidden area around the wreck of the ESTONIA is reportedly continuously controlled by the Finnish military radar surveillance station on the Island Utö and the commander of this station did assure the Spiegel reporter Andreas Ulrich in December 1999 that he could exclude privately operated vessels having been in this area to carry out diving operations on the ESTONIA, it has to be concluded that the diving operation during which the bow ramp of the wreck was opened and severely damaged had been performed under authority of the Swedish and Finnish Governments.
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