THE ROUTE - WIND AND SEA
ACTUALLY ENCOUNTERED - THE SPEED
According to the Swedish Meteorological and Hydrological Institute (SMHI) the weather situation explained below developed during the course of 27 September 1994:
»The weather conditions on the 27th September were dominated by a "strong and extensive area of low pressure with several lows" which covered northern Scandinavia and the Arctic Sea. See the weather chart for Europe in Enclosure 1 from 12.00 hours UTC on the 27th September.
One of these lows deepened on the 27th and moved rapidly east via southern Norway and eastern Svealand towards southern Finland. The low remained relatively strong and the centre was near Oslo on the 27th at 12.00 hours UTC with a low pressure of 995 HPA, on the 28th at 00.00 hours UTC it was over the south-eastern part of the Gulf of Bothnia with a low pressure of 980 HPA. On the evening of the 27th a warm front connected to this low with occasional rain showers passed quickly eastward over the northern Baltic. South and south-west of this low pressure a wind change from SW to west occurred and the westerly wind was very squally.«
The SMHI has investigated the weather conditions before, during and after the casualty on behalf of JAIC. The results are summarised in a weather opinion with the title "The 'Estonia' Casualty - Weather Conditions 27/28 September 1994".
The complete opinion together with 26 Enclosures and the office translation are attached as Enclosure 12.2.139.
On pages 6 and 7 of the Swedish original SMHI has stated, beginning with the estimated departure from Tallinn at 18.00 hours (all times quoted by SMHI are in Swedish time) and from 18.30, every hour
- wind direction and speed
- wind speed in squalls
- significant and max. wave height
which were then prevailing according to SMHI's investigations.
In the translation this can be found on pages 9 and 10 under "Estimated Conditions on Estonia's last Voyage", whilst reference will be made to these estimations by SMHI in the following comments on the route and the casualty.
After having passed the breakwater (see Chapter 19) ESTONIA proceeded between the mainland and the Island Nayssaar and - after having passed the buoy off Suurupi Lighthouse - altered course to 262° on the gyro-compass. This was confirmed by passenger Anders Ericson, who had been on the bridge between 20.00 - 20.30 hours ET - see his statement Enclosure 20.239 - and saw the course digitally shown to be 262°, which is actually the true course to the waypoint on 59°20' N; 022°00' E. He also realised that the wind speed was then already 20 m/sec.
The apparent fact that ESTONIA had taken her normal route was further confirmed by the observations of the meeting vessel AMBER. The M.V. AMBER is a Polish Ro-Ro vessel, then on voyage from Gdynia to Helsinki when she met ESTONIA. The watch officer of AMBER has only recently been traced and questioned.
According to his testimony AMBER passed ESTONIA at 22.15/20 hours CET = 23.15/20 hours Estonian time. ESTONIA was on a course of about 260/265°, at a position about 18 nm before the waypoint on 59°20'N; 022°00'E. She was running apparently on full speed against heavy head seas which the watch mate on board of AMBER described as follows:
»The ferry was brightly illuminated and appeared to proceed against wind and sea at full speed, which I could hardly believe. According to data from the ARPA her speed was about 18-19 kn. She was pitching heavily and I saw how she was taking a lot of water on the forecastle deck which smashed against the superstructure and was thrown up to the bridge windows and spray was all over the vessel. When her bow smashed into the waves I had the impression that she almost stopped and subsequently built up speed again when the foreship rose. In my opinion those in charge on the bridge of the ESTONIA must have been crazy, absolutely incompetent and inexperienced. I had never seen anything like this before.«
The complete statement is attached as Enclosure 20.237.
The evidence of the trainee mate Einar Kukk, having been on the bridge until about 00.35 hours, also confirms that ESTONIA at first proceeded to her normal waypoint. In summary of the aforementioned it has to be concluded now that the ESTONIA took the southerly route, i.e. her normal route, to the waypoint on 59°20'N, 022°00'E and that she had apparently no problems until about 23.30 hours, when she was last seen by the watch officer of AMBER. Nevertheless, it has to be mentioned that in the files of the public
Nevertheless, it has to be mentioned that in the files of the public prosecutor Tomas Lindstrand the copy of a navy chart was found which indicates that ESTONIA took a course of about 270° true from the end of the Traffic-Separation-Scheme (TSS) between the mainland and the Island Nayssaar straight up to Söderarm. This could have been realistic since it was known from the beginning that she had to enter the archipelago Söderarm because of the pilot examination of Captain Avo Piht. Therefore it would actually not have been necessary first to go down to the waypoint and then go up to the North again. On the other hand, it could also be argued that sailing as long as possible in the shelter of the Estonian North coast would be for the comfort of the passengers, although evidently this was the last thing Arvo Andresson cared about. The navy chart is attached as Enclosure 20.240.
According to the Finnish Navy, however, ESTONIA took with circa 90% probability a completely different route. Allegedly after having crossed the TSS north of Nayssaar she did follow the westbound lane along the Finnish coast, but subsequently altered course to the south-west. In the opinion of this 'Group of Experts' this is the less likely version because it is the longest distance and simply impossible for ESTONIA to pass within the time available. The radar track of this possible route of ESTONIA along the Finnish coast is attached as Enclosure 20.241 together with the memo about the information received from the head office of the Finnish Navy in December 1998. For more details see Subchapter 22.3.
Since the evidence of the survivor Anders Ericson as well as that of the watch officer of AMBER appears to be reliable and do confirm the normal route along the Estonian North coast to the waypoint, it has to be concluded that this was the route the ESTONIA took on her last voyage.
The next image is part of Sea Chart BA 2241 on which all the relevant positions and course lines are shown. At 21.00 hours the watch on the bridge was taken over by 2nd officer Peeter Kannussaar and 3rd officer Andres Tammes. Trainee officer Einar Kukk was also on the bridge since about 20.30 hours.
Note: Due to gale force winds from SW the starboard list increased to 2°-4°. (Statement Einar Kukk taken by the Finnish police on 29.09.94 - Enclosure 17.2.217).
(click for full page image)
Even with calm sea the water level inside the visor was rising above the 3rd stringer when
the vessel was at full speed. The lower side of the bow ramp was below 3rd stringer level,
thus even in calm sea the water from the visor was penetrating the
gap in the bow ramp and was flooding onto the car deck.
At 22.00 hours AB Silver Linde came on watch and went safety rounds every hour, which commenced 30 minutes after the full hour and ended just before or on the full hour. These rounds included 0-deck (sauna/swimming pool compart-ment), 1st-deck in way of passenger accommodation and car deck, where he spent some 15 minutes. He had to activate control clocks at various check points. For more details see Subchapter 21.2.2.
At ca. 22.45 hours after having made a distance of 48 nm at full speed - ca. 20.0 kn - the vessel left the shelter of mainland/islands and due to increasing sea/swell from SW-ly directions the speed went down, although the 4 main engines continued on full power. At about that time ESTONIA was overtaking MARIELLA off Hangö.
Note: Trainee officer Einar Kukk has meanwhile left ESCO and is thus free to talk. He has recently told Joel Haukka that the officers on watch were frightened about the much too high speed, but did not dare to reduce the pitch without instructions from the master.
Next some statements of passengers shall be quoted in respect of their observations and feelings whilst ESTONIA was proceeding with full power against an ever increasing sea state.
Leif Bogren - cabin 5128 (5th deck, port side forward)
Protocol 01.10.94 - Enclosure 20.242.
- to bed at 23.30 hours (Swedish time);
- vessel behaved like a small boat also does when slamming over the waves - explains the many noises created by a vessel proceeding against heavy seas, in particular the time and again increasing and fading very heavy vibrations accompanied by indefinable noises, which were disturbing;
- so he was lying there listening and was fascinated and scared about why they were proceeding so fast?
Per-Erik Ehrnsten - Enclosure 20.243 - cabin 6304.
- »Before the accident I tried to sleep, but was woken up from hard noises created by the ferry slashing into heavy seas. In particular, however, I was woken up by indefinable vibrations, which deviated from the normal noises of the ferry. I had been in my cabin since about 23.00 hours ship's time, looked through some papers and went to sleep, however, woke up time and again from the vibrations caused by the waves. In my opinion the ferry was just pitching, not rolling.«
Mats Hillerström - Enclosure 20.244 - on deck.
- After dinner Hillerström went out on deck and noted that it was blowing quite frightening and that it was raining.
Later Hillerström and his colleagues went up to the deck where the lifeboats and the liferafts were. They wanted to see how the waves were slashing against the bow of the vessel and therefore were looking down on the bow several decks below them where the waves were smashing against the bow. The waves were smashing so strongly against the bow that the spray water came up to them and they had to protect themselves by seeking shelter behind the steel-sheet covered railing.
The bow area was illuminated by a search light to the effect that one could see what it looked like. Hillerström was out on deck 2-3 times, the last time at about 22.30 hours ship's time.
It kept blowing quite strongly, it was raining and the waves were high. The whole evening Hillerström had heard heavy banging throughout the vessel's hull, which was sometimes felt. Hillerström got the feeling that the vessel was slamming against the waves. He compared it with a motorboat speeding over choppy waves. He did not feel well and at about 23.30 hours ship's time he went to the aft part of the 6th deck, there he found some shelter at starboard behind the wall of the restaurant and the face plate. Although he stood at lee side, there was a lot of spray in the air.
The following pictures show the position of Mats Hillerström which in the light of his subsequent observations - see Subchapter 21.3.4. - is important.
Juuse Veljo - Enclosure 20.245 - cabin 1007.
- »Due to the heavy labouring of the vessel one had to hold oneself on to something in order not to be knocked off one's feet.«
Valters Kikusts - Enclosure 20.246 - on 6th deck in the stairway overlooking the forecastle deck.
- »The vessel pitched so much in length direction that the water surface at times was almost on the same level as the forecastle deck. In lower position a lot of water gushed in on the deck through the bulwark of the forecastle deck.
The waves became heavier and more water seemed to come in on the foredeck.«
Tony Spuhl - Enclosure 17.2.228 - cabin 4313.
- »Spuhl and his friend René went to bed already at about 21.00 hours. After a while, René moved from the bed to the sofa. Spuhl was unable to sleep due to the hard pitching of the vessel which he considered to be natural due to the existing wave conditions. Tony Spuhl was lying in his bed listening to the noise when the bow was slamming into the waves and thought spontaneously that they should not proceed at that speed against such heavy seas. He thought at the same time that the arrival at Stockholm would be delayed.«
Wanda Wachtmeister / Holger Wachtmeister - Enclosure 20.247 / 17.2.232.
- »Wanda Wachtmeister had dinner with her brother Holger in the A-la-carte Restaurant SeaSide on the 6th deck whilst the vessel was proceeding against exceptionally heavy seas. They sat at a table at starboard side. At one of the neighbouring tables four men were sitting. Two of them were wearing dark blue uniforms with 4 golden stripes and were presumably having a representation dinner with several other persons, one of whom was an elderly man wearing a jacket with a large club ensign, the other one was about 45-50 years of age and wearing a wine-red blazer. The expression on the elderly man's face made him look completely disillusioned. Holger and Wanda had the impression that the four men were not having a pleasant get-together because they hardly said anything to each other. It was more like a penal expedition.«
During a further questioning Holger Wachtmeister stated the following:
- »The witnesses reported that they had dinner in the evening of the accident between ca. 21.30-22.30 hours at the A-la-carte Restaurant. They were sitting near the table where the two vessel masters were performing some sort of representation. The masters were wearing dark blue uniforms with rank symbols in gold. The vessel was labouring heavily all the time and the waves could be heard smashing against the hull. During one of these "wave bangs" the master sitting next to the witnesses stiffened. This was clearly visible, especially on the face of the master. Description of the master: light hair, moustache.«
The above quotations are just a small selection of the many passenger statements available with remarks about the extraordinary behaviour of the ferry in the sea state which was apparently caused by the excessive speed under the prevailing circumstances.
At ca. 23.15 hours ESTONIA met AMBER North of Tahkuna Nina, the Northern tip of the island Hiiumaa and left the shelter of the Estonian cost. This confirms the following statements of the JAIC Report on page 59, item 5.5:
(1) 19.30 Outside breakwater on full speed to the western exit of the Traffic Separation Scheme NW of Suurupi Lighthouse, which ESTONIA passed at about
(2) 20.25 i.e. 18.5 nm in 55 minutes, i.e. 20 kn.
(3) According to the JAIC, ESTONIA passed Osmussaar Lighthouse at a distance of ca. 7.5 nm. The average speed was 20 kn between (2) and (3).
(4) Further according to the JAIC the vessel passed the Apollo buoy at about 22.55 hours, i.e. the distance of 16.5 nm between (3) and (4) was covered in 55 minutes which corresponds to 18 kn. Note: Assuming that ESTONIA passed the Tallinn breakwater already on full speed at 19.30 hours, which the JAIC does but which is certainly too early, but anyway let's assume it, she covered the 73 nm to the passing of AMBER in 3 hours 45 minutes, which corresponds to an average speed of 19.5 kn.
(5) Further according to the JAIC the ESTONIA passed the Glotov buoy at about 23.55 hours, i.e. from 23.15 hours. These are 40 minutes in which she passed 10.8 nm, this corresponds to an average speed of 16.2 kn, a speed reduction due to the increasing forward sea, in spite of all 4 main engines running on full power.
Einar Kukk states about this approximate time:
- »I remember that at about 23.00 hours, shortly before the next course alteration towards West, several large single breakers struck the vessel in way of the port bow edge. Captain Andresson came on the bridge about 30 minutes later, stayed there for about 15 minutes and left the bridge at about 15 minutes before the next course alteration. I do remember that the master asked the 3rd mate whether all 4 engines were running and he received, in my opinion, an affirmative reply. In any case, I have heard the order of the master to activate the fins for the stabilisation of the vessel after the next course alteration. According to my recollection at that time our vessel made about 14-15 kn.«
Note: If this speed had been true, ESTONIA would never have reached the waypoint in time to reach the visor's and her own final sinking position within the JAIC's available time frame.
- According to SMHI the wind and sea conditions were then as follows:
Wind: SW 13-17 m/s. Squalls of up to 21 m/s.
Waves: 3.0-4.0 m, max. 6.0 m.
28 September 1994
At 00.00 hours there was a watch change in the engine room and from then on 3rd engineer Margus Treu and motorman Hannes Kadak were in charge. At ca. 00.25/00.30 hours the vessel reached the waypoint on about 59°20'N; 21°59'E, the course was changed to 287° true towards Söderarm and the stabilisers were activated a little later at ca. 00.30 hours.
Einar Kukk continues:
- »I do remember that the speed of our vessel decreased after the course alteration, I also remember that the 2nd mate told this to me. At that time it was about 00.00 hours and still heavy sea state.
- At about 00.30 hours Silver returned from his control round and reported that on board everything was in order, only passengers would be seasick. 5-10 minutes after Silver had returned to the bridge, I left and went straight to my cabin.«
At about this time - 00.00-01.00 hours - the wind and sea conditions according to SMHI were:
Wind: SW 16-20 m/s, squalls of up to 23 m/s.
Waves: 3.5-4.5 m, max. 7.0 m.
In case the course alteration to starboard of 25° had been carried out, the wind and sea then should have come more from the port beam. Thus the speed should actually have increased since the full engine output remained unchanged, however, since the stabilisers had been activated after the waypoint, which reduced the speed by ca. 1 kn, it has to be assumed that the speed increase was balanced by the speed decrease and thus the speed over ground probably remained at about 15-16 kn, which is rather high under the circumstances prevailing.
According to Einar Kukk, Silver Linde returned to the bridge at ca. 00.30 hours, while actually he should have returned already at about 00.00 hours and started his next round at 00.30 hours. According to the statements of Silver Linde, available to this 'Group of Experts' (in total 8), he allegedly returned to the bridge at about 00.00 hours and started his next (and last) round at 00.30 hours. Based on the apparent fact that Silver Linde has given more different statements than anybody else, this 'Group of Experts' is inclined to believe that Einar Kukk, who was new on board and not a crew member, is much less influenced by the surrounding circumstances than Silver Linde was and still is. In case Silver Linde should have returned to the bridge only at about 00.30 hours he must have left for his next round shortly afterwards and went again down to the car deck. Since it could not have been the water on the car deck which kept him down there, because this was noted already before 22.00 hours when the starboard stern ramp was slightly opened - See Subchapter 29.7 - while he had taken over the watch only at 22.00 hours. It has rather to be assumed that the crew activities on the car deck, to hold the visor and the bow ramp, were the reason for his delay.
In any event, ESTONIA continued with unchanged full output to force her way against the still increasing seas while most of her passengers had already gone to bed, be it that they were seasick or that they were just tired of always having to hold on to something due to the hard movements of the ferry. Only very few could sleep, most were lying awake listening to the noises created by the vessel when slamming into the waves and feeling the vibrations caused by the 4 main engines running on full power.
As already outlined in the previous chapter, quite a number of passengers were most irritated by the way the vessel was powering against the waves and many truck drivers were thinking of their trucks down on the car deck, especially those knowing that their trucks were not secured.
In particular the passengers in the cabins on 1st-deck, i.e. the deck below the car deck, were alerted from the beginning because they were not only below the car deck, but also below the waterline and not far away from the bow area with the partly loose visor moving up and down within the play created by the indented stempost, the missing rubber packings and the worn out lugs of the locking devices.
In this respect reference is made to the statement of Mikael Öun - attached as Enclosure 17.2.225 - who testified to the Swedish police on 04.10.94, when among other things the following was protocolled:
»While he was sitting in the sauna he continuously heard banging noises which he attributed to the waves smashing against vessel's bow. When he came back to his cabin he still heard the banging noises and continued to hear them, he even woke up from them after having fallen into a light sleep.«
Also passenger Ulla Marianne Tenman in cabin 1098, i.e. below the car deck and located at starboard side in way of the 2nd compartment from forward, was deeply concerned already quite some time before the casualty sequence-of-events commenced. She has testified to the Swedish police on 04.10.94 when among other things the following was protocolled:
»Some time before the casualty Ulla was down in her cabin. She stated to have heard several hard bangs and something that was beating against something. This appeared very strange to her. She spoke to her colleagues, decided to go up to the 8th deck and wait what would happen.«
Her statement is attached as Enclosure 184.108.40.2068.
These banging noises - in all probability created by the visor moving within the available play - had already been heard by many passengers on previous voyages, among those was passenger Ivan Petrov who had stayed in cabin 1064 on 22.09.94 and reference is made in this respect to Subchapter 12.4.5 - Other Observations.
The ESTONIA continued all the time on full power against the increasing seas until at about 00.50 hours - after it had been noted or reported that something was wrong with visor and/or bow ramp - the speed was reduced to probably 6 kn until at 01.02 hours the vessel heeled wide to starboard and turned to port. At this moment the farthest point to the West must have been reached, because shortly afterwards at approximately 01.10/12 hours, the main engines stopped and the vessel drifted East or NE and lost the visor about 30 minutes later. It has thus to be assumed that the farthest point to the West has been about 0.5 nm to the West of the alleged visor position, where ESTONIA must have been at about 00.50 hours.
Note: After ca. 00.50 hours ESTONIA was first turned to starboard and subsequently to port and was presumably kept on SW course against wind and sea for some time until the sharp port turn commenced, which explains the more southerly Mayday position. The distance from the 23.15 hours-position to the ca. 01.00 hours-position is 30.0 nm which the vessel passed in 1 hour 45 min., of which the last ca. 10 minutes were on reduced speed. This corresponds to an average speed of ca. 17 kn.
As the time of the casualty sequence-of-events commenced at about 00.30 hours and ended at about 01.50 hours with the sinking of the ESTONIA the many statements of the survivors now have to be analysed in the following Chapter 21.