Car ferry opening up to receive vehicles

Article: Der Spiegel on why the Estonia ferry sank

I first read about the ferry Estonia in The Outlaw Sea, by William Langewiesche. If you haven’t read that book, you should. The Estonia capsized in 1994 in stormy conditions in the Baltic Sea, killing over 850 people.

The official report on the disaster, published by Swedish, Finnish and Estonian authorities in 1997, has always been viewed with skepticism, and conspiracy theories abound. For these reasons Swedish authorities enlisted the Hamburg Ship Model Basin (HSVA), a hydrodynamic research facility, to figure out why the Estonia sank. The researchers used a computer simulation to determine that the sinking of the ferry was a result of the speed she was travelling, the stormy seas, and an attempt made to turn the ferry in order to ride the sea more comfortably.

Car ferry opening up to receive vehicles
Car ferry opening up to receive vehicles

The bow visor of the Estonia broke off under the forces experienced that evening from the wind and waves. (The Danish-Swedish ferry shown above has its bow visor lifted to allow cars into the vessel.) The Estonia thus took on water at the bow, and when the crew turned to port, the water sloshed to one side of the ferry and caused a serious list. As the ship tilted, the evacuation routes became mostly impassable (imagine trying to climb a staircase, in the dark, tilted at more than 50 degrees). Only a few of the people on board managed to exit the ship before she sank.

Der Spiegel has an article that explains the disaster and the efforts to pin down its cause, that explains things a lot better than I just have. Read the article here.

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Lapsed mathematician, creator of order, formulator of hypotheses. Lover of the ocean, being outdoors, the bush, reading, photography, travelling (especially in Africa) and road trips.