1864 Russian Ironclad Found Standing on End

Jim Kalafus

Dec 3, 2000
Perhaps the oddest positioned lost ship of them all is the Rusalka (Russalka, alternate spelling, of the Russian word for mermaid) the 1864 vintage ironclad which vanished, in the Baltic Sea, in 1893 and which was located around the time of the search for the Kursk.

The Rusalka departed from Tallinn on September 9, 1893, on a voyage to Helsinki, and sailing in tandem with the gunboat Tutcha. The weather deteriorated, and the Tutcha lost sight of the Rusalka. Aside from a single body, which washed ashore in a Rusalka lifeboat or raft, no trace of the vessel was found during the searches.

The wreck is intact, and standing on its bow in 240 feet of water, with its stern at 108 feet and almost half of its length, from its bow to almost where its bridge had been, imbedded in the sea floor.

The rudder is fixed hard over, and from that the theory has arisen that the ship, which had an unrepaired leak in its bow and which had slowed considerably as the storm worsened, had attempted to turn back for Tallinn, been caught broadside in the trough between two waves, and capsized. It is also theorized that the engine compartment remained intact long enough for the ship to drive itself deep into the bottom; hence the balanced on its nose position.

Quite a few interesting photos of this wreck are now online. An overview:


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