Mysterious 230-foot-long shipwreck found at bottom of Baltic Sea

EMILY MAE CZACHORUpdated December 13, 2023 at 5:28 AM

Researchers are working to identify the origins of a mysterious shipwreck found recently at the bottom of the Baltic Sea off Lithuania, officials said, marking an unexpected discovery in waters where fewer than 20 shipwrecks have been officially registered.

Ignitis Renewables — a branch of the Lithuanian state-run energy company Ignitis Group that focuses on green energy — encountered the shipwreck by happenstance while surveying the seafloor in that area for a wind farm project, the company announced. The sunken ship measures about 230 feet long and 20 feet high, and yet has remained unexplored and seemingly out of sight.

It was discovered 125 feet beneath the surface of the ocean in a portion of the Baltic Sea that had never been studied in detail prior to Ignitis Renewables’ research, the company said. The large unstudied area covers around 75 miles, and Lithuanian officials told the energy company they were not aware of the wreck before.

An enormous sunken ship was discovered recently in the Baltic Sea off Lithuania. / Credit: Ignitis Group
An enormous sunken ship was discovered recently in the Baltic Sea off Lithuania. / Credit: Ignitis Group

Paulius Kalmantas, a spokesperson for Ignitis Renewables, said in a statement that Lithuanian authorities confirmed the company’s find had not previously been marked in any national databases. The company said additional historical and underwater archaeological research would help authorities learn more about the shipwreck, something Kalmantas said “will be valuable for the country’s scientific community and historians.” The data collected in that process will also be used to help Ignitis Renewables as it develops the first offshore wind farm in Lithuania, which hopes to eventually fulfill about one quarter of Lithuania’s electricity demand with green energy.

“While carrying out research on the Baltic Sea floor for the offshore wind power park project, we have found a previously unknown sunken ship!” Ignitis Group wrote in a translated social media post last week. “We are handing this unusual finding over to experts, who will help reveal more information about this object. In addition, all the detailed information about the seabed will not only be used in our project, but also share it with the Lithuanian science community.”

Whether Lithuania will formally register the shipwreck in its national database of historically-significant places depends on the ongoing research, said Augustina Kurilienė, an official with the heritage department at the country’s ministry of culture.

The ministry added that the discovery was rare in the Baltic Sea and only 19 shipwrecks in Lithuanian waters are officially registered.

“Once the ship’s dating becomes clear, a decision will be made on its registration in the Register of Cultural Values,” Kurilienė said in the statement.

Regardless, Lithuania will follow UNESCO guidelines for protecting and preserving underwater culture heritage, she added. Archaeologist and heritage expert Elena Pranckėnaitė told the company the shipwreck can also be studied to understand more about the history of shipping in the Baltic Sea.

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