Edit: This was a very early post, written during the unfolding of the event. If you are looking for information regarding the true nature of the submarine, and how the Ocean X Team cleverly played the media, possibly with Russian backing, see this post.
Swedish underwater survey company Ocean X Team has today announced that they’ve found a midget submarine in Swedish waters. This has raised a number of questions, which has been met by more or less informed speculation. The information released so far is very limited:
- Ocean X Team received a location from an Icelandic company, and when searching there they found the wreck,
- The wreck has seemingly very little damage, none of which seems to indicate that it has been damaged in combat,
- It has very little growth on it, some have speculated that it has been on the bottom for around a year or less,
- In size, the vessel is around 20 meters long, and around 3 meters in width,
- There seems to be Cyrillic signs on it, namely the letter ‘Ъ’ (jer, the hard sign), and what looks like a ‘I’ in front of it,
- The hatches are closed, leading to speculation that the crew is dead inside.
To take it from the top, it is an open guess how the Icelanders knew about it, but there are certainly contacts between Icelandic and Russian companies. With regards to the amount of growth, this is hard to judge, as the rate of growth is dependent on a number of different factors, such as water quality, depth, salinity, temperature, and so forth. A number of submarines have spent long times under water in similar conditions in the Baltic Sea, such as a Soviet Whiskey-class submarine that spent roughly 20-25 years on the bottom outside of Gotland, as well as Swedish submarine Springaren that was raised after 11 years on the bottom as a training item. Both show surprisingly little growth.
With regards to type, midget submarines are usually built in small numbers, and their very existence is often a state secret. The aft part of the coning towers of German WWII-era Seehund midget submarines shows a surprising similarity to some of the pictures seen. However, the Seehund is shorter in length (12 m) than the reported length (20 m). Of interest is that a number of Seehund submarines, as well as a number of ex-Italian CB-class submarines, are reported to have been in Soviet service post-war.
The Cyrillic writing might be some kind of hull letter, but this is pure speculation. Whether the crew is inside or not is an open question so far. Until more information is released, there exist a few major possibilities:
1) The submarine sunk during WWII, when a number of submarines disappeared without a trace,
2) The submarine has been out on a covert operation that went wrong, hence no emergency signal,
3) Some readers will recall the rumours last autumn that a submarine had sent an emergency signal to a station in Kaliningrad. However, Ocean X Team has stated that they do not believe this submarine is connected to last year’s Red October incident.
Edit: While writing, a more credible source than the small Seehund has appeared: Nameship of Imperial Russian Som-class sank in a collision with a Swedish steamer in 1916. Its measurements are very close to those given by the survey team. Credits to Skipper.