'Titanic of the Alps' will see surface for first time in more than 90 years

11-02-2024 12:46 PM

Ammon News - A shipwreck dubbed the 'Titanic of the Alps' will return to the surface, more than 90 years after it first sank beneath the waves.

The Säntis was sunk to the bottom of Lake Constance on the Swiss-German border in 1933 when it was deemed unfit to sail and too expensive to scrap.

But at a depth of almost 690ft (210m), the darkness and lack of oxygen have left the 157ft (48m) steamship remarkably well preserved.

Plans have now been approved to raise the ship from the lake bed and put it on display for the public.

Silvan Paganini, president of the Ship Salvage Association which is attempting the feat, said: 'We want to present to the public what we have here; what a monument we have from our predecessors. That is the main goal.'

The Säntis was originally a ferry service, taking passengers around Lake Constance.

It operated for 40 years and carried up to 400 passengers at a time.

But after an ill-advised decision to switch its engines from coal to oil and an economic downturn in the area, the choice was made to scuttle the ship.

The Swiss Lake Constance Shipping Company, then the ship's owner, took the Säntis to the middle of the lake and sunk to a depth of 690ft (210m).

There it lay, largely forgotten, until an underwater survey in 2013 discovered the location of the wreck.

The ship was then bought by the Romanshorn Ship Salvage Association and plans were put in place to return it to the surface.

The Säntis earned its moniker 'Titanic of the Alps' due to a number of similarities between the two ships.

Mr Paganini said: 'The steamship Säntis has a three-cylinder steam engine like the Titanic.

'A three-cylinder steam engine is very rare, so that is one of the similarities from a technical aspect.'

According to Mr Paganini, the two ships also sank in very similar ways.

He said: 'The stern went into the air with the flag flying high, that was also similar to the Titanic.'

The Säntis is actually even older than the Titanic, having been commissioned 20 years before the Titanic sank.

However, due to the conditions of the deep mountainous lake, it is in much better condition.

The ship is so well preserved that divers found the original paint visible, leaving the ship's name still proudly on display.

But time may be running out to save the Säntis, as it is now threatened with destruction by an invasive species of mussels.

Quagga mussels, an introduced species, were first found in Lake Constance in 2016 and have since spread rapidly.

A 2022 study from Fisheries Research Station Baden-Württemberg found that the mussels are now the 'dominating species' of the lake-bottom community.

The concern is that the mussels could soon cover the Säntis in a thick layer.

Mussels have already been found on the Säntis' chimney, raising concerns that time to act may be limited.

Efforts to raise the ship are scheduled to begin in March this year.

Mr Paganini said: 'The cheapest solution is lifting bags. They're like balloons which work underwater, you fill them with air and then they lift.'

Divers will attach the bags to the vessel before inflating them to pull the ship closer to the surface.

The first lift will bring the Säntis from the sea bed to a depth of just 40ft (12m) before a final to the surface takes place in April.

The Säntis will then be renovated in the nearby shipyard in Romanshorn, where it was previously renovated in 1898.

Mr Paganini says that the plan is to display the ship in a museum somewhere in Switzerland.

However, Canton Thurgau has explicitly ruled out financially supporting the project leaving Mr Paganini to search for an alternative buyer for the wreck.

Daily Mail

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