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Mikhail Lermentov - suitable for qualified wreck divers only!

F69 has another amazing dive nearby....well, just across the Cook Strait anyways...the shipwreck Mikhail Lermentov. If your visiting and diving the frigate Wellington, spend another couple of days and visit the Mikhail Lermontov. See this massive wreck that's now a living reef. (view latest images below)

DANGER! It should be noted that of the 4 unfortunate deaths on this ship, 2 bodies remain inside (one crew member and one diver). The ship is obviously considered a grave site and the interior a clear danger to divers. Please ensure you treat the ship with due respect and dive safe, dive with an attentive buddy!

The Mikhail Lermontov was a Soviet cruise ship that sank in the Marlborough Sounds New Zealand, on February 16, 1986. The ship ran aground on rocks near Port Gore, resulting in the death of one crew member. The Mikhail Lermontov , launched in 1972, was the last of the five "writer" ships: Ivan Franko, Taras Chevchenko, Alexander Pushkin, Shota Rustaveli and Mikhail Lermontov, named after famous Russian authors, built to the same design in the East German port of Wismar. Mikhail Lermontov, born 1814 and died 1841, was known as the "poet of Caucasus."

Click on the link below to view the New Zealand Maritime Record of the sinking- NZNMM 05/10/2006 07:17 PM.


The Mikhail Lermentov is another example of how these sunken ships create living environments on the sea floor. The images that follow show how she has grown!! Dated 04/05/2006

Large sponges around hatches and deck areas, along with anemones, seaweed and corralines are taking over.

What were steel structures are now carpeted in sponges, hydroids and triple fin fish. Accessways are closing in with the thick covering!

The Mikhail Lermontov was originally used for liner passage voyages, almost like a long distance ferry. However, the Soviet government realised that there was more money to be made by converting it to a cruise liner, and the accommodation and facilities on board were significantly improved during the 1970s.

Start of the Mikhail Lermontov' s last voyage

On February 16, 1986, the Mikhail Lermontov was in New Zealand for the CTC cruise company. On that day it left Picton for the Marlborough Sounds, carrying mostly elderly Australian passengers. The harbour master of Picton, Don Jamison, conned the ship out of Picton. His presence, and his knowledge of the area, should have assured the safety of the Mikhail Lermontov .

However, Jamison believed that the passage at Cape Jackson was nearly twice as wide as it actually was, and that there were no dangerous rocks or reefs in the passage. Operating without a chart, Jamison proceeded towards Cape Jackson.

Hugging the shoreline to give the Australian passengers a good view of the area, Jamison continued towards the cape. About one mile from the cape, Jamison made the decision to take the Mikhail Lermontov through the passage. A Russian officer tried to discourage Jamison, but the harbour master assured him it would be fine.


At 5.37 pm, the Mikhail Lermontov , travelling at 15 knots, struck rocks about 5.5m below the waterline on his port side. Water poured up into the decks, and the seriously damaged ship limped towards Port Gore. Jamison hoped he could beach the ship to stop it floating out to sea.

Jamison beached the Mikhail Lermontov successfully, but lowering the anchors to keep him there was impossible as the electricity in the ship had failed. As a result, the ship drifted into deeper waters. Water-tight doors were broken open by the pressure of the sea water gushing into the ship. The Mikhail Lermontov was doomed.

For reasons unknown, no distress signal was sent to the local authorities, and rescue ships, seeing that the Mikhail Lermontov was in trouble, were gruffly told that their assistance was not required. Luckily for the passengers, the rescue ships knew that their assistance was required, and stood by to evacuate the passengers.

By 8.30 pm, many passengers were being loaded on to these rescue ships of their own accord, but the Russian crew refused to disembark. The passengers were put onto an LPG tanker that was in the area, the MV Tarihiko .

As darkness set in, Wellington Radio ordered all passengers to disembark as the Mikhail Lermontov listed further to starboard. Within twenty minutes of the last passenger being rescued, the Lermontov had disappeared completely. One crew member, Parvee Zagladimov, died, while 11 of those rescued had minor injuries. He has not been recovered.

The Ship on the Bottom of the Sea

The Mikhail Lermontov rests where it sank, lying on its port side at depths ranging from 25 to 30 m in dark, murky water. Popular with SCUBA divers, the site is served by local dive shops from Picton, Kaikoura and Wellington. It is possible to swim inside the ship, although EXTREME care must be taken and diving with guides familiar with the wreck is highly recommended. Three divers are known to have died while exploring the ship, including one diver whose body is still reportedly inside. Utmost respect of this grave site should be a priority.

Another link.......

New Zealand Disasters - Shipwreck: Mikhail Lermontov

Covered in an amazing array of weed and sponges!



visitors since Sun Feb 20, 5:53 PM