The Maasilinn Wreck

On the large Estonian island Saaremaa, the German Order erected the Soneburg castle in 1345. Later this became Danish territory. In 1576 it was time for the Swedes to invade the island. Facing a superior Swedish attack, the Danish commander had the castle blown up, before retreating. The impressive ruins can nowdays be visited.

In 1985 the castle's old harbour was investigated by the Estonian Maritime Museum. In the waters 200 m off the castle, a 16th century shipwreck was found. At the time of sinking the water depth was around 4½ m, but as a result of landrise the wrecksite is on 3 m depth. Because of the shallow depth only the lower parts remain. The upper parts may have been smashed by water or ice movements. Loose timbers may also have been salvaged and re-used for house building etc.

Wreck site drawing by Vello Mäss

The investigations were made by Bruno Pao, Dr Jüri Selirand, Vello Mäss, and members of "Viikar", the museum's underwater archaeology society.

The wreck was salvaged in 1987. The hull has been conserved with PEG and minor objects with freeze-drying. Using dendrochronology, the ship has been dated to about 1568.


Stamp drawing by R. Matkiewicz

The illustration shows a reconstruction of what the ship may have looked like. It is from a stamp issued by the Latvian, Estonian, and Lithuanian Post. These stamps may be ordered from the philatelic departments.

Per Åkesson, January 1999


  • Günter Lanitzki: Versunken in der Ostsee (Koehlers Verlag, 1993)
  • Vello Mäss: Muistsed laevad, iidsed paadid (Horisont, Tallinn, 1996)
  • IJNA 20.4 1991

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