When it comes to sea floors, that of the Baltic Sea counts among the most cluttered. Barrels of toxic waste, World War II munitions and a wide variety of other detritus has settled to the bottom of the northern European body of water over the years.
On Tuesday, a team of Swedish and Finnish divers announced the most recent find: a Soviet submarine sunk by Finnish mines in the Winter War of 1939-1940. Speaking to the press on Tuesday, the divers said that they found the S-2 sub near the Aland Islands, located between Finland and Sweden.
"I think it has been 10 years since people started searching," Marten Zetterstrom, a member of the team which found the sub, said according to the Associated Press. "I've been part of it for four to five years."
The divers found the submarine in February, but waited until Tuesday to announce the find so they could confirm its identity. Markus Lindholm an expert based in Aland, said that pictures of the wreck indicate that the front of the submarine was missing, likely destroyed when the vessel cruised into a Finnish mine field in 1940. All 50 people on board were killed.
The war between the Soviet Union and Finland is a largely forgotten chapter in World War II, taking place as it did following the successful Nazi invasion of Poland and before the conflagration enveloped all of Europe. Indeed, much of the West spent the winter of 1939-1940 calling the war with Germany the "Phoney War."
But as part of the Nazi-Soviet pact which cleared the way for Germany's war on Poland, Finland was placed in Moscow's sphere of influence. The Soviets invaded on Nov. 30, 1939, but immediately became bogged down with hopelessly outnumbered Finnish troops putting up significantly more resistance than expected. Additionally, the Soviet's were hamstrung by military purges carried out by the Soviet leader Josef Stalin. Up to 50 percent of the Soviet officer corps was executed in the purge.
The divers conducted the search at their own expense. "My feelings were mixed," diver Marten Zetterstrom told Reuters about finding the vessel. "There it was, this war machine that was built to take ships down. I was happy, sad, depressed and elated all at once."
cgh -- with wire reports
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