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The Mikhael Lermontov is a Russian cruise liner that sank when it tried to enter the passages of Marlborough Sounds.
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On 16 February 1986 the 170 meter long Mikhael Lermontov, Russia's then most luxurious cruise liner, became one of the largest and most accessible diving wrecks of the modern era when she sunk under mysterious circumstances in the Marlborough Sounds. What possessed the local pilot of this 20.000 ton Soviet cruise liner to swing the big liner into the narrow passage between Cape Jackson and the lighthouse over foul ground is still a mystery. Rocks ripped open her hull and five hours later she sank. All but one of the 740 passengers and crew escaped.
She was built by V.E.B. Mathias-Thesen Werft, Wismar, in the former German Democratic Republic and launched on 18 March 1972. With a length of 155 meters and a beam of 23.6 meter she is one of the largest wrecks in the waters surrounding New Zealand. Its name is coming from Mikhail Yurievich Lermontov, the Russian novelist and poet who died during a duel at the age of 27.
Today the $45 million cruise liner lies on its side totally intact in 36 meters of water, although this varies with the tide, and is on an approximate 10 degree slope. The Port bridge wing is only about 12 meters below the surface. Bottom visibility varies greatly from fifteen to sixty feet, depending mainly on the amount of recent rainfall in the area. The wreck is massive and still fully intact.
Experienced in superb or poor visibility, the over-riding impression that imprints on your mind is one of colossal size.
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Diveshop- Tech Dive NZ, Penrose, Auckland
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Named after a Russian poet, who was killed in a duel in his mid 20's, the Lermontov sunk under mysterious circumstances on February the 16th 1986. She was carrying over 400 mainly Australian passengers on a cruise of a lifetime, when for reasons still unknown, the ship was piloted through a shallow channel at the tip of Cape Jackson, New Zealand. The ship struck the reef on her port side which opened up a large gash. Mortally damaged the Lermontov limped into Port Gore in the Marlborough Sounds, where she subsequently sunk, with the loss of only one life, some hours later in 30 odd meters of water. There is speculation that the Mikhail Lermontov was used as a spy vessel and the official government report into her sinking will never be made public.
The Lermontov now lies on her Starboard side and is fully intact. Diving on the Lermontov is a fantastic experience, with the propellers, damage, funnel, bridge and pool area all easily assessable. Penetration dives are not recommended unless with an experienced guide. Dive Marlborough offer external and penetration dives depending on your goals and your experience. The wreck has now become an artificial reef and is encrusted with invertebrate life and home to schools of local fish. Visibility on the outside of the wreck can get down to 5 meters, inside the wreck it averages around 12 meters.
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