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Rummu, Estonia

May 2017

On one of our long, cold winter nights here in Norway we came across an article about the ruins of a soviet prison in Rummu, Estonia that are now underwater. Half an hour later we had booked tickets to Tallin. Some google translating later I had an English speaking contact: Terje! After 4 emails and a phone call we had agreed to meet at a gas station on the way where she would give us tanks and weights. We had no trouble spotting her with her mermaid covered bus! When we met under torrential rain, she gave us not only tanks and weights but also some indications on the road to the site and the dive itself. After having looked at our rented Opel Corsa and pondered for a while, Terje said that if I drove slowly we might make it to the dive site. After all, it had only just started raining so the road should still be passable.

Indeed, the track was more deep potholes than road but we made it as the rain turned into sleet and then snow. The wind had picked up and the lake now had waves! We somewhat acrobatically put on drysuits inside the car and ran to the water to get out of the biting cold and wind. With the toasty 8°C already warming our core we were ready to explore the old labour prison. 

 

Built in the 1940s by the Soviets the prison was located by a limestone quarry where the inmates would toil. After the fall of the USSR and once Estonia gain independence the mine was abandoned. The ground water, no longer being pumped, soon flooded the buildings and the surrounding forest. Part of the old prison walls are now underwater, running the width of the lake and access to the dive site is right next to where the wall enters the water. As we began our dive we swam over the two thick walls still fixed with barbed wire and lamp posts until we reached a gate and then the old prison buildings. Going inside the old cells with the paint peeling off, tables and windows still with bars is interesting and lots of fun!

There are lots of swim throughs and corridors to swim along. clear exit points are frequent so there is no need to distance line. Barbora, more reluctant to follow me in the dark holes gave me raised eye brows and waited - we'll go for - patiently at the closest exit point. I was like an overly excited kid in a candy shop: So many swim throughs to explore! 

 

On the way back I stopped for a short swim through the underwater forest before having the awful idea to re-emerge to the snow blizzard that was awaiting on land. The freezing wind was making the sleet go horizontal and straight into our eyes. By the time I walked the 50m from the water's edge to the car I was frozen. I couldn't move my hands and could feel the cold wind penetrate though the dry suit and right into my bones. We quickly got out of our kit and suits and just dumped them while we blasted the car's heating and warmed up. 

To end an amazing day diving I even got to drive off-road! 

I doubt any of soviet bureaucrats who built the prison could ever phantom that the Rummu labour prison would some day make a diver so happy! 

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