Death Cruise: how the passenger liner Admiral Nakhimov died

On August 31, 1986, at 23 hours and 20 minutes, the passenger steamer "Admiral Nakhimov", which went on a cruise on the Black Sea from the port of Novorossiysk, collided 4 km from the shore with the dry cargo ship"Peter Vasev". The ship sank in just 10 minutes, taking the lives of 423 people out of 1,234 passengers and crew members on board. This disaster was the largest in the history of the marine passenger fleet.

Death Cruise: how the passenger liner Admiral Nakhimov died

The steamship Admiral Nakhimov was launched on March 24, 1925 in the German city of Bremen and received the name "Berlin" at birth. Before the beginning of the Second World War, the ship was used as a passenger liner, but with the beginning of hostilities it was converted into a floating hospital.

Death Cruise: how the passenger liner Admiral Nakhimov died

The ship went through almost the entire war, but on January 31, 1945, it was blown up by a mine in the Baltic Sea, on the roadstead of the city of Svinemunde. The ship was able to stay afloat, but soon hit another mine and, having received a second hole, sank at a depth of 13 meters. In 1947, Soviet sailors were able to lift the steamer from the bottom, after which it was repaired first in the docks of Kronstadt, and then at the shipyards of the GDR.

The ship was completely restored only by 1957, after which it, having received the name "Admiral Nakhimov", was placed at the disposal of the Black Sea Shipping Company as a cruise ship. The liner, which preserved the remnants of the former German luxury, was called by the sailors a "floating museum", but it also had serious drawbacks.

Death Cruise: how the passenger liner Admiral Nakhimov died

First of all, the steamer had a large draft, so it could not dock at most Black Sea ports. Because of this, boarding and disembarking of passengers was carried out on the roadstead, with the help of boats. And the Admiral Nakhimov also had serious problems with the ventilation of the third-class cabins located on the lowest deck. This defect was one of the indirect causes of the death of hundreds of people.

On August 31, 1986, the steamer stood in the port of Novorossiysk all day. The hull of the steamer was very hot in the sun and the third-class passengers opened the portholes of their cabins to somehow ventilate them. At 22.00, the liner went to sea. The cargo ship "Pyotr Vasev" with full holds of grain was on its way from Canada to Novorossiysk to meet him.

Death Cruise: how the passenger liner Admiral Nakhimov died

The captains of the two ships knew perfectly well that their course intersected and saw each other, but a series of accidents and gross violations of the rules committed by the captain of the "Peter Vasev" Viktor Tkachenko and the captain of the "Admiral Nakhimov" Vadim Markov led to a collision of the two sea giants.

At 23 hours and 12 minutes, the Pyotr Vasev rammed the Admiral Nakhimov, making a huge hole in the side of the passenger steamer. Despite the damage, the Admiral Nakhimov had the opportunity to stay afloat for some time, but when the ship gave a roll, water poured through the open portholes into the lower cabins of the 3rd class, hastening the death of the ship. The steamer sank in just 10 minutes.

Death Cruise: how the passenger liner Admiral Nakhimov died

The first aid in the form of a pilot boat LK-90 arrived already at 23.35. The crew of a small boat took 118 people on board, risking turning the ship over. Immediately after the crash, other ships also came out of Novorossiysk to help the shipwrecked. In total, 118 different watercraft participated in the operation. Rescuers were hampered by a high wave, reaching 2 meters and darkness.

As a result of the shipwreck, 423 people were killed, including 359 tourists and 64 crew members. For many days, divers extracted the bodies of the dead from the premises of the sunken steamer, but despite their efforts, 65 people remained forever at sea. Even lying on the bottom, the steamer continued to take lives. On September 10, 1986, when lifting the bodies of the dead, military diver Yuri Polishchuk died in flooded cabins, and on September 19, his colleague Sergei Shardakov was under the rubble and did not swim out.

Death Cruise: how the passenger liner Admiral Nakhimov died

The trial of captains Tkachenko and Markov took place in March 1987 in Odessa, in the house of culture of railway workers. Both were found guilty under Article 85 of the Criminal Code of the RSFSR and sentenced to 15 years in prison. In November 1992, both captains were released early from prison.

Captain Viktor Tkachenko emigrated to Israel, where he began working in his specialty. In September 2003, a yacht under his command crashed off the coast of the island of Newfoundland in the North Atlantic and all those on board were killed. Captain Vadim Markov remained in Odessa after his release and worked in the Black Sea Shipping Company as a captain-mentor on passenger ships. He died of cancer in 2007.

Death Cruise: how the passenger liner Admiral Nakhimov died

In memory of the terrible tragedy, a monument was erected on the cape of the Dob Tsemesskaya Bay, not far from the lighthouse. A clock is mounted in the monument, raised from the Admiral Nakhimov by divers, whose hands forever recorded the moment of the tragedy.

Keywords: Disasters | Ship | Shipwreck | Peace | Death | Memory | Black sea | Date

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