Gold Ribbon Banner
Monday, May 20, 2019

Mikhail Lermontov“New Zealand Shipwrecks : 195 Years of Disasters at Sea” is an essential occupant on the bookshelf of any student of New Zealand’s maritime history.

First compiled in 1936 by C W N Ingram and P O Wheatley, it has been republished many times. The seventh edition, which came out in 1990, is 516 pages in size and, in unemotive, matter-of-fact language, details every known shipwreck in New Zealand waters since 1795. There is, however, one exceptional departure from this writing style when the book comes to the largest vessel ever to founder on the New Zealand coast: “What possessed pilot Don Jamison to swing the big liner into the narrow passage between Cape Jackson and Cape Jackson lighthouse?” exclaims the entry at top right on page 481. For this particular wrecking did not take place back in the old days of inadequately charted hazards and open bridges with next-to-no navigational aids. In this the year of its 25th anniversary, the loss of the Soviet liner Mikhail Lermontov alongside grazing sheep in a remote bay at the top of New Zealand’s Marlborough Sounds is still one of the most bizarre and baffling maritime events to take place anywhere at any time in any sea.

She lies on her starboard side about 1.8 kilometres from shore, resting on a gently-inclined sandy bottom. At low tide the outer edge of the port bridge wing is submerged in just 12 metres’ depth of water. Long after her loss, the great white hull of the Mikhail Lermontov, 176 metres long, could readily be discerned from low-flying aircraft passing across the wide expanse of Port Gore. But today, although the wreck remains completely intact, its white flanks have disappeared under a carpet of marine growth. She is a very nice earner for local dive companies who take hundreds of visitors down to her every year, but the Mikhail Lermontov is not to be toyed with. Professional dive guides are recommended as visibility is often minimal, especially when heavy rain brings silt off the land. Three divers, all of them experienced, have lost their lives inside the wreck. The body of one has never been recovered. Nineteen years old when he died, his remains lie somewhere within the Mikhail Lermontov’s sunken maze along with those of Parvee Zagliadimov, the Russian refrigerating engineer who perished the day she foundered.

The Mikhail Lermontov lived her life and met her death during the long era of the Cold War. Vast and prodigious was the arsenal of warheads, spy satellites, carrier groups and attack submarines deployed against the Soviet naval and merchant fleets. Yet it was in New Zealand, far from the Northern Hemisphere seas where the rival super powers confronted each other, that the Kremlin was dispossessed of its most prestigious merchant vessel. Today it is hard to reconcile the picturesque waters and verdant farmland of Port Gore with what lies just beneath: a huge sunken monument to maritime Soviet Russia.Mikhail Lermontov

The last day afloat of the Mikhail Lermontov has been told in a number of books, articles and websites although a full and precise timeline of events has yet to appear. Painted all in white, she was a smart, very handsome ship, fifth and last of the Russian Ivan Franko class of twin-screw, diesel-powered liners which became well known as “the Russian Poets.”

All five were built for the USSR at the shipyard of Mathias-Thesen Werft in Wismar, a port city on the Baltic Sea in what at the time was Soviet-controlled East Germany. Of 19,872 grt as built, the Mikhail Lermontov was launched on 31st December 1970 and completed 26 months later. Port of Registry was Leningrad, where she was managed by the state-owned Baltic Shipping Company. Her callsign was UQTT. The new liner’s maiden voyage, a cruise from Bremerhaven to the Canary Islands, began on 21st April 1972 then on 9th June she embarked on her first trans-Atlantic voyage, which took her to Montreal. A year later she was switched to New York where the Mikhail Lermontov arrived for the first time on 11th June 1973, with passengers from Leningrad, Bremerhaven, London and Le Havre. She continued this service until 1980 when, after the Soviet invasion ofAfghanistan, the United States banned all Soviet ships from its waters.

Read the rest of this article with additional pictures in Sea Breezes Magazine - July 2011 Issue
Click here to subscribe

Subscribe Graphic

Latest Issue - Look Inside!

Island Princess

Most Popular

  • 1
  • 2

Latest Products

Maritime Log

  • Move to Enlarge River Terminal +

    Grimsby River Terminal Associated British Ports (ABP) plans to expand its Grimsby River Terminal to enable it to handle the world’s largest car Read More
  • At the Helm of the RNLI +

    Mark Dowie A new Chief Executive has been appointed by the Royal National Lifeboat Institution to succeed Paul Boissier, who has held Read More
  • Keeping the Tyne Clean +

    Clearwater Each year, the Clean Tyne project removes around 400 tonnes of debris from the River Tyne between Blaydon and the Read More
  • First Part of Huge Port Investment Completed +

    Sheerness Port The 20-year Master Plan for boosting trade through the Kent port of Sheerness has reached a significant milestone with the Read More
  • Ship Sinks After Fire Breaks Out in Cargo +

    Grande America All 26 crew and one passenger were rescued after the roll-on,rolloff container ship Grande America, 56,642gt, caught fire and then Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

North America

  • Back Home After Eventful Antarctic Season +

    Polar Star The US Coast Guard icebreaker Polar Star arrived back at her homeport of Seattle, Washington on Mar 11 after an Read More
  • Four More Giant Cranes Arrive from China +

    Zhen Hua 31 Four new Super-Post-Panamax container cranes arrived at Tacoma, Washington, from China in early March, just over a year after the Read More
  • Two Hurt as Lifeboat Falls Overboard +

    USCG Reliance Two crew members of the tanker Chemtrans Nova, 73,870dwt, had to be flown ashore for treatment after the lifeboat they Read More
  • Cutters Seize $466mn of Drugs on Patrols +

    USCG Forward At Port Everglades, Florida, on Feb 5, some 34,780lbs of cocaine with a street value of $466mn was unloaded from Read More
  • Tragedy That Changed Coast Guard Forever +

    Marine Electric The loss of the bulk carrier Marine Electric off the coast of Virginia on Feb 12, 1983, with just three Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3


  • Three Main Courses Being Plotted for MOL +

    MOL Triumph The major Japanese shipping line Mitsui OSK Lines (MOL) has unveiled a number of new objectives aimed at improving its Read More
  • Cargo Ships for Bass Strait Service +

    Tasmanian Achiever II The first of two 700 teu cargo ship for the Bass Strait route between the Tasmanian port of Burnie and Read More
  • Race to Save Coral Reef After Grounding +

    Solomon Trader A major anti-pollution operation was launched in the Solomon Islands after the bulk carrier Solomon Trader, 73,592dwt, with a cargo Read More
  • Special Place for Tanker in Port History +

    Pro Alliance The largest fuel tanker in the 220 year history of the Australian port of Newcastle, NSW, arrived on Mar 18 Read More
  • Data Recorder Recovered From Ore Carrier Wreck +

    Seabed Constructor The Stellar Daisy, owned by Polaris Shipping, of South Korea, was carrying a cargo of iron ore from Brazil to Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

Naval Focus

  • US Navy Seeks Faster Ship Delivery +

    FFGX Rendering American News The future frigate program for the US Navy is getting fully underway and some idea of the urgency Read More
  • HMS “Dragon” in £75 Million Narcotics Seizure +

    HMS Dragon British News Whilst on patrol in the Gulf, the Type 45 destroyer HMS Dragon seized and destroyed ten tonnes of Read More
  • New Generation of Enterprise Confirmed +

    USS Enterprise American News On 31 January, the US Department of Defense announced the awarding of a block buy contract with Huntington Read More
  • Brazil to Take Over HMS Clyde +

    HMS Clyde British News It has been announced by the Brazilian Government in early December that the Falklands Patrol ship HMS Clyde Read More
  • Navy And NASA Complete Recovery Test +

    USS Anchorage American News In what might be seen as a return to the heady days of NASA’s Apollo moon program, the Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

Ferry World

  • Favourite Claymore +

    Claymore A poster of Llandudno pier prompted a memory from ex Calmac chief engineer Charlie McCurdy as he took another trip Read More
  • Baltic Battery Power +

    Aurora Scandinavian and Baltic operators seem to be leading the way in reducing ferry reliance on fossil fuels. Read More
  • Electric Solutions +

    Polarkunsult Ferry A new ferry will replace the 1992-built MF Herjólfur to the Westmann Islands and will be in line with Iceland’s Read More
  • Variety of New Builds +

    Red Kestrel I am gratified to hear at Cammell Lairds and Red Funnel have a particularly good record in ordering from UK Read More
  • Scottish Ship Shuffling +

    Caledonian Isles To Scotland now, and Calmac continue their shuffling of ships between routes, this time Arran’s mainstay Caledonian Iles having rudder Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

Sail Review/Coastal Comment

  • Thames Tributary Barges +

    Lady of the Lea Most of the rivers flowing into the Thames had their own barge type. Read More
  • Dry Rot and Dry Dock +

    HMS Victory For some time Victory, the 110gun ship of the line, has had trouble with dry rot and is in danger Read More
  • Everards Eulogy +

    Greenhithe Scottish maritime interests particularly may mourn the loss of Geo Gibson. Read More
  • Welsh Port Gentrification +

    Penarth In the Victorian era, there were many coastal places where craft worked off open beaches. Read More
  • Sussex Sterns +

    Edward and Mary and Valiant In the Victorian era, there were many coastal places where craft worked off open beaches. Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

From the Lookout

  • Red Funnel’s New Ferry Arrives +

    Red Kestrel Red Kestrel, the newest addition to Red Funnel’s fleet, arrived at her new home in Southampton on 18 April. Read More
  • Keeping an Eye on the Weather +

    Royal Charter storm I was intrigued to read recently about the career of Vice-Admiral Robert FitzRoy (1805-65). Read More
  • Port of London Trade at 10-Year High +

    DP World London Gateway Trade through the Port of London reached 53.2 million tonnes last year, a level last seen over a decade ago. Read More
  • Northlink Celebrates Apprentices +

    Paul Wheelhouse NorthLink Serco Northlink Ferries has been commended by the Minister for Energy, Connectivity and the Islands, Paul Wheelhouse, for developing young Read More
  • An Auction with no Buyer +

    Falls of Clyde I was reading recently about the unsuccessful auction to find a buyer for the Falls of Clyde, the last remaining Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

Cruise News/Superyacht News

  • Seadream Yacht Club to Build New Ship +

    SeaDream Innovation For over fifteen years, the SeaDream Yacht Club has operated two yachtlike ships, on 7 to 15-day voyages. Read More
  • Tradition Plays Its Part +

    Prana by Atzaro If ever proof was needed that traditionally built craft can still play a part in the luxury charter market in Read More
  • MV "Magellan Explorer" +

    MV Yet another new and modern expedition vessel custom built for Antarctic air-cruises will make her debut in 2019. Read More
  • The Saga Continues +

    Saga Discovery Saga Adventure SAGA Cruises has announced it is taking up an option for it’s second new ship to be built at the Read More
  • Reconstruction of “Danah Voyager” +

    Danah Voyager Reconstruction of redundant offshore oil industry tonnage turning them into luxury superyachts is not a new phenomena, but recent photographs Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

Ships, Ports and Places


Victoria High and Dry

Five-hundred years ago, Ferdinand Magellan sailed out of Seville, Spain, on one of the most memorable discovery voyages ever made, Read More
Christina O

From Warship to Superyacht

Rescued twice from the scrapheap, Captain Michael Howorth charts the fall and rise of one of the world’s best known Read More
  • 1
  • 2

Companies, Events and Other Features

SS Eastern (2)

MT Arthur Foss

“The last vessel to escape Wake Island before Japanese forces captured the island” Read More
SS Eastern (2)

Rescue of Crew Member From Tanker Avanti

Captain A J Murdoch served with Eastern & Australian Steamship Company until he retired in 1982. Hailing from Melbourne, during Read More
  • 1
  • 2