24 Feb 2017

Sunken Soviet cruise liner falls victim to November's quake

From Morning Report, 8:50 am on 24 February 2017

The wreck of the Soviet cruise liner Mikhail Lermontov, lying on the Marlborough Sounds seabed, has been torn apart by November's Kaikōura earthquake.

The wreck of the Mikhail Lermontov.

A model of the Mikhail Lermontov: Go Dive Marlborough says the top three decks were shorn off by the quake. Photo: Supplied / Go Dive Marlborough

All 372 passengers, and all but one of a crew of 348, were rescued from the luxury cruise ship before it disappeared underwater in 1986.

The ship went down in Port Gore and has been a diving site ever since.

Staircase, Mikhail Lermontov wreck,

Fish life in the area is flourishing, the dive company says. Photo: Supplied / Go Dive Marlborough

Brent McFadden, owner of Go Dive Marlborough, said as result of the quake the top three decks, made of alloy, were shorn off and have dropped down about 3m to rest on the seabed.

Mr McFadden said they noticed the damage when they went diving two days after the quake.

It was now riskier to dive inside the damaged part of the wreck.

"There's a lot of damage, a lot of jagged metal and cables that people could get tangled up in."

But he said it enhanced the experience for divers viewing the outside of the ship as the changed habitat meant fish life in the area was flourishing.

"The tarakihi enjoy that sort of habitat so the fish are schooling in that part of the ship. It's actually enhanced the experience in that respect."

He said divers were returning to investigate the changes for themselves.