The ‘Titanic of the Alps’ Säntis Shipwreck Will Be Brought to the Surface After 90 Years

Before the sinking of the Titanic, there was a steamship that had many characteristics similar to the famous ocean liner. Although it did not receive the nickname 'Titanic of the Alps' until after the Titanic sank in April 1912, the Santisse has long been remembered as such. Now, plans have been made to bring the damaged ship back to the surface.

History of Santis

When it was operational, the 157-foot steamship Santisse served as a ferry for passengers traveling around Lake Constance. It did this for 40 years, carrying 400 passengers back and forth across the lake at a time. However, the decision was made to change the ship's engines from coal to oil, and it was this decision that ultimately decided the fate of Santis.

Around the same time that the engines were switched, the area experienced an economic recession. Santis became inactive, and scrapping the ship proved too expensive, so the owners of the Swiss Lake Constance Shipping Company decided to scrap the ship. After removing useful material from the ship, it was moved to the middle of the lake in 1933, where it sank approximately 690 feet to the bottom of the lake. There it lay for decades, largely forgotten until it was rediscovered in 2013 following underwater surveys in the lake.

Similarity to titanic

The Santisse has been nicknamed the 'Titanic of the Alps' as it shares many similarities with the famous ocean liner. Silvan Paganini, president of the Ship Salvage Association (SSA), explained some of their similarities, saying, “The steamship Santice has a three-cylinder steam engine like the Titanic. The three-cylinder steam engine is very rare, so from a technical aspect it is one of the similarities.

Santis also sank like Titanic. Like a sailing ship, "the stern went into the wind with the flag waving high," said Paganini. Like the Titanic, water entered the Santice rapidly as the ship's rear rose vertically, until it eventually sank below the surface.

However, the two ships are different in many ways. For starters, the Santis was deliberately sunk, whereas the sinking of the Titanic was the result of a tragic accident. Santis was also commissioned 20 years before the sinking of the Titanic, making it an older ocean liner. Santis also lies at a depth of just 690 feet, while Titanic is nearly 12,000 feet below the surface. And unlike the Titanic, the Santis is about to surface again.

The deep waters of the mountain lake as well as the lack of oxygen at sea level helped maintain the ship in remarkable condition. When divers descended into the lake to view the ship, it was so well preserved that the original paint was still visible, bearing the ship's easily read name. SSA has purchased Santis and intends to bring it to the surface for demonstration.

You might be wondering how they are going to achieve such a feat. Well, Paganini said that, “The cheapest solution is to carry the bag. They're like balloons that work underwater, you fill them with air and then they go up. It is expected that the first lift will bring the ship to a depth of just 40 feet, with a second lift later bringing it to the surface. Following its refurbishing, Sentis will be rebuilt at the nearby shipyard in Romanshoee, where it had previously been rebuilt in 1898.

However, time is of the essence for the Santis, as an invasive species known as the Quagga Mussel threatens to devastate the shipwreck. First found in 2016, quagga have become the "dominant species" on the lake shore, raising concerns that they could cover the Santis in a thick layer. Quagga have already been spotted in the ship's chimney, meaning the SSA needs to act fast before the mussels spread.

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