Urban Explorers Scuba Dive Through an Abandoned Submerged Soviet Prison Camp

How eerie must it be to swim past submerged lamp posts, barbed
wire and other remnants of an old Soviet prison while scuba
diving in a former quarry? The setting is dangerous; visitors
might brush up against sharp objects, and some have even died
in diving accidents, but for avid explorers of abandoned
places, the risks may seem worthwhile. After all, it’s
hauntingly beautiful: the ruins of an old stone and concrete
structure surrounded by turquoise waters, its underwater
surfaces covered in algae and shellfish.

The ruins of this abandoned prison camp founded in 1938 are
located in the small Estonian town of Rummu, within a limestone
quarry where the inmates were once forced to labor. Its past is
rather grim, as you might expect. The prison was well known for
human rights violations, with frequent inmate deaths and hunger
strikes demanding better treatment. Estonia regained its
independence in 1991, and soon work at the quarry stopped. It
quickly filled up with water, flooding any structures nearby.
Other buildings that were part of the prison stayed dry and
remained open as recently as 2012.

Visitors often have to cut through fencing topped with barbed
wire to gain access. It’s a popular spot for swimmers and
divers alike, both local and those visiting from other
countries. A Finnish group of urban explorers calling
themselves Abandoned
documented their dive at this ‘prison beneath the
surface’ with stunning results, and wrote about the experience
on their website.

“We circled the largest building underwater, some sections of
this particular building were above the waterline. The
visibility in the water was fair but rays of midday sunlight
revealed the walls and the shapes of the buildings in front of
us. We swam inside from a large doorway inside the basement of
a building with a partially collapsed roof. Some of the rooms
were completely underwater. The rooms were full of concrete and
darkness. Bars are still intact in the windows. Even though the
buildings are grey, the penetrating greenness of the water
brought warmth to the scenery. Nature has taken over this world
a long time ago.”

“The buildings rising from the green water form a bizarre
sight. On a clear day, one can see the underwater structures,
buildings and walls, easily from the sand hill next to the
quarry lake. I’m not surprised why this place fascinates so
many, including Tanja. Unfortunately, not much history remains
from this odd place. Just like in Skrunda, documents of old
photos are really hard to come by. I have never seen one photo
from the active days of the Rummu prison camp. It seems like
Rummu was born underwater, but still we can figure out that the
place used to be very different.”

Read the whole account and see more photos at Abandoned

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