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Clips (4)

  1. Part four of four from this full length documentary.

  2. Part two of four from this full length documentary.

  3. Part three of four from this full length documentary.

  4. Part four of four from this full length documentary.


On 16 February 1986 a Russian cruise line, the Mikhail Lermontov, struck rocks off Cape Jackson in the Marlborough Sounds. The ship carried 408 mostly elderly Australian passengers and a crew of 330. Although the ship drifted and eventually sank in Port Gore, only one Russian sailor died. This Lynton Diggle-directed documentary was shot during the following months and the camera followed dive teams into the black depths of the vessel. Their difficult task in hazardous conditions was to salvage oil from the wreck and preserve Marlborough's coastline.

Credits (5)

 Lynton Diggle
 Graham Morris
 Hammond Peek

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Comments (1)

 Alex Webster.

Alex Webster.

I have for quite some time been interested in the sinking of the Mikhail Lermontov.
On the cover of the DVD it states, "Experienced N.Z. pilot is blamed, yet goes unpunished."
I watched the inquiry footage with interest and noticed the body language and attitude of Pilot Don Jamison. This had me raising the results of the inquiry.
It transpires that not only was he out out the pilotage area, he had the protection of N.Z. law protecting him from prosecution, which was not ammended untill 2003.
It is my opinion that Pilot Jamison had no authority to issue navigational commands, (as his rights to do so were equal to a passenger only.)
I am also of the opinion the the command that brought the demise of the ship was an UNLAWFUL COMMAND --- which should have been challenged by the officers on the bridge.
Surely, but with doubt there were charts of the area, a quick check of the area would have avoided the disaster. As a very young lad, I was encouraged to "Check, Recheck and Double Check your Recheck" Wise words.!!!!
Again, I am of the opinion that it is quite lawful to not act to an UNLAWFUL ORDER.
I would have felt fully informed if these items had been within the contents of the documentry.
Having ALL the facts is the essence of a complete program. (A.Webster.)

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 Destination Disaster: The Sinking of the Mikhail Lermontov

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An earlier Russian encounter in the Marlborough Sounds


We felt this enormous bang and the ship really shuddered and you could feel it scraping along something. And we all looked at each other and went ‘Oh my God,’ you know, what’s happened? 
You sort of learn a lot about yourself. Getting inside the ship you sort of realise you are or your aren’t the sort of person who can operate without visibility in a confined space. 
The ‘slight water intrusion’ was caused by a gash in the ship’s port side 40 feet long. The rocks tore through three watertight bulkheads. She had to sink.