In the summer of 2010, Christian Ekström, a diver from the Åland Islands, an autonomous region of around sixty-five hundred isles off of Finland’s west coast, began searching for a shipwreck in the Baltic Sea, based on a tip he’d received from a fisherman.
The Baltic’s temperature is unusually consistent (between about thirty-nine and forty-three degrees Fahrenheit on its seabed), and it hasa salinity level that is less than a fifth that of oceans.
Its coastal waters are also treacherously shallow. All of this makes it particularly well suited to sinking ships, and then, once they’ve sunk, to preserving them for centuries.
(Creatures commonly known to erode wrecks, like shipworms, can’t survive in such brackish waters.)
As a result, the Baltic has an estimated hundred thousand shipwrecks, only a fraction of which have been explored. Ekström and his dive partners soon found a small, wooden schooner, a hundred and fifty-five feet underwater, coated in sand and algae.
Its hull had ruptured and there were no name signs or ship bells by which to identify it. Shining his headlamp into the large gash in the ship, Ekström saw some dark-green bottles, lying corked among broken planks of mossy wood. He reached in and pulled one free. As he rose to the surface with the bottle, the cork began to work its way out.
He pushed it in with his thumb. Back on the boat, it poppedout completely.
“All this aroma came through,” he told me recently. “It was phenomenal. And we tasted it without any knowledge of what we were drinking.”