130-year-old Swiss steamship to be raised off bottom of Lake Constance

130-year-old Swiss steamship to be raised off bottom of Lake Constance

90 years after it fell beneath the waves of Lake Constance, the Swiss passenger ship Säntis is expected to be lifted out of the water once again. The highly risky operation to raise the 130-year-old ship from the lakebed is set to take place in March 2024.

130-year old Säntis steamship

Our story starts in May 1933, when the steamship Säntis was deliberately sunk in the middle of Lake Constance between Romanshorn, Canton Thurgau and Langerargen in Germany. After serving for 40 years as a ferry on the lake, first for Swiss Northeast Railways and then the national public transport provider Swiss Federal Railways, the ship was deemed unfit to sail and also too expensive to scrap.

Santis sinking

Image: Public Archive Picture 1933 / Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0

This meant that the ship, built in Zurich, was sunk by the Swiss Lake Constance Shipping Company. It sank to a depth of 210 metres, and that was supposed to be that.

Santis Sinking beneath Lake Constance

Image: Public Archive Picture 1933 / Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0

New plan to raise the Säntis from Lake Constance

That was until 2013 when an underwater survey discovered the wreck of the Säntis. Thanks to the darkness and lack of oxygen around the site, the ship was remarkably well preserved, which led the Romanshorn Ship Salvage Association to buy the wreck off her former owners and plan to bring the ship back to the surface.

Now, authorities have confirmed that the operation to raise the wreck will take place in March 2024. Ship salvage association president Silvan Paganini told Spiegel that time was of the essence, as the shipwreck was threatened by invasive Quagga mussels - when the Jura steamship was discovered on the sea floor on Lake Constance, what they found was a mountain of mussel shells attached to the decaying superstructure.

Säntis must be raised from 200 metre-depths

Choosing the most cost-effective but riskiest method, the association will use lifting bags to raise the ship to the surface and tow it to a dry dock in Romanshorn. Major challenges include the 210-metre depth of the vessel and its enormous weight, estimated to be around 200 tons.

If and when it works, the ship will be in dry dock for two years for repairs and restoration before it will be put on display at some museum in Switzerland or in another part of the world - Canton Thurgau ruled out financially supporting the project as it was not deemed culturally significant enough. Paganini said that he was "open" to calls from any museum that wishes to display the iconic piece of Swiss maritime history.

Jan de Boer


Jan de Boer

Editor for Switzerland at IamExpat Media. Jan studied History at the University of York and Broadcast Journalism at the University of Sheffield. Though born in York, Jan has lived most...

Read more



Leave a comment