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Sights & Scenes of Estonia

Photo Focus: Children's 'Estonia' Memorial

by Peter Kessler, 3 February 2024


Estonia Children's Memorial
Photo © Kersti Hansen

Memorial to children who were killed on the 'Estonia' (Mälestusmärk Estonial hukkunud lastele, in Estonian)

The MS Estonia was a cruise ferry which was built in 1979-1980 in the German shipyard, Meyer Werft, in Papenburg.

The ship sank in 1994 in the Baltic Sea in one of the worst maritime disasters of the twentieth century. It is the deadliest shipwreck disaster to have occurred in the Baltic Sea in peacetime, costing a total of 852 lives.

Estonia Children's Memorial
Photo © Kersti Hansen

A 2021-2022 inquiry found that the sinking had been caused by a faulty bow door rather than by a collision or explosion. The roll-on, roll-off ferry’s bow shield was wrenched off in heavy seas.

Those findings reinforced the conclusions of the original 1997 inquiry and appeared to dismiss doubts which had been raised by a 2020 documentary which had discovered a gaping four-metre hole in the hull, suggesting that the vessel may have sunk due to a blast or collision. The hole was most likely caused when the sinking vessel struck the seabed.

Estonia Children's Memorial
Photo © Kersti Hansen

The monument was erected in memory of those children who were lost when the ferry sank, and also for children who had lost parents or relatives during the disaster.

The bell at the base of the crucifix rings when the prevailing wind speed matches that of the storm on that fateful night.

The memorial sits on the Tahkuna peninsula in Hiiumaa, at the closest point to the wreckage of the 'Estonia'. Tahkuna Lighthouse overlooks the site.


Additional information by Kersti Hansen.

All photos kindly contributed by Kersti Hansen, taken in July 2023.

Main Sources

Troy David Johnson, via Flickr

Estonia ferry disaster inquiry backs finding bow door was to blame, The Guardian, Monday 23 January 2023


Images and text copyright © Kersti Hansen & P L Kessler except where stated. An original feature for the History Files.