Exploring Abandoned Underwater Prison in Estonia

The ruins of an Estonian prison are sinking in the quarry lake where the prisoners were once forced to work.

Diving along the main building.


Tanja Palmunen and Kimmo Parhiala of Finland, also known as Abandoned Nordic, have been traveling across Northern Europe for the past two and a half years looking for and photographing abandoned houses, cars, casinos, and churches.
In this case, they came across an underwater prison, often in the dead of winter.

The Prison is situated in the middle of a submerged quarry.

“Rummu Lake is a shallow lake with an average depth of 6 to 10 meters. This means we can stay down longer without fear of decompression sickness,” Parhiala explains.

The danger comes from diving in icy water during the winter months. The water temperature drops to around 3 to 4 degrees Celsius in the winter. They use an isolated drysuit in these temperatures. Still, after a while, the bodies are unable to cope with the cold water, and it feels very cold.

The view from a hill close by.


The prison, originally known as Murru, was founded in the late 1930s, but the first prison cell was not built until 1949. It wasn’t supposed to be in the middle of a lake; instead, it was supposed to be at a limestone quarry where inmates were forced to work. Following the fall of the Soviet Union, the entire base was abandoned. Groundwater from nearby farms quickly flooded the quarry, creating a mostly submerged island of crumbling brick walls.

The main building, from above the surface.


The visibility was good for their dive, but Palmunen and Parhiala found the water to be very cold, as one would expect from an Estonian winter.

“When we started our descent toward the underwater parts of the main building, the cold shivered my lips,” Parhiala recalls.

Our explorers had a difficult time diving into submerged buildings in the lake.

“You have to adjust the camera settings and focus on your buoyancy so you don’t touch the bottom and ruin the visibility, as well as so you don’t ascend to the surface.”

The walls are visible above the water, but the view from below is quite different.

“Aside from the main buildings, a diver can visit other buildings that are completely immersed,” Parhiala says.

“These massive structures with numerous rooms are covered in green moss and debris. A diver can also visit the old underwater walls with intact lamps. It’s strange to imagine the inmates figuring out if they can climb over the walls. We can now simply hover over them with no resistance.”

The Abandoned Nordic team moved slowly through the prison, stopping for photos and admiring the surroundings.

“The bars in the windows reminded us of the place’s history. This abandoned building, like many others in Estonia, was made of cheap gray bricks that were strewn about everywhere on the ground. Inside this strange underwater structure, we enjoyed a break from the sensation of ordinary gravity by watching our exhale bubbles hit the ceiling.”

Entering a moss-covered building.


Descending alongside the underwater guard fence on underwater stairs.


A collapsed section of the main building dives close to the surface.


Bars are still visible in some of the windows.


Ruins of Rummu buildings above the shoreline.


Prison structures close to the underwater fence.


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