On May 19th, 1917, at the height of World War One, Swedish steamer S/S Kyros set its course to Petrograd (today known as St Petersburg).
It was delivering 50 cases of cognac and 15 cases of liqueur from France to Russia through neutral Swedish territory.
But just off Åland island in the Baltic Sea, it was stopped and checked by German submarine UC-58, whose captain decided to sink the steamer because the alcohol was considered an illegal contraband product.
The crew were transferred to another ship and were able to return home to Sweden safely – but the cognac and liqueur was left at the bottom of the sea.
Until last month, that is.
After years of preparation, Swedish salvage hunters Ocean X Team and Icelandic iXplorer teamed up with international vessel Deepsea Worker to retrieve the bottles.
“The importance of this event cannot be overemphasized – it's not only a find of rare cognac and liqueur but also a part of history of the former imperial Russia,” said the Ocean X Team in a statement.
Peter Lindberg of the Ocean X Team. Photo: Joonas Tenhunen/Ocean X Team
The wreck was discovered in 1999, but has been damaged by fishing trawls and it was long too dangerous for divers to access it.
But using Deepsea Worker's special underwater robots, the teams managed to salvage the cargo of around 600 bottles of De Haartman & Co cognac and 300 bottles of Benedictine liqueur.
The cognac is no longer in production and Benedictine, created more than 500 years ago by French monks, is today owned by Bacardi.
“[We] are excited to hear about the find and are eager to learn if the product has been preserved for the duration of the stay under water,” said Petra Caspolin, Nordic marketing manager at Bacardi, in a statement.
The bottles of cognac and liqueur. Photo: Peter Lindberg/Ocean X Team
Peter Lindberg, one of the divers involved in the treasure hunt, told The Local that they did not yet know what would happen to the bottles, how much they could be worth or when and how they could be sold.
A couple of them have been sent to Sweden and Moscow for analysis.