From the depths of the Caspian Sea, Russian salvage crews have rescued a Soviet-era leviathan from a forgotten era of transport.
The Lun-class ekranoplan is possibly one of the strangest vehicles ever devised. Neither plane nor boat, the craft was capable of skimming 4metres above the surface of the water propelled at 550 at kilometres per hour by eight Kuznetsov jet engines.
Built in the mid-1960s during the height of the cold war, it was dubbed the "Caspian Sea Monster" by puzzled Nato intelligence. The Russian engineers dubbed the prototype the "Lun" or harrier hawk. A variety of uses were floated for the ships, from hospital transport through to high -speed navy attack ships - though only one of the strange 73-metre long vessels were ever made. The Lun had silos of anti-shipping missiles fixed to the back – adding to its strange profile.
The ekranoplan oddity ended up in dry-dock in the port of Kaspiysk in the Republic of Dagestan, where after the collapse of the Union in the 1990s, it languished in disrepair. Until now.
The Soviet Ekranoplan has begun what might be its final journey. Having been earmarked as a centerpiece for the "Patriot Park" military museum in the city of Derbent, it was towed 14 hours down the coast from Russia by a flotilla of tug boats. Transporting the 350-tonne on the 100 kilometre journey by sea was no simple task.
On the way the Caspian Sea monster threatened to sink after springing a leak. It was abandoned on shore just short of Derbent, where it has remained since July.
A representative of the transport contractors Sokrat Vagidov told local media OTR that work will be resumed to deliver it to the final resting place on a podium within the military park.
"Divers are helping us put extra air cushions under the wings and the fuselage. The body is aluminium and soft and our task is to deliver it to its pedestal in an undamaged condition," said Vagidov.
However, having been abandoned so long on the shore, the Soviet travel oddity has attracted plenty of attention. Urban explorers and bloggers have already begin visiting the site.
One blogger, Vitaliy Raskalov, who visited the ekranoplan pointed out the "sheer absurdity" of the fact that the park, to which it is being delivered, hasn't even been built yet.
"I hope the ekranoplan will not be pulled apart by looters," he said.
Some treasure hunters are less interested in trophies, but several visitors have come specifically to the site to take photos of the beast. Lana Sator, a photographer and "urban explorer" told Radio Free Europe how she bought a plane ticket from Moscow to Dagestan to take illicit photos from inside the ekranoplan.