Under the command of a Captain Lieutenant Markov, the Evstaffi, a 38 gun frigate, was en route from Archangel to Kronstadt with 180 officers and crew and nine passengers board when she was wrecked in the Shetlands on 17th September 1780. The ship, apparently blown off course by a gale, grounded on the rock Grif Skerry and was lost. At the time of the wrecking the sea was calm and locals blamed poor seamanship rather than the weather for her final demise. Only five members of the crew survived. Local residents salvaged floating debris from Evstaffi in 1780 and oral tradition over two centuries later remembered the circumstances and name of the wreck.
The wreck was discovered by a team led by Robert Stenuit in the summer of 1972 while searching for other shipwrecks. Two anchors and a broken cannon found in 20 – 25 metres led divers to the wreck. After preparing a three dimensional map of the site, Stenuit team excavated the wreck which largely consisted of iron objects concreted and embedded into the rocks, with chisels, hammers and explosive charges.
A large number of artefacts were recovered but none of the ship’s hull sheathing or rigging were found. Most of the recovered artefacts were metal including fragments of eighteen cannon, solid bar and grape shot, metal parts from muskets and pistols, lead shot, brass hardware, iron tools, sword hilts, shoe and belt buckles, 220 Russian and Dutch gold, silver and copper coins , fragments of ceramic containers and pipes, lumps of tar, fragments of sailcloth and rope preserved in the concretion and a pewter plate. Other significant discoveries included two different sets of nested weights made of incised a decorated brass, a corroded silver medal struck to commemorate the Russian naval victory against the Turks at the Battle of Tchesme in June 1770 and seven small brass icons and fragments of icons that were carried abroad the ship.
Rediscovered artefacts were conserved and then sold at auction in 1973 after Stenuit documented and studied them and identified the wreck. A small sample of the artefacts were purchased and donated to the Zetland County Museum in the Shetlands.