A Vintage Submarine And Icebreaker In Tallinn’s Seaplane Harbour

Tallinn has been an important port and Estonia’s connection with the world since before recorded history. Because of this, the city has not one, but two museums dedicated to the sea. The Maritime Museum is housed in Fat Margaret, an old cannon tower that once protected the harbor. It has the usual assortment of old photos and gear, along with a very cool exhibit on sunken ships.

The other museum is far more interactive. Housed in an old seaplane hanger dating to World War I, Tallinn’s Seaplane Harbour Museum is filled with old ships and other maritime bric-a-brac.

Estonians seem to favor odd lighting in their museums. The Bastion Tunnels have a weird combination of red, yellow, and purple lights. At the Seaplane Harbor museum they seem to favor purple and blue. It gives the place a spooky under-the-sea feel.

Dominating the exhibit is the Lembit, a submarine built in 1936 by the English company Vickers and Armstrongs for the Estonian Navy. When Estonia fell to the Soviet Union in 1940 it was incorporated into the Red Banner Baltic Fleet of the Soviet Navy and saw action against the Axis powers. It managed to sink two ships and damage another.

Climb aboard and you’ll see an almost perfectly preserved submarine that was the cutting edge of technology of its time. You can visit the control room, periscope, radio room, torpedo tubes and cramped crewmen’s bunks all pretty much as they were. It didn’t feel too cramped to me until I read that it housed a crew of 32. Then I decided to enlist in the Army. Check out the gallery for some photos of this fascinating sub.

%Gallery-179305%As you walk around your eyes will be drawn upward by the two giant rotating propellers hanging from the ceiling. They’re so big you might miss the seaplane fitted with skis suspended nearby. A walkway takes you past other historic ships and an extensive collection of mines, presumably defused.

This is a fully interactive museum with touchscreen displays to teach you more about what you’re seeing. You can also man an antiaircraft gun and see how good you’d be defending Tallinn from an enemy air force. Then hop aboard a reproduction Sopwith Camel and try out a flight simulator. While I managed to save Tallinn from the bad guys, my flying skills showed that I should keep my driving on the ground.

Once you’re done with the indoor exhibits, head out back to visit the Suur Tõll, an icebreaker built in 1914 that saw service for several decades, clearing the Baltic Sea lanes during cold winters. Like with the Lembit, it’s well preserved and you can wander all over it. It seemed vast and luxurious compared with the submarine. The officer’s mess looked as big as a ballroom (it wasn’t), the quarters for the crew felt sumptuous (not!) and the engine room was like some Industrial Revolution factory. It takes a pretty tough person to be a sailor, and someone twice as tough to work in a submarine.

If you are at all interested in technology or the sea, don’t miss this place. Your kids will love it too. The museum has an excellent and reasonably priced little restaurant overlooking the hanger in case you get hungry.

Read the rest of my series: “Exploring Estonia: The Northern Baltics In Wintertime.”

Coming up next: Estonia’s Rich Art and Literature Scene!

[Photo by Sean McLachlan]

Photo of the Day – Copenhagen canal

As we noted earlier this week, Summer is a glorious time in Scandinavia. The region’s normally chilly temperatures have mellowed, and activities like cycling, boating and swimming are in full swing. If you need more visual proof, just check out this idyllic scene captured by Flickr user justchuckfl, in the Danish city of Copenhagen. Like many Scandinavian capitals, Copenhagen is an urban center inextricably tied to the sea and its many canals. If you find yourself walking the streets of this colorful capital, you’re likely to encounter a scene much like this one – a scenic canal ringed by brighly-hued buildings and bobbing sailboats.

Taken any great photos during your own travels? Why not add them to our Gadling group on Flickr? We might just pick one of yours as our Photo of the Day.

Take your gadgets on your next diving trip

Our friends over at Engadget have posted about a new product that could revolutionize the way we use, and travel with our gadgets. The product is called “Golden Shellback” and is a new way of coating any kind of device, and making it waterproof.

The product is a development of the Northeast Maritime Institute in Fairhaven, MA.

Applying Golden Shellback involves placing the item in a vacuum and coating it with what they call a “vacuum deposited film”.

In videos released by the institute, you can clearly see them pour water on a laptop, a Blackberry and even an iPod touch.

The coating even adds the ability to repel oils, hazardous materials, dirt, dust and sand from your prized possession.

Imagine a world where you can bring your MP3 player along on your next trip, and not worry about using it in the rain, or on the beach. Or, next time someone spills a can of soda on your laptop duing some heavy turbulance, simply rinse it off and get back to work.

The Northeast Maritime Institute has a site dedicated to Golden Shellback (and if you want to know where the name comes from, you can read this Wikipedia article).

Photo of the Day (01.29.08)

I’ve always associated maritime culture with hoards of tourists — a sign that when I head to the shore, I tend to visit places that are far too mainstream and popular. So suffice it to say, I’m no expert on coastal communities but to me, this photo captures the essence of maritime life — isolated, gloomy and yet still take-your-breath-away beautiful. It was taken on Holy Island (also called Lindisfarne) off the shore of Northumberland. Thanks to Our Man Where for sharing.

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