The Estonian coast has seen many battles. There are countless shipwrecks sunk over centuries, lying on the Baltic Sea's floor.
Popular Maritime History Attractions
The village of Käsmu is legendary among Estonians for its beautiful nature and Kapteniküla (Captain’s Village). There is also an interesting private museum featuring the history of Estonian seamanship.
The museum ship “Suur Tõll” is a steam-icebreaker, built in 1914 in Poland, and said to be the most advanced icebreaker of its time. It is also the biggest still existing steam-icebreaker in the world and the only surviving pre-war steamship in the Baltic Sea. “Suur Tõll” is open to visitors at Lennusadam, Tallinn.
Estonian Maritime History Facts
- The vikings in Estonia (who lived on the Island of Saaremaa) were called The Oeselians. They are first mentioned as early as the 2nd century BC in Ptolemy's Geography. Their sailing vessels were called pirate ships by Henry of Livonia in his Latin chronicles from the beginning of the 13th century. The most renowned raid by Estonian pirates was 1187, with the attack on the Swedish town of Sigtuna by Finnic raiders from Couronia and Estonia. Among the casualties of this raid was the Swedish archbishop Johannes.
- A clinker-built ship, along with the remains of seven people, was found in autumn 2008 on the Island of Saaremaa. It’s over 1100 years old.
- Historically, almost all the Estonian coastal settlements were fishing villages.
- Many former fishing villages, where owning boats and fishing was prohibited during the Soviet occupation, became resort villages; these include Altja, Vainupea, Karepa, Toolse, Kalvi, Aa, Toila, Oru and Voka.
- The "jaala" is a traditional two-masted sailing ship of the Estonian Swedes originating from the little Ruhnu island, used from 1860 - 1920. It’s a beautiful coastal ship with a high bow and graceful figure. On average, jaalas were around 10 metres long and 3 metres wide.
- The Peipsi barge or “lodi” in Estonian is unique one-masted sailer adjusted for transport on Lake Peipsi and its rivers. According to historians, the lodi was used for hanseatic trade on River Emajõgi as early as the 14th century. According to the Estonian Maritime Museum, the Peipsi lodi is one of the largest clinker-planked river ships in the world.
- The Finno-Ugric one-log boat or “haabjas” is probably the world’s oldest boat type and the forefather of modern plank boat. Haabjas were used as fishing and transport vessels during the stone age. According to folk beliefs one could only cut down the chosen tree with a northern wind blowing and a waning moon, also the tree had to fall against the wind. This was believed to protect the dugout against decay. Also it was believed that if the log fell far from the stump the dugout will be fast.
- Enn Uuetoa, often known as “Kihnu Jõnn” was the first Estonian to sail the ocean as a captain. Kihnu Jõnn is buried on Kihnu Island, near the main gate of the cemetery. His remains were brought to the island from Denmark in 1992.
- There are many old ship wrecks along the coast to explore. Due to the unique geographic location and history, it is estimated, that approximately 40,000 smaller and larger boats have sunk in Estonian waters.
- The Russalka Memorial is a memorial monument about the sinking of the Russian warship Rusalka. The monument depicts an angel holding an Orthodox cross towards the assumed direction of the shipwreck. Whilst under Soviet rule the cross was removed and the angel pointed to the sea with her bare hand. The wreck of Rusalka herself remained lost for 110 years until July 2003, when she was rediscovered in the Gulf of Finland, 25 kilometres south of Helsinki.
- In 2000, group of Estonians sailed the Estonian flag round the world on a yacht called “Lennuk”.