Partner 10: EMM (Estonian Maritime Museum, Estonia)



EMM-Estonian Maritime Museum (founded 1935) exhibits the general history of shipping (boat building, ports, navigational instruments, lighthouses etc) and fishing in Estonia.  It is located in the cannon tower, Paks Margareeta (Fat Margaret), forming a part of medieval defence system. At the moment the biggest plans and EU projects are connected with the renovation of the Seaplane Harbour (for the historical ships collection) and seaplane hangars. The museum plans to enlarge its open air exposition at the harbor. In the future the Seaplane Harbor will be the starting point of the coastal promenade stretching to the center of the city.

Many centuries ago and even today the ship is one of the most important socio-economic links connecting the cultures. Shipwrecks with their complexity and unity, represent better than any other archaeological finds, the interaction between men and sea. The museum is active in underwater archaeology since 1978 and there have been expeditions every summer. Different exhibitions and documentary films are done about this subject. The researchers have participated in several international conferences and  in expeditions. The museum also started Estonian wreck register to document better the nation’s underwater cultural heritage. The museum has its own research ship Mare, a modern side scan sonar and a remote operated vehicle to search for sunken ships.

The Baltic Sea is unique because it is a brackish sea (mixture of seawater and freshwater) where a sunken ship will be preserved for centuries. The low salt-rate usually excludes those organisms that eat wood on shipwrecks, e.g. the shipworm Teredo Navalis. The oceans have a salinity exceeding 3%, but the Baltic Sea has a salinity of 0.8% in the south, 0.3% in the north and 0.6% in average .

Estonia stands on the cross-road between east and west, the shipping has always been very lively here. The coast is special, since during the previous Soviet time, very little wreck diving took place. Presently the museum’s archaeologists are locating so many wrecks that it will take years to investigate them. Among most famous projects are the Pärnu cog shipfind and the Maasilinna wreck. The cold waters in the Baltic Sea in Northern Europe have a unique collection of well preserved wrecks from times past, and most of them have not been located – yet. Some examples of Nordic underwater archaeology are the Vasa, the Kronan, and the  East Indiaman Götheborg excavations.

In maritime archaeology we learn about the past from maritime finds, usually shipwrecks, but also dwellings and ports. Along coastlines, many thousands of ships have perished. They are laying there as links to the past and waiting for investigation. The better technical solutions and underwater robotics technology are needed to rise the ship archaeological research work on higher level.