Two significant ships and a striking medieval building are highlights of the National Maritime Museum of Poland, in Gdansk.
Two views of the Great Crane & MCC
The Museum’s Maritime Culture Centre (MCC), opened in 2012, is adjacent to the symbolic medieval harbour building ‘Great Crane’ and features three floors of exhibitions, a conservation centre and some scientific departments.
The main attraction of the MCC is a permanent interactive room People-Ships-Ports. A huge water tank with remote-controlled models of ships and yachts is its most eye-catching feature. Visitors can participate in a sailing regatta in order to learn how to trim sails, or they can perform delicate manoeuvres on water with the use of tugs.
Afloat, are two important museum ships.
Soldek was the first ocean-going ship in the history of the Polish shipbuilding industry. Designed by a team of Polish engineers, Soldek was built in the Gdansk Shipyard which was established in October 1947.
Dar Pomorza a full-rigged sailing ship, but known as the ‘white frigate’, was built in 1909 in the Blohm & Voss yard in Hamburg, Germany as a training ship for the German merchant marine school and launched as Prinzess Eitel Friedrich.
After the First World War, the ship was taken over by the French and in 1926 taken to the French port of Saint Nazaire and renamed Colbert. She was to replace the French training ship Richelieu, but this did not happen.
The ship then passed in to private ownership and was to become a world-cruising private sailing ship. Another plan that came to nothing.
In 1929 the ship was bought with funds raised in a public collection by the Pomeranian National Fleet Committee in Poland. She was renamed again, this time as Dar Pomorza (Gift of Pomerania) to commemorate the generosity of the local community.
Dar Pomorza ceased sailing in 1982 and since then has been part of the National Maritime Musem in Gdansk. She was replaced in her sail training role by another square-rigger, Dar Mlodziezy.
Static floating museum ships
Both museum ships are open to the public all year round. Visitors may walk the decks, see crew cabins and machinery spaces. Neither vessel is suitable for disabled access and that is a challenge the Museum faces, like many other owners of big museum ships. The Museum is working on 3D scanning of the interior of Soldek, to let disabled people see how the ship looks inside.
Neither ship is in operation. Soldek’s machinery is there, but it does not work, even in a display mode. During the period 1982-85, when it was decided to preserve the ship, nobody took care of machinery. It was a very hard time in Poland, with political changes, ‘Solidarnosc’, and other crises. It is lucky that the ship survived.
It’s a similar story was with Dar Pomorza. When she was laid up, the decision-makers at the time did not care to keep the vessel in an operational state. Again, the ship survived, but she does not sail. Each time both ships visit the shipyard, tug boats have to be used. So both are museum vessels in good shape, but not in operation.