The world's oldest icebreaker
Image size 25 Kb

For all with an interest in the history of navigation, Kotka has a real treat in store: the world's oldest icebreaker. Called Tarmo (Finnish for "energy" or "vigour"), it is now spending a well-earned retirement at the Kantasatama Quay right next door to the Wooden Boat Centre.

The steam-powered Tarmo was built in Newcastle upon Tyne in England in 1907 and arrived in Finland early the following year. Image size 22 Kb In 1918, during the turmoil of the civil war that followed Finland's declaration of independence, the vessel played a part under the control of first Russian and then Finnish forces. Heavily armed, it saw service in both the Winter War of 1939-40 and the Continuation War of 1941-44. The museum that the vessel now houses reflects a good part of the dramatic history of the young Finnish state. Even after it had been museumised, the Tarmo was still recalled to duty and helped keep the country's sea lanes open during the exceptionally severe winter of 1970.

Owing to alterations carried out in the course of the decades the original format of the vessel has not been preserved. However, its power source, hull structures, some of the interior areas and the fittings are the same as they were in 1907. The Tarmo reflects the changes that icebreakers underwent under the pressures of evolving technology from the early years of the 20th century to the late 1960s. The propulsion machinery is not in working order, but there is no reason why it could not be made operational again - perhaps in time for the vessel's centenary in 2007.