• Juha Joutsi, Suomenlinna/Vesikko. Photo: Eva Blanco

Submarine Vesikko in Suomenlinna

After the Paris Peace Treaty was signed in 1947, Finland was no longer allowed to have any submarines, but up till this day one still remains. Stranded on the West bank of the Artillery Bay in the Suomenlinna Sea Fortress, Finland’s last remaining submarine, Vesikko, is on display to allow future generations a chance to marvel at this war-time relic.   

Vesikko was the fifth and last submarine of the Finnish Navy and the only one to survive the fate of its four predecessors, which were sold and scrapped in Belgium in 1953. Vesikko was originally built in Turku for the German Navy, and first launched in 1933 under its frame number CV 707. In 1936, however, it was redeemed by the Finnish Defence Forces and took part in both the Winter War and the Continuation War under its current name Vesikko.

Due to the efforts of the Institute of Military History and veterans of the Submarine Unit, Vesikko found its final resting place in Suomenlinna, even though the vessel could possibly still be made seaworthy, explains Juha Joutsi from the Military Museum. “But diving with it would be another matter”, Joutsi says with tongue in cheek, “there would be no problem getting it under water, but the resurfacing bit would be a bit more dubious.”

Vesikko was lifted onto the shore of the Artillery Bay in 1963 by the Military Museum, but it took a decade of repairs and restoration before it could be opened to the public on July 9, 1973. It remains one of Suomenlinna’s main attractions, with nearly 30 000 curious visitors every year, and an impressive count of over one million visitors since its confined interior was put on display 40 years ago.     

There is still a lot of restoration work left to do on Vesikko, Joutsi says. “When it was first brought here, the vessel was placed too close to the water and half the keel was filled with water during high tide, allowing the salt water to accumulate in there and thus leading to considerable damage. That’s why it had to be lifted by 20cm on the spot in November 2011.”

Although the original restoration target has now been achieved, more equipment is still being put into function and missing parts are being restored, Joutsi says. “We also hope that a shelter could be installed around the vessel, because in 20 years’ time there will be a similar restoration project ahead of us if it still remains outside.”

While presenting the cramped interior of the submarine, Joutsi points to a little square in the stern of Vesikko, where the toilet has been removed in order to install another entrance. The toilet is found close by, on display at the “Submarine from Finland” exhibition in the Suomenlinna Visitor Centre on the other side of the Artillery Bay. Here, the Suomenlinna Museum presents Finland’s submarine activity and the 80-year history of Finland’s last remaining submarine.

Text by Rasmus Hetemäki