Check out these pre-WWII submarines from an unlikely location

Behold historic subs from Estonia and Finland, the FNS Vesikko and EML Lembit.

Geoffrey Morrison
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FNS Vesikko

The first of our two Baltic sea submarines is the FNS Vesikko, on the island fortress Suomenlinna in Helsinki, Finland.

For more about these submarines and the tours of these museums, check out Beneath the Baltic: Exploring Estonian and Finnish submarines.  

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The Vesikko was built in Finland, commissioned by a Dutch company that was actually a front for the German government after the end of WWI when the country was barred from building submarines. In 1936, she started sailing for the Finnish Navy.

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The Vesikko has three torpedo tubes, and carried five torpedoes.

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A tiny space

This is one of the smallest subs I've toured. The interior diameter of the pressure hull is 13 feet, or 4 meters. When you're standing on the deck it's easy to reach out and touch the ceiling and walls.

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On patrol

During one patrol, when Finland was at war with the Soviet Union, the Vesikko sank a Russian merchant vessel. This was her only confirmed successful attack.

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Bunks and torpedeos

It's common for crew to bunk up with torpedoes in submarines.

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Lightly lavish

The officers' "quarters" are decked out in teak and mahogany. They were separated from the rest of the crew by a curtain. The benches would be converted to bunks at night.

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A short walk to work

That's the control room, a step away from the officer's quarters. As I said, it's a small sub.

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Hard to port

The controls and meters for controlling the sub's direction and inclination.

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Going deep

A small table for charts and on the left, controls for the ballast tanks. The device on the right is a gyrocompass.

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Sail away

Up that ladder is a small compartment inside the sail.

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Radio and sonar

The small, soundproof radio and sonar room.

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Two 350 hp diesel engines recharged the batteries and supplied power to the two 170 hp electric motors.

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Oil hungry

Apparently, the engines needed constant lubrication while running. The engineers had to brace themselves with one hand so they wouldn't slip on the floor while oiling the engine. During operation this compartment would have been deafeningly loud and swelteringly hot.

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All ahead suurin

This type of dial is in every submarine I've ever toured, the only substantial difference is the language. 

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Heavy-duty switches distribute power.

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Heading aft

The rearmost compartment has more bunks.

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The Vesikko had a crew of 16, of which 4 were officers.

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Slow go

Top speed on the surface was 15 mph (24 km/h), and 9.2 mph (15 km/h) underwater.

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Running on the surface, the Vesikko had a range of about 1,550 miles (2,500 km), though that would depend how often she needed to submerge. Range underwater on a full charge of her batteries was around 46 miles (74 km) at 4.6 mph (7.4 km/h).

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Over to Tallinn

Next we head south, across the Gulf of Finland to Tallinn, Estonia's Seaplane Harbour museum. The buildings date from the early 20th century and are stunning in their own right.

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The EML Lembit was built in Barrow-in-Furness, England, in 1936.

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When it was finally removed from the water in 2011, the Lembit was the oldest submarine still afloat.

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Different scenes, depicting life aboard the sub, are projected using the hull as the screen.

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The Lembit has four torpedo tubes, all in the bow, with eight torpedoes total.

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The Lembit, in her long life, lost her torpedo tube covers. One was found before the most recent restoration. The others were reconstructed using plans discovered at the Vickers and Armstrongs shipyard in the UK.

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Fire away

Since submarines of this era spent most of their time on the surface, the Lembit also had 40mm and 7.7mm anti-aircraft guns.

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The Lembit was one of two subs in the Kalev-class. The Kalev was sunk in 1941.

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Torpedo room

After descending through a narrow hatch and narrower ladder, you enter the torpedo room.

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Running true

The Lembit sunk two ships with torpedoes and at least five more with mines.

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Living quarters

The next compartment is the officer's living space. Under the deck was storage for ammunition.

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While part of the Estonian Navy the Lembit had 4 officers and 28 enlisted men. That increased to 7 and 31 when operated later in the war by the Soviets.

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Captain's cabin

The captain was the only person with a private cabin.

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If this looks small enough to be a bathroom that's because early in the sub's life, it was. It was converted to a sonar room in 1943.

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This is the helm. The chair is not original, but you can sit in it and pretend to steer .

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The Lembit was designed for coastal defense and spent most of her life in the Baltic Sea. On the table is an early form of GPS called a map.

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Down periscope

This is the Commander's periscope. A second  observation periscope was removed.

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Surface the ship

Here are some of the controls to submerge or surface the ship.

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At the end of the control room is the tiny galley. 

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Engine room

Originally the Lembit had two 600 hp diesels for surface running and recharging the batteries. One is now missing. Two 395 hp electric motors that provided propulsion underwater are at the other end of this compartment.

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Flip the switch

Switches controlled the flow of power. 

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A clear section of floor lets you see down to the inner side of the hull.

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In many submarines the rearmost compartment has aft-facing torpedo tubes. Here, like on the Vesikko, it's used for more crew living space instead.

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Cramped quarters

About 16 men would sleep in here. There's a toilet in the corner as well.

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Flank speed

Top speed on the surface was around 15.5 mph (25 km/h) and 8.5 mph (15.7 km/h) submerged.

So ends our look at these Baltic sea submarines. For more about them and their museums, check out Beneath the Baltic: Exploring Estonian and Finnish submarines.

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