On 19 June at Tallinn’s Seaplane Harbour, part of the Estonian Maritime Museum, the 100th anniversary of the preserved ice-breaker Suur Tõll (named after the Estonian folklore figure Toell the Great) was celebrated. Built as Mikhail Fedorovich, she was the only one of three ships ordered by Russia in 1914 to be completed by shipbuilder A. G. Vulcan in the then German Baltic port city of Stettin (now Szczecin in Poland) at a cost of nearly a million gold roubles (€12 million today).

When the 1917 revolution swept the monarchy away, the Bolsheviks renamed her Volynets. But in 1918 Finns captured the ship, and renamed her Wäinämöinen, which she kept until she went to the newly-independent state of Estonia in 1922, at which point she acquired her Estonian name. With the 1940 Soviet invasion, she became Volynets again and remained in service until 1985.

She was to be scrapped in 1988, but the EMM bought her, renamed her Suur Tõll and refurbished her as a museum vessel. The 2,417gt vessel has six coal-burning boilers powering three triple-expansion steam engines with an output of 2,300ihp each. Her crew of 40-72 had ‘luxurious’ accommodation with toilets, galley and washing facilities. JP

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