At long last: cog aged 700 reaches maritime museum

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Photo: Peeter Langovits

Friday night, the cog wreck close to 700 of age unearthed at building site in Kadriorg was lifted out and transported to Seaplane Harbour to undergo conservation. 

«The lifting of the cog went smooth, and the transport at midnight also. There were folks and cars downtown and, after almost seven centuries, the cog saw the city of Tallinn again. It was the most difficult at certain turns, and we were lucky to be able to go via the new Kalaranna Street officially not opened yet,» said Seaplane Harbour director Urmas Dresen. By 3 o’clock at night, the wreck was lifted off truck at the museum, and fenced in.

What follows is a race with time, said Mr Dresen, as the wreck will deteriorate fast when in air. «During the excavations, we already saw the ends of the planks more crumbled as the timber will dry in the Sun. The faster we get it back into water the better,» said Mr Dresen.

For starters, the wreck will be covered with a special canvas with moisturising system placed underneath. In September-October, a special pool ought to be completed, before winter to be surrounded with a PVC ship-hall where conservation may commence.

«Conservation as such is a very time-consuming process, lasting for years. But now we have to secure that we have what to conserve. Because the timber is ever so fragile, having spent centuries in water or wet sand,» explained Mr Dresen.

While the director used to refer to the wreck as a «cog type ship», now the word cog us uttered without hesitation.

«This is a cog, rather. Though one might also safely say it’s a ship of the cog kind – you see the ship builders of old were simply building a ship. The cog tradition went from 10th to 14th centuries and the ships built during the lengthy period were not identical. They were built in various countries, after varying traditions, but there are the similarities detected with various finds,» said Mr Dresen.

«Firstly, they sat on decent keels. The bottom planks are attached edge to edge, while from the fourth or fifth the edges overlay,» explained Mr Dresen.

With most of the cogs found in Northern Europe these past decades, the dimensions are rather much the same, said Mr Dresen. Some are bigger and some smaller, and the recent one found in Tallinn is a mid-sized one. But the width is basically the same for all – seven metres.

Never before has such a well-preserved and so old vessel been found around here. What’s more, our archaeologists were lucky getting it out – knowing that the largest cog thus far found, as the port of Antwerp was being expanded in 2002, lay upside down. Unable to get it out in one piece, the archaeologists were forced to dismantle it plank by plank.

«We will be able to start conserving a ship in one whole, but we do have five-six tonnes of separate material from around it and from the inside. This will used sometime later, when the cog will be reconstructed. But that’ll be after some ten years or so,» suggested the man from the museum.