Gold Ribbon Banner
Tuesday, September 17, 2019
Spijook Museum

Tourists visiting Germany’s North Sea coast will be amazed to come across a submarine with cyrillic inscriptions in the yacht basin quay of the handsome little town of Varel.

The Shutka 2 has a most unusual history. She was obtained from the Soviet navy in exchange of three bottles of vodka when the booze ran out during a drinking spree with a delegation from Varel. The new owners transferred the craft, purported to be nuclear, to Germany and pulled it ashore there to serve as a tourist attraction. Most visitors are not aware that the sub was formerly a top secret vessel enabling the Reds to undertake absolutely silent missions. No longer a secret nowadays, the propulsion system lies readily exposed to be examined by the public. It’s a hamster wheel, no longer functional alas, because the crew jumped ship, finding life better in Varel than in the Soviet Union.

Some distance up the quay, a decommissioned helicopter meets the eye. It once fulfilled a local taxi service until its operators opted for a shortcut via the newly-built tunnel under the Weser River, to save fuel. The service was discontinued, after the rotor blades were ripped off, and the dead chopper deposited at Varel harbour to delight passers-by.

Both large-scale exhibits are part of what is probably the world’s funniest sea museum. The name is actually a misnomer, because the “Spijöök” rather resembles a kijkdoos of the neighbouring Netherlands, meaning a glory hole of piled-up rubble interspersed with amusing pieces of interest. The Spijöök is not devoid of antiquated elements though, and they mostly deal with the sea and the men sailing on it.

The name of the place is the one of a Frisian sea spirit. The word “joke” will easily be detected in it, and that is what the whole establishment stands for, with guffaws of laughter guaranteed. Initiators were a group of young men from a village near Varel. On an expedition to southern France some years ago, the adventurers discovered a petrified hogfish. Delighted with their find, they began to plan greater deeds. But first, to commemorate the occasion, they re-enacted the famous Iwo Jima scene and then started amassing exhibits until they could open the doors of their unique glory hole.

At the entrance a Ruski porg (person of restricted growth) with a red-starred naval cap guards the portal. But before the maritime splendours of the museum unfold, visitors must first read some details about the history of tea, so beloved on the Frisian coasts: “Gone are the times when the Frisians still grew their tea on plantations of their own. The ravages of the common tea beetle and the high expenses made an outsourcing of their tea supplies imperative. The once abundant underground rock sugar deposits are meanwhile depleted, too. In earlier times, the valuable commodity had to be mined by children because the sugar seams were too low for grown-up pitmen…”

Inside, another submarine. The patented one-man model was built specifically for exploration of the coastal mudflats, of which there are plenty off Varel. It submerges at high tide and can be retrieved on skids when the flats fall dry. “Simple and inexpensive,” delights inventor Gerald Chmielewski, co-founder, curator and primary practical joker of the museum. Less delightful, at least for those who were involved, is the heavy chastity belt which jealous wives attached to their seafaring spouses before long voyages and which often led to premature deaths by drowning when the wrought-iron gear pulled down the hapless seamen, even those capable of swimming, in incidents of shipwreck. Most unfairly, because the mariners were not such a bad bunch at all. What did they do during dull anchor watches? They assembled puzzles of hardtack, the museum informs its visitors, and displays such games too. The flying fish from the North Sea, on the other hand, aren’t there any more, Chmielewski regrets, because someone left the cage door open.

Read the rest of this article with additional pictures in Sea Breezes Magazine - December 2018 Issue
Click here to subscribe

Subscribe Graphic

Latest Issue - Look Inside!

Boudicca

Most Popular

  • First of Giant New Container Ships is Handed Over +

  • Alan Sinclair to Nova Star +

  • Billionaire Arthur Blank has his own Dreamboat +

  • From Fjords to Fiji +

  • Two Gulf Tankers Set on Fire in Attacks +

  • 1
  • 2

Latest Products

Maritime Log

  • Admiral Bellingshausen +

    Admiral Bellingshausen A 24m YACHT carrying members of an Estonian expedition arrived at Lerwick on Aug 14 on a voyage to mark Read More
  • Two Rescued by Lifeboat +

    Two Rescued by Lifeboat TWO local fishermen were rescued after their fishing vessel caught fire off Land’s End on the afternoon of July 16. Read More
  • First Task of Shell Bunker Barge +

    Shell Bunker Barge SHELL’S first inland waterway LNG bunker barge carried out her first bunkering operation at Rotterdam in June. Read More
  • A Special Surveyor Joins the Humber Estuary Fleet +

    Special Surveyor A NEW £600,000 vessel has joined the survey fleet of Associated British Ports (ABP)’ Humber Estuary Services. Read More
  • Denmark Sails into Fifth in the World +

    Denmark Sails into Fifth in the World DENMARK has now moved into fifth position in the list of the world’s largest shipping countries. Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

North America

  • Operation to Salvage Three Tugs +

    Tug Salvage THE US Coast Guard has launched an investigation into the sinking of three vessels in the Illinois River near Hardin, Read More
  • Terminal Being Made 'Big Ship Ready' for 2021 +

    Terminal Being Made Big Ship Ready WORK has started on the expansion of Seattle’s Terminal 5 so it can handle container ships of up to 18,000 Read More
  • Record Set by Largest US Ship for Hawaii Service +

    Lurline The largest combination container, roll-on, roll-off ship ever built in the United States was formerly named in a ceremony at Read More
  • $293mn for Port Projects +

    Long Beach port The United States is to invest $292.7mn in the country’s ports through a new Port Infrastructure Development Programme. Read More
  • Facility Exports First Cargo of Propane to Japan +

    Sumire Gas The first marine export facility for propane in Canada has been officially opened. Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

Asia-Pacific

  • First of Giant New Container Ships is Handed Over +

    MSC Gulsun THE SWISS-based Mediterranean Shipping Co (MSC) has taken delivery of one of the world’s largest container ships, the MSC Gulsun, Read More
  • The Last New Magnolia Ship in Series +

    The Last New Magnolia Ship THE Singapore-based container shipping company Ocean Network Express (ONE) has taken delivery of the 14,000 teu capacity ONE Cygnus, 138,611dwt, Read More
  • Line Adds Automated Power Kite to Propulsion +

    Airseas The Japanese shipping company Kawasaki Kisen KK (K Line) aims to cut ship greenhouse gas emissions with automated power kites. Read More
  • ONE Express to North Sea and Baltic +

    ONE Apus The Japanese shipping line Ocean Network Express (ONE) was due to start an enhanced North Sea Baltic Service with Russia Read More
  • MOL Links with Russian Uni for Crew Training +

    Makarov University The Japanese shipping company Mitsui OSK Lines (MOL) has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with a Russian university on co-operation Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

Naval Focus

  • USS Cincinnati to be Delivered to US Navy +

    USS Cincinnati US News USS CINCINNATI is the latest member of the expanding littoral combat ship fl eet to be delivered to Read More
  • Scorpene Sub Snags +

    INS Khanderi indian News The troubled Scorpene class submarine program hit another snag in June. Read More
  • US Navy’s Frigate Program Passes Significant Hurdle +

    USS Minneapolis-St Paul US News The US Navy has unveiled its plans for the purchase of a new frigate known as FFG(X). Read More
  • Fourth Dreadnought Named HMS “King George VI” +

    Dreadnought Class UK News The fourth member of the new Dreadnought class of nuclear powered ballistic missile submarines will bear the name Read More
  • US Navy Orders Flight II Landing Platform Dock +

    LDP30 American News The contract for the construction of LPD30, the first Flight II Landing Platform Dock of the San Antonio Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

Ferry World

  • Alan Sinclair to Nova Star +

    Glen Sannox Those in management positions must dread the retirement of those characters who retire from their life’s work with a wealth Read More
  • Fragile Future for Calmac +

    Isle of Arran TMore and more, I am reading reports that say the media, and the public too, are well aware of the Read More
  • Oscar Goes to Italy +

    Oscar Wilde Irish Continental Group has entered into a bareboat hire purchase agreement for the sale of its 1987-built Oscar Wilde to Read More
  • CalMac Heritage +

    Columba I include a fine poster and artist’s image of the famed Macbrayne paddler Columba. Read More
  • Russian Adventure +

    Ocean Adventurer To the North East Coast and arriving at Aberdeen for the first time for many months, I witnessed a passenger Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

Sail Review/Coastal Comment

  • From Gloucester Tall Ships to Kenyan Sailing Dhows +

    Royalist Gloucester Dock is linked to the River Severn at Sharpness by a 16 mile canal. Read More
  • The Zea Servant +

    Zea Servant The Hong Kong registered Zea Servant arrived late June from Hull. She was in Campbeltown to load wind turbines for Read More
  • The Green Band of Marstal +

    Bessie Ellen The Danish Maritime Museum had the schooner Bonavista built on the island of Aero at Marstal and this year they Read More
  • Norweigan National Day +

    Thorodd I was in Montrose on the Norwegian National Day, 17 May, when its independent constitution from Sweden was confirmed in Read More
  • Port of Aberdeen Fifty Years On +

    Aberdeen Harbour Extension Project When I first arrived in Aberdeen in 1968, I couldn’t believe my luck. Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

From the Lookout

  • Welcome to 'Spirit Of Discovery' - Farewell to 'Oriana' +

    Spirit of Discovery WITHIN the last two months the British cruise industry has welcomed the arrival of Saga Cruises, 58,250gt, Spirit of Discovery, Read More
  • Lower Figures in the Area of Ship Losses +

    The Sincerity Ace IT WAS HEARTENING to read in a recent press release from the Allianz Global Corporate & Speciality SE’s (AGCS), in Read More
  • President Opens ‘Largest UK Ship Simulation Centre’ +

    Sir Michael Bibby With the training of seafarers being so important to safety at sea, and in particular navigation equipment and bridge procedures, Read More
  • Hands-Free Mooring at St Lawrence Seaway +

    St Lawrence Seaway I feel there are probably many readers, like me, who feel a shiver down their spine when they think of Read More
  • Flying the Flag on Merchant Navy Day +

    Red Ensign For more than 35 years, it has been my immense privilege to be a local Isle of Man committee member Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

Cruise News/Superyacht News

  • Billionaire Arthur Blank has his own Dreamboat +

    Billionaire Arthur Blank's Dreamboat ARTHUR BLANK helped create the American home improvement store chain, Home Depot, and it seems that now, his new fl Read More
  • Boudicca Pays Tribute to D-Day Veterans +

    Boudicca Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines were proud to have played its part in hosting 250 D-Day veterans. Read More
  • Captain of a Modern Passenger Carrying Sail Ship +

    Sea Cloud 2 If you have ever wondered what qualities a Captain of a cruise vessel might need to have listed on his Read More
  • Every Ash Cloud Has A Silver Lining +

    The ash cloud crisis continues to cause uncertainty as we see sporadic closures of airspace and cancelled flights, and this Read More
  • Damen Group Superyachts +

    Amels With 25 projects underway, business is booming for Amels, the Dutch luxury yacht builder. Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

Ships, Ports and Places

Cuba

An Unexpected Job in Cuba

In 1948, I joined the MV Yamaska Park as an EDH and, over the first few days aboard, I became Read More
Suez Canal

The Creation of the Suez Canal - Part Two

IAt the end of 1858, the company’s Works Committee convened for the first time. It included an impressive assembly of Read More
  • 1
  • 2

Companies, Events and Other Features

Birkenhead

Women and Children First

HMS BIRKENHEAD was one of the first iron-hulled warships built for the Royal Navy. Although laid down as the frigate, Read More
MV Scillonian

The Boatmen of Scilly

The romantically named Guiding Star, Sapphire and Sea King will be recognisable to folk all over the UK who are Read More
  • 1
  • 2