Maritime cultural heritage in international projects

Project collaboration is part of the international operations of the Finnish Heritage Agency and this authority participates in many international maritime projects. The information compiled by such projects is also used to benefit the development of the entire cultural heritage sector in Finland.

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Sinikka Kärkkäinen

The writer works as a maritime archaeologist in the Finnish Heritage Agency

The underwater cultural heritage of the Baltic Sea is recognised globally as being exceptionally diverse and well preserved. This rich cultural heritage is involved in the maritime spatial planning of the Baltic Sea area and the utilisation of its tourism potential.

In the BalticRIM project, both maritime cultural heritage and underwater cultural heritage are included in marine spatial planning. Another project known as Baltacar, promotes diving tourism on shipwrecks by creating and developing underwater shipwreck parks.

Diver cleaning the underwater signs in the wreckpark of Kronprins Gustav Adolf.

Maritime spatial planning is a current theme in Europe

Through maritime spatial planning, we can promote the sustainable development and growth of a sea area’s various uses and achieve good environmental status in the marine environment. Cultural heritage is a form of use in the same way as fishing, shipping, and marine wind farms.

Marine spatial planning is based on the EU's Maritime Spatial Planning Directive, which was drafted in 2014. In Finland, three maritime spatial plans will be prepared by the end of March 2021, in cooperation with the associations of coastal provinces.
The Baltic Sea Region Integrated Maritime Cultural Heritage Management Project, i.e. BalticRIM, firmly integrates both marine and underwater cultural heritage into marine spatial planning. This project creates good practices for defining, planning, as well as conflict and synergy assessments of different maritime heritage sites. Another objective of the project is to improve the conditions for sustainable blue growth, such as tourism based on maritime cultural heritage.

The BalticRIM Project collaborates with several maritime projects in marine spatial planning and cultural heritage tourism.
The project partners are national experts on cultural heritage management and maritime spatial planning in the Baltic Sea region from Germany, Estonia, Lithuania, Poland, Denmark, and Russia. The project is led by the Archaeological Department of the province of Schleswig-Holstein. Finnish project partners include the Finnish Heritage Agency, Metsähallitus, and the University of Turku. Other national partners are the Cultural Agency of the Provincial Government of Åland, the Kymenlaakso Association, and the Finnish Divers’ Federation.

One target of the BalticRIM project was the Olgankari's daymark in Oura.

What does the BalticRIM project do in practice?

In the BalticRIM project, underwater fieldwork is carried out in various parts of the Baltic Sea and Finland. This work will produce new information about maritime cultural heritage. Various targets are mapped in the project, among other things, the most interesting so-called ship traps, i.e. especially accident-prone areas, naval battleground areas, old ports, and underwater cultural landscapes.

At the same time, they will improve the accessibility and usability of the maritime cultural heritage and support so-called blue growth, e.g. maritime tourism. Instead of just point data on maps, larger areas relating to maritime and underwater cultural heritage can be drawn, which can also be combined with natural values.
At workshops all over Finland, divers, local operators, and residents alike share their valuable experience-based knowledge of maritime and underwater cultural heritage. Visitor surveys are used to identify divers' preferences, wishes, and dive locations where they actively dive.

The research part of the project examines how the underwater landscape is experienced and introduces it into the general landscape discussion.

Another target of the BalticRim project, is the old remnant of the wharf in Merikarvia.

The Baltacar Project and underwater tourism

The Baltic History Beneath the Surface Project, i.e. Baltacar, is an EU joint project involving Estonia, Finland, and Sweden. The project aims to utilise the potential of underwater cultural heritage for tourism in the Baltic Sea area.

The goal is to promote cultural tourism to ancient monuments in their original environment, i.e. to improve the accessibility of wrecks located on the seafloor.

Within the project, new ways are being sought to present the underwater cultural heritage to attract the interest of people who do not dive. For example, shipwrecks can be displayed in the form of three-dimensional models, pictures, guidebooks, and brochures, as well as through virtual scuba diving created by 360° imaging technology.
In Finland, the project focuses on four wrecks from different eras off the coast of the Gulf of Finland and the Archipelago Sea: off Helsinki, the ship of the line Kronprins Gustav Adolf (1788) near Hanko, the so-called Cable wreck, a Dutch ship from the 1600s, as well as two sailing vessels from the 19th century, i.e. the Garpen 1 and Figurehead wrecks, located in the municipality of Kimitö. The project will improve the accessibility of these wrecks by installing buoys, information boards, and guide ropes on the wrecks. Anchoring systems will also be improved, whose purpose is to promote responsible tourism.

Improving the accessibility to the wrecks means that their status can be monitored and protected. Divers visiting the wrecks are also encouraged to share their pictures and observations and to report if there have been any changes in the wrecks or their structures.

Diver writing to the guessbook in the underwater park of Kronprins Gustav Adolf in Helsinki

More information about the projects in the Finnish Heritage Agency's website.