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The Baltic Sea

The Baltic Sea is unique: the largest body of brackish (low-salinity) body of water in the world, it is also distinguished by its division into a series of basins of varying depths, separated by shallow areas or sills. The many rivers flowing into the Sea are the reason for its brackish character. Furthermore, the link with the North Sea is very narrow, the shallowest sill being only 18 m deep. Thus inflows of salt water must be extremely forceful to penetrate and renew the deepest waters of the Baltic Proper.

Nine countries share the Baltic Sea coastline; Sweden and Finland to the north, Russia, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania to the east, followed by Poland in the south, and Germany and Denmark in the west. About 16 million people live on the coast, and around 80 million in the entire catchment area of the Baltic Sea. The catchment area includes part of Belarus, the Czech Republic, Norway, the Slovak Republic and Ukraine, as some of the rivers find their sources here.

October 15, 1894, San Francisco Call, San Francisco, California, U.S.A.

A Great Ship Canal Completed

North Sea Canal.

The great North Sea and Baltic ship canal was officially opened about two weeks ago.

Work on this canal was commenced several years ago by the German Government, but so quietly that it has attracted comparatively little attention abroad. It is not so costly a work as the Suez canal nor as the Manchester canal, recently completed, but it is considerably, longer than the latter. The whole amount invested in this great work was a little over $37,000,000. It Is 61 miles long, 28 feet deep and 200 feet wide, The largest ships cannot only go through the canal, but they can pass each other on the way. It will be a great promoter of commerce, but of more importance to Germany for naval and military purposes. It is a short route from the North Sea to the Baltic. The passage around Denmark has always been a dangerous one. It is estimated that as many as 200 vessels have been wrecked in a single year in making this passage. The canal is only one-fifth as long as the water route around Denmark. This new highway extends from Kiel Bay, at the lower end of the Baltic, across Schleswig-Holstein to a ship channel near the mouth of the Elbe at Brunsbuttel.

It is only a few years since Germany wrested Schleswig-Holstoin from Denmark. It is now more apparent than ever what was the ulterior purpose; Germany wanted a great naval and commercial highway from the Atlantic, or North Sea, to the Baltic. It was out of the question to construct a ship canal across foreign territory. It was a short way to conquer the intervening country. Soon after this had been obtained the plan of a great ship canal was outlined by Germany. There might be great naval battles fought for German interests both on the Atlantic and the Baltic. The route of nearly 400 miles through the Skager Rack and other tortuous and rocky passages, besides the danger, was not a good one for naval conflicts. Now ships can be sent from the Atlantic to the Baltic with no stress from storms or dangers of battle by that way and in less than one-fourth of the time required to reach the Baltic by the old route. At each end of the canal there is a naval station.

While the canal has greatly increased the defensive power of Germany, its commercial importance is probably greater than that of any other ship canal in Europe. It is estimated that half the Baltic trade will pass through it, paying for the present a toll of about 20 cents a ton.

June 9, 1895, San Francisco Call, San Francisco, California, U.S.A.

Off for the Baltic

Southampton, England, June 8 -- The United States cruisers Columbia and New York sailed today for the Baltic, in order to take part, with the San Francisco and Marblehead, in the ceremonies attending the opening of the Baltic and North Sea canal.

Many Wrecks in the Baltic

The town of Holsingfors, on the gulf of Finland, has been visited by a hurricane, which did great damage. Many houses and several chruches were demolished, and many vessels were wrecked in the Baltic sea.

In the Baltic sea there are more wrecks than in any other place in the world. The average is one wreck a day throughout the year.

A History of the Baltic Sea and its Peoples. Alan Palmer.

Two of the most spectacular discoveries in recent years in the Baltic Sea are the result of such private search ventures. In 2011, one group of divers discovered the wreck of Mars, the largest warship built in the 16th century; another group found Svärdet, also a large historical warship, from the 17th century. Both these shipwrecks are in the waters of the South East Passage projects.

December 25, 18978, Sacramento Daily Union, Sacramento, California, U.S.A.

Contemplates the Connection of the Baltic and Black Seas, to be Traversed by Battleships.

WASHINGTON, Dec. 21.— The Russian Government will begin next spring upon a stupendous piece of engineering work, which, like the Transsiberian railway, will be of great strategic and commercial value to her when completed.

The project contemplates the construciion of a canal connecting the Baltic and the Black Seas, which can be traversed by battleships of the heaviest tonnage at six knots per hour. By means of this canal Russia will be able to mobolize a huge fleet in the Pacific in 167 hours by bringing to that sea the Black Sea squadron, or can colIect in the Black Sea in the same time the Baltic and Black Sea fleets. In case of a general European war over the division of China at the time of the completion of the canal, it would not be difficult for Russia to send her fleet through the Bosphorus, the Sea of Marmora and the Dardanelles into the Mediterranean, down the Suez Canal, across the Indian Ocean to China, while she could utilize the Transsiberian railway to transport troops. Bering Sea.The canal will remove the necessity of sending a fleet across the North Sea and down the Atlantic in order to reach the Mediterranean and through that reach the Suez Canal and China, and it was pointed out that In case of war Great Britain and Germany would take measures to see that the Russian fleet did not pass through their waters without a hard struggle.

It is officially stated here that the canal, when completed, will connect the city of Riga, on the Baltic, and Cherson, on the Black Sea. Advantage will be taken of the Dwina River, at the mouth of which Riga is located, and of the Dneiper Ricer, which flows into the Black Sea, and at the mouth of which Cherson sits. It has been estimated by the Russian engineer that, to connect the two rivers, 125 miles of excavation must be made. The length of the canal will be 1,800 miles. It will have an average depth of 28.4 feet. The cost of the work will be $97,000,000, and it must be completed by 1902.

It is frankly admitted by the Russian authorities that the canal is being built for military purposes, just as the Transsiberian railway is being constructed, but they say that the waterway will be of benefit commercially. The wheat raised In the southern part of Russia, near the Black Sea, and the coal and petroleum obtained from that section can be transported more cheaply to markets by railroads than by steamers going through the Bosphorus into the Mediterranean. Sixteen cities are situated along the route of the proposed canal, and they will be benefited by its construction.

"Russia maintains a formidable fleet of battleships and cruisers in the Black Sea," said a well-known naval commander, "such action being in violation of the provisions of the Berlin treaty The construction of the canal will mean that the fleet can be reinforced within seven days at the utmost by an equally formidable fleet from the Baltic, and in case of the dismemberment of Turkey or a necessity for a large force of naval vessels in Asiatic waters Russia would be able to get her reinforcements to that section ahead of any other European Government. which would be compelled to use the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean. So far as Turkey and China are concerned, the completion of the Russian canal win place the Caar m a position which Will be envied by all the other European Governments."

June 8, 1900, Los Angeles Herald, Los Angeles, California, U.S.A.

Chief Source of Amber

Gold of the Baltic sea, as amber is often called, Is found on various places on the globe, but nowhere in such abundance as on the shores of the Baltic from Memel to Danzig, and there principally on the coast of the oblong piece of land jutting out into the sea between the Kurische and the Frische Haff. It is, In fact, a vegetable product, a fossil gum of a coniferous tree, and from time immemorial it has been used as a jewel by many a fair lady.

July 28, 1905, Los Angeles Herald, Los Angeles, California, U.S.A.


Public Regards Step as Designed to Counteract German Influence, but Admiralty Says It Is Simply ' for Maneuvers

By Associated Press.

Sweden, Norway, c. 1861
Alexander Keith Johnston

LONDON, July 27.— The British channel fleet will sail for the  Baltic sea  August 20 and will remain there through September. As it has been years since a British fleet appeared In that sea the announcement Is connected in the public mind with Emperor William's recent tour and the visit of the German squadron- to Scandinavian waters. The cruise of the British fleet is designed to counteract the prerponderance of German influence in Scandinavian politics.

The admiralty, however, discourages the idea of politics having any bearing on the cruise, says that the Baltic is an open sea and that the fleet Is simply going there to execute maneuvers, a ceremonious visit not being contemplated.

The commercial statistics of a country, like Sweden may be divided into the following three parts:

  1. The international shipping, commerce, and trade;
  2. The intercourse of dealing with foreign nations;
  3. The fabrications of the factories, the production of the ground, the result of the mines, and the amount of wood extorted from the forests.

The traffic was carried on in 1854 by 1668 ships or boats of ten tons or more burthen. They made 20,619 trips and carried about 783,000 tons.

The principal roads for these ships and boats are the canals which are partly hewn out of the rock, partly dug out of the ground, and which combine at the lakes of Sweden, and there are many of them.

The high road of the country is the canal between Stockholm and Gothenburg, and-this actually cuts Sweden into two halves. The water of these canals is supplied by the lakes, and it terminates on the one aide in the Baltic, and on the other in the North Sea there commonly called the "Cattegat." The interior lakes vary in height, add the highest are somewhat near 150 to 180 feet above the ocean.

Dutch Trade map of the Baltic Sea. Dutch School.Dutch Trade Map, Baltic Sea.

Sweden. Dutch Trade Map. Baltic Sea.

The steamers leave Gothenburg and Stockholm every alternate day; the trip lasts from 54 to 72 hours, according to the rapidity of the steamers in crossing the lakes. Owing to the narrowness of the canal, and in order to prevent accidents, the speed thereon is limited to, I think, about five English miles an hour, and as the steamers only can run from May till the end of September, or during the finest time of the year; this regulation is very agreeable to the traveller, who, without any great loss of time, can inspect the beautiful scenery he passes through.

In many places the steamers must rise or fall hrough locks, and the visitor has then leisure to inspect the beautiful and picturesque scenery, mountains, cuffs, and cataracts, which are to be found in abundance throughout Sweden.

Wooded Island in the Baltic. Carl Gustav Carus. 1834.

A wooded island in the Baltic Sea.

This theme is really so inviting, that I should like to dwell a little longer, but I am afraid of exceeding, the limits allotted to me, and will, therefore, pass on, only recommending you not to lose an opportunity to make the trip across Sweden; and I am sure that a few moments on the top of "Trolihatta," with the thundering waterfalls at your feet, will more than repay you both the fatigue and expense of such a journey.

August 3, 1907, Sacramento Daily Union, Sacramento, California, U.S.A.


BERLIN, August 2. — Emperor William of Germany and Emperor Nicholas of Russia are to meet tomorrow in the Baltic sea, off Swindemunde. Emperor William will be on board the imperial yacht Hohenzollern and the Russian Emperor on his yacht, the Standard. The German Baltic fleet will be present to give color to the occasion. The German authorities are taking every precaution to insure the safety of the Russian Emperor. A large number of marine policemen will be sent to do guard duty on shore.

The Nord Deutschere Allegemeine Zeitung publishes a welcome to Emperor Nicholas this evening. The meeting was pre-eminently personal in character, the paper says, is for no specific political purpose, and there is therefore, no occasion for any one to view it with distrust or suspicion. In conclusion, the paper says:

"The German people see in this meeting an expression of the hearty relations existing between the houses of the two rulers and between the two countries, that are bound together by many mutual interests."

A Concise History of Sweden. A Concise History of Sweden
(Cambridge Concise Histories)
Concise History of Sweden.
Neil Kent's comprehensive history sweeps through Sweden's history from the Stone Age to the present day. Early coverage includes Viking hegemony, the Scandinavian Union, the Reformation and Sweden's political zenith as Europe's greatest superpower in the seventeenth century, while later chapters explore the Swedish Enlightenment, royal absolutism, the commitment to military neutrality and Pan-Scandinavianism. The author brings his account up to date by focusing on recent developments: the rise of Social Democracy, the establishment of the welfare state, the country's acceptance of membership in the European Union and its progressive ecological programme. The book successfully combines the politics, economics and social and cultural mores of one of the world's most successfully functioning and humane societies. This is an informative and entertaining account for students and general readers.

Fish Atlas of the Celtic Sea, North Sea, Baltic Sea.
Fish Atlas of the Celtic Sea, North Sea, and Baltic Sea: Based on International Research-vessel SurveysFish Atlas of the Celtic Sea, North Sea, Baltic Sea.
Henk J. L. Heessen, Niels Daan, Jim R. Ellis, Editors.
The atlas presents a unique set of abundance data to describe the spatial, depth, size, and temporal distribution of demersal and pelagic fish species over an extensive marine area, together with accounts of their biology. A large number of pictures, graphs and distribution maps illustrate the text. The quantitative information on some 200 fish taxa is derived from 72,000 stations fished by research vessels during the period 1977-2013. The area covers the northwest European shelf from west of Ireland to the central Baltic Sea and from Brittany to the Shetlands. Typical deep-water species and typical fresh-water species are excluded.

Vikings.Ships, Shipping, Migration, World Seaports.A History of the VikingsHistory of the Vikings.
Gwyn Jones
The subject of this book is the Viking realms, Denmark, Sweden, and Norway, their civilization and culture, and their many sided achievements at home and abroad. A readable narrative follows the development of these Northern peoples--the Nordmenn--from their origins and the legendary pre-history to the military triumphs of Canute and the defeat of Harald Hardrdi at Stamford Bridge in 1066, which symbolically ended the Viking age. The book recounts the Vikings' exploits in war, trade, and colonization: the assault on Western Christendom; the trading and military ventures to the Slav and Muslim worlds and to Byzantium; and the western voyages of discovery and settlement to Greenland, Iceland, and America. Numerous photographs, maps, and drawings contribute to Gwyn Jones's rounded portrait of Viking civilization and vividly evoke the importance in their culture of religion, art, and seafaring.

1899. World's Fleet. Boston Daily Globe

Lloyds Register of Shipping gives the entire fleet of the world as 28,180 steamers and sailing vessels, with a total tonnage of 27,673,628, of which 39 perent are British.

Great Britain10,990 vessels, total tonnage of 10,792,714
United States 3,010 vessels, total tonnage of 2,405,887
Norway 2,528 vessels, tonnage of 1,604,230
Germany 1,676 vessels, with a tonnage of 2,453,334, in which are included her particularly large ships.
Sweden 1,408 vessels with a tonnage of 643, 527
Italy1,150 vessels
France 1,182 vessels

For Historical Comparison
Top 10 Maritime Nations Ranked by Value (2017)

  Country # of Vessels







1 Greece 4,453 206.47 $88.0
2 Japan 4,317 150.26 $79.8
3 China 4,938 159.71 $71.7
4 USA 2,399 55.92 $46.5
5 Singapore 2,662 64.03 $41.7
6 Norway 1,668 39.68 $41.1
7 Germany 2,923 81.17 $30.3
8 UK 883 28.78 $24.3
9 Denmark 1,040 36.17 $23.4
10 South Korea 1,484 49.88 $20.1
Total 26,767 87.21 $466.9

The Project

Maritime Nations, Ships, Sea Captains, Merchants, Merchandise, Ship Passengers and VIPs sailing into San Francisco during the 1800s.



Merchant Shipping

Merchant Shipping.Merchant Shipping and Ancient Commerce.  
History of Merchant Shipping and Ancient CommerceMerchant Shipping and Ancient Commerce.
W. S. Lindsay

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Sources: As noted on entries and through research centers including National Archives, San Bruno, California; CDNC: California Digital Newspaper Collection; San Francisco Main Library History Collection; and Maritime Museums and Collections in Australia, China, Denmark, England, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Wales, Norway, Scotland, Spain, Sweden, etc.

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