100 Years of Shipping in ‘The Land of a Thousand Lakes’ 

The 5,171 grt Ilmatur was built in 1964 by Wartsila Sandviken at Helsinki. In 1973 she was length¬ened and In 1984 she was renamed Viking Princess before she was sold in 1997 to MJQ and renamed Palm Beach Princess. She ran casino cruises out of Palm Beach in Florida for Platinum Real Estates trading as Palm Beach Cruises. On 21st November 2012 she arrived at Santo Domingo to be broken up by Blade Iron Group. (Don Smith/phototransport.com)

The six Arctic areas of Northern Finland, Northern Sweden, Northern Norway, Siberia, Greenland and Northern Canada have a population of less than three million people. Finland is particularly sparsely populated and remote, with their Saami (Lapp) people having lived in the extreme north of the country for the last two thousand years, and have developed a culture and a living based on reindeer that has survived ever since.

Finland is known as ‘The Land of a Thousand Lakes’, but in fact there are between 55,000 and 60,000 lakes, the majority in the south, where they occupy one fifth of the land surface. Forests cover most of the remaining four fifths with a small percentage of land under cultivation. The lakes are very shallow, most are less than thirty feet deep, with gradual silting up from the detritus of trees to form swamps and peat to cover an area of one third of the country. The land thus cannot support a large population, with emigration as a fact of life and a daily occurrence, and amounting to one million people in the century from 1850 to 1950, most sailing off to the United States of America and the other countries of Central and South America.

The passenger liners of the Finland Steamship Co. Ltd. ran a ‘feeder service’ from Helsinki and other Finnish ports to Hull via Copenhagen, with migrants then crossing England by train to Liverpool to join the big Transatlantic liners in steerage accommodation in the holds. The company was formed by the Krogius family in 1883 and operated a very large fleet of white hulled passenger liners and black hulled cargo ships on many routes in Europe and to ports in North and South America for over a century.

History of Finland

Finland formed part of the kingdom of Sweden until 1819 when it became an autonomous Grand Duchy under the Russian Empire.

In the summer of 1905, protests against the rule of the Tzar of Russia in Russia, Finland, Eastern Europe and the Caucasus grew in strength to reach a pitch of hatred of Russian rule.

Finland declared itself independent on 6th December 1917 along with Ukraine during the Russian Revolution. After a three month civil war in Finland after an attack by Russian Guards that lasted 108 days and cost 30,000 Finnish lives, a democratic constitution was adopted in 1919.

The Soviet regime that came to power in Russia then attempted to regain control of Finland, but was forced to acknowledge its independence in 1920.


Russia attacked Finland in early 1940 after demands for Russian bases in Finland were rejected. Russia then attacked Finland again in a bitter winter war lasting fifteen weeks before Finland was defeated.

A large slice of land was lost to Russia, and then Finland joined with Nazi Germany in attacking Russia in the hope of recovering the lost territory.

The massive war reparations that Finland had to pay to Russia after 1945 cost $570 million, payable by the transfer of ships, machinery and munitions that took seven years to complete by 1952.

The official language today is Finnish, spoken by 94% of the population, with the remainder speaking either Swedish or Saami (Lapp).

History of EFFOA

The Finland Steamship Co. Ltd. was founded by Capt. Lars Krogius (1860-1935) in 1883 in Helsinki. In Swedish, it translates to Finska Angfartygs Aktiebolag, abbreviated to F.Å.A. with a phonetic spelling of this abbreviation being EFFOA. I am fortunate in having a large framed painting by Harry Hudson Rodmell (1896-1984) in my office of the white hulled EFFOA passenger liner Ariadne of 2,558grt completed in March 1914 by the Lindholmens yard in Gothenburg with accommodation for 184 First Class passengers, 84 Second Class passengers and 24 Third Class passengers. She was built for the Helsinki to Stettin service but served on most of the EFFOA passenger routes, and the captions at the foot of the painting tell me she was running on the Helsinki to Stettin route at this time, with the passenger liner Astraea running from Helsinki to Lubeck, and the passenger liner Wellamo running from Helsinki to Copenhagen. The painting is of a bow view of Ariadne steaming at speed out of port, and because this was painted to attract tourists to Finland, the header is ‘Finland – The Land of a Thousand Lakes’. The painting dates from between 1927 and 1930, as Astraea was sold in 1930 and Wellamo was built in 1927.

The 1,026grt Oihonna was built in 1898 by Gorlay Bros. at Dundee. On 4th November 1960 she arrived at Terneuzen to be broken up by Scheldeveem. (John B. Hill collection)

The 1,118grt Astraea was built in 1891 by Wigham Richardson at Low Walker. In 1930 she was sold to H.A. Elfving of Hanko, Finland keeping her name. She was broken up in October 1936 by Thomas Young at Sunderland. (John B. Hill collection)

Ariadne was the not the first of these lovely small white hulled liners with big black funnels sporting two narrow white bands. The aim of Capt. Lars Krogius was to establish regular lines with other countries using Finnish owned ships. Thick ice in winter in the Gulf of Finland precluded the use of Helsinki (Helsingfors at this time) until ice strengthened vessels such as Capella of 1,102grt was completed in 1888 with the aid of a State loan. Hanko, the most south westerly port in Finland and one hundred miles west of Helsinki was used instead in winter, and ran an uninterrupted winter service to Copenhagen and Hull from 1898. Three Finnish owned pairs of sister passenger steamers were used on the Hull service, the first was commissioned in 1883/84 as Sirius and Orion of 1,085grt from a Bremen yard, the second pair was commissioned in 1891 from Tyneside as Urania and Astraea of 1,118grt, and the third pair were commissioned in 1898/99 as Arcturus and Polaris of 2,017grt from the Gourlay yard at Dundee. The latter pair could accommodate eighty First Class passengers ‘midships in some style, and all six steamers carried around 180 steerage passengers in the ‘tween decks and dormitories at their sterns.


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