Petrovsky dock in Kronstadt, the whole truth

Peter’s Dock at Kronstadt is a grand project of Peter the Great. How to get to the dock

Peter the Great’s Dock at Kronstadt is a unique hydraulic structure of Peter the Great’s time. After reading many interesting articles about Petrovsky Dock, we wanted to see everything with our own eyes. We did not know that the tour around the Petrovsky Dock would take 1 year, and would require 3 trips to Kronstadt. We also did not know how interesting and exciting it would be to explore the site.

How to get to Petrovsky Dock in Kronstadt

So, 2016. On one of the last days of August, we arrived in Kronstadt. Knowing that the dock area was guarded, I decided to leave the young explorer and the weak half of our team on the Kronstadt city beach and sneak into Petrovsky Dock on my own to explore. The reconnaissance began at the Peter the Great Canal. It was through this channel that ships entered Petrovsky dock for repairs. On the right side of the canal you could see Rear gatehouse of Kronstadt roadstead.

The main gate of Petrovsky Dock, which shows thousands of tourists coming to Kronstadt. And what lies behind them you can not look! Before our story, let’s take a little historical excursus. May 8, 1719 by Emperor Peter I, issued a decree on the construction of the dock with the accompanying hydraulic engineering system. According to official history, in the grandiose construction of the dock participated about 3000 people – soldiers, peasants and convicts, armed with shovels, picks and crowbars. Unfortunately, however, Peter I never saw the result of his technical thought. And after the death of the emperor in 1725 the construction work was practically curtailed.

In 1732 under Empress Elizaveta Petrovna a commission headed by General Johann Luberas von Pott was formed to revise the construction of the dock. The latter suggested a number of constructive solutions (deepening and widening of the dock pool) in order to remove water from the dock as quickly as possible. With the accession to power of Empress Elizabeth, work on the construction of the Petrovsky dock received a powerful impetus. The Empress considered herself the successor of Peter I, and it was a matter of honor for her to finish the construction begun by her father. In 1752, under 1331 cannon salute rang out, Elizaveta Petrovna personally opened the locks to start the water, marking the completion of construction of the Petrovsky dock.

On the information board at the gate of Petrovsky dock in the form of a cross is drawn part of the hydraulic system of the dock. However, at first glance it is difficult to understand.

Preparing for our trip to Kronshtadt we spent more than an hour to find the answer to the question how to get to Petrovsky Dock. The wrought iron gate to Popov’s garden, open wide, is our passageway to get into Petrovsky Dock. The yellow building on the left is the house of B.K. Minich, a favorite of Empress Anna Ioannovna. Later in this building lived such great naval commanders as F.F. Bellingshausen, S.O. Makarov, F.P. Litke, and the famous submariner A.I. Marinesko.

The wrought iron lattice is decorated with an anchor and a sword. This is understandable, because this area belonged to the house where the great Russian naval commanders lived.

More than once we have encountered the fact that when you study a question, you involuntarily discover something new. And here, wandering through a half-abandoned garden to the entrance to Petrovsky Dock, I found a monument to the inventor of radio, Alexander Stepanovich Popov. A reasonable question: what is a monument to Popov doing here?

As it turned out, in this very tiny house, in absolute proximity to Petrovsky Dock, engineer Alexander Popov tested the world’s first radio receiver in April-May, 1895. What a discovery! After looking at the house, I move on. In the picture, on the right side, the outline of a small building can be seen behind the leaves. Behind this structure I turn left and make my way through a web of heating mains and barbed wire. And then…

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I’m in Petrovsky Dock! Terrific post-apocalyptic landscape! Grandiose engineering structure 384 meters long, 34 meters wide and 10 meters deep, completely overgrown with trees and bushes. The dock looked like a movie set for the end of the world.

Yes, such a landscape should not be shown to tourists. They wouldn’t understand! In the background is the building of an active military unit.

I am approaching the main gate of the Petrovsky dock, which I photographed half an hour ago. But my admiration of Peter the Great’s creation was interrupted by a shrill yell of a man in camouflage, emerging from the bushes on the opposite side of the dock.

– Hey, quickly leave the area!

– Hello, can I take some pictures?

– I told you, …, …, …, to leave the …, …, … area.

– I’ll just take a couple of pictures now.

– …. , … . Vasya, …, …, keep him on your side!

The man shouted into the radio and ran to the stairs.

He turned 180 degrees and slowly retreated. A pity that in the light confusion I had not thought to take a picture of my penman.

Soon, the leisurely retreat turned into a hurried one. It wasn’t easy to find a climbing spot in that thicket. A final photo of the cast-iron cannon mooring bollard.

There was a little confusion – should I run up the granite ladder or the wooden one? After a few moments, having squeezed through the heating pipes and skinned my hands on the barbed wire, I managed to escape from the pursuit.

Peter the Great’s Dock Canal

Ten months had passed … May 2017. The unexplored Petrovsky dock prevented me from sleeping peacefully at night. Another trip to Kronstadt began on the old route – the Peter the Great Dock Canal…

We could see that the Back Stern Lighthouse of Kronshtadt roadstead was under restoration and next to it there was an exposition of mines, torpedoes, deck guns… Unfortunately, it was impossible to get closer as everything was on the closed territory.

Deck guns on the shore of the Petrovsky channel.

Remembering last year’s thickets, we noticed some emptiness behind the gates of the Petrovsky dock.

This time we did not storm the heating mains, but headed for house number 5A on Kommunisticheskaya Street. At this time, the building is under reconstruction.

We park the car and go through an archway into the courtyard of the building.

The young explorer studies the principle of the concrete mixer at the same time.

The cross-channel of the Petrovsky dock.

The path from the building took us straight to the Petrovsky Dock Cross Canal. Terrific sight… The scale of the building simply fascinates. In the center there is a drainage throat. We will tell you more about it in Part 2 of the walk along the Petrovsky dock.

From here you can see that the dock gates even have planks.

The guarded part of the Petrovsky dock (the same part where I was unfriendlyly to the guys from the CHOP a year ago). It is impossible to get to it from our place – the passage is blocked by a concrete fence with barbed wire.

The young explorer also marveled at the scale of the construction, three centuries ago.

The massive dock gate…

Extremely surprisingly, the gate escaped the fate of being sawn to metal!

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Only the mounting bolts are left of the wooden cladding of the gate.

Next to the gate are the remains of a rusty drawbridge over the canal.

Part of the bridge could be rolled to the left or right on a metal rail.

In part 2 of the walk along the Petrovsky dock we will tell what use modern young people have found for the drawbridge.

It is impossible to tear your eyes away from the multi-ton granite structures…

In the background, behind the trees, you can see the golden domes of St. Nicholas Cathedral.

The site of the opening of the shutoff valves to drain water into the Dock pool.

Scale, grandiose…and from this even more strongly there is a desire to go down. The solution comes at once – buying a rope ladder and going down to the dock from the opening platform of the shutoff valves. So, we still have to return here!

Diagram and principle of work of Petrovsky dock in Kronstadt

And now a short story about the principle of operation of Petrovsky dock. At that time it was an innovative hydraulic structure. At the beginning of the 18th century there were docks in Europe for repairing ships, but it was possible to start ship repairing no sooner than 3-4 weeks later. That is how long it took to dry the dock. Peter I did not suit such a situation! According to official history Peter Iwas personally designed Petrovsky dock, which was drained in a few hours! The main idea of the emperor was to place a drain tank (dock pool) below the bottom of the dock, into which the water would be drained by gravity due to the sloping surface. From the dock pool the water could be slowly pumped out by a pump with a wind engine. Everything brilliant is simple! When did our indefatigable emperor have time to do all this?

To illustrate the work of the dock system we drew a map.

Markings on the map:

1 Peter’s Channel or Peter the Great Channel, through the channel ships entered the dock

2 The gate of the Petrovsky dock

3 Main dock chamber where ships were repaired (guarded)

4 Turning platform – a place for turning of ships

5 Little dock

6 Small docking chamber

7 Docking chamber where the water was lowered

8 Tank of unknown destination

9 Petrovsky ravine

10 Dock basin

11 Pumping station

12 Place of water discharge into the Bypass Canal

13 Bypass Canal

The Makarov Bridge in Kronstadt

Further inspection of the dock discharge brought us to the Makarov Bridge.

From the Makarov Bridge you had a great view of the Petrovsky ravine, through which water from the dock was siphoned into the dock’s pool.

We are walking along the Petrovsky ravine… We thought that there is a lot of “Petrovsky” in Kronstadt: Petrovsky channel, Petrovsky dock, Petrovsky ravine…

And on the left side there is golden sparkling in the sun sea Nicholas Cathedral.

The riverbed of the ravine is being cleaned from mud.

The dam in front of the Dock pool with a fence in the appropriate style.

Dock Pool

And here is the huge Dock Pool…

The walls of the pool, made of stones, resemble a bee honeycomb.

Suddenly, a small group of hikers caught our attention. At a good pace, after crossing the dam, the tourists confidently turned onto a path along the right bank of the basin. Hoping to see something interesting we joined the tail of the column.

The granite wonders of Petrovsky Dock

Our amazement had no bounds when we suddenly came upon a most interesting historical artifact – a polygonal granite masonry. Of course, we saw photos of this granite wall on the Internet, but, frankly speaking, to see it was a complete surprise for us!

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Amazing granite masonry with the highest level of processing of granite blocks. About this wall, in more detail, we will tell in the photo essay “Granite wonders of Kronstadt”.

View of the Naval Cathedral, which is magnificent from absolutely all angles.

Pumping station of Petrovsky dock

The building of pumping station. The pumps took water from the dock pool and through a diversion channel it was flushed into the Bypass Canal which encircles the center of Kronstadt.

Remains of balconies of pumping station.

Climbing up the stairs.

We cannot help admiring the fact that even purely utilitarian buildings of that time were beautiful and not without refinement.

A young explorer in the process of exploring the pumping station.

Not an easy road home…

Along the way we discovered a one-eyed tree eating stone.

A bypass canal. This is where the water was pumped out of the Dock Basin.

The Petrovsky Dock system on the map of Kronshtadt.

And finally, we want to say a few words about the enormity of the creation of Peter the Great. On the map of Kronstadt we marked with a line the boundaries of the buildings related to the Petrovsky dock. That’s what we got.

And now look at the area occupied by the dock.

It turns out that about 50% of Kronstadt area is Petrovsky dock with hydrotechnical system! The scale of the dock is amazing! Perhaps Peter the Great planned to make the city – the dock!

Well, now you know everything about Petrovsky dock. Or almost everything. Continuation in part 2.

Peter’s Dock.

No tourist can get acquainted with the history of Kronstadt without a visit to the Petrovsky Dock.

Tourists see the main gate of the historical monument.

Tourists are told the history of the dock. It was under construction from 1719 to 1752. The blueprint of the facility was created personally by Emperor Peter I. According to rumors, Peter was very actively involved in the demolition of nearby buildings and gardens, complicating the construction process. This may well prove to be reliable evidence, given Peter’s habit of conducting business himself throughout the state and personally supervising particularly important projects. Peter measured the depth of the bay, built Peterhof, conquered new lands, and crowned it all, of course – the foundation of St. Petersburg.

We managed to get inside the dock. This area has the status of a closed, and well guarded. Only thanks to the persuasive skills of my companion, was permission to enjoy a long walk on the Petrovsky Dock. No one will conduct such a tour. All the more after getting acquainted with the dock a lot of controversial questions about the real facts of the technologies used can be born in your head.

The fact that the dock is a historically and culturally significant structure does not fit in with the fact that nowhere is the history of its construction reflected. Moreover, the chronology of Peter’s reign is rather vague and incomplete. It is interesting that the construction of the dock is not documented by any documents of this time, there are no drawings or engravings depicting the construction. That is, without any preconditions suddenly, at one moment appeared Petrovsky Dock. Such a veil of mystery shrouds many projects of the 18th – early 19th centuries. Although it is an asset of the modern period of history, it remains a gap. A condensed to dry history can be found here. I would be grateful for pointers to other links on this topic.

Thanks to my comrade, we were able to look into the dock and capture on tape valuable facts about how people were building at the time.

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These facts will be discussed in the continuation of this article. Now we would like to answer questions about what we have seen on the territory of Petrovsky Dock. First about the dimensions of the dock: they are so impressive for their time, that it leads to a conclusion that it was built for the servicing of overseas ships. Ships of such dimensions, as far as we know, Peter did not have. His Ingerman was the largest of the Russian battleships.

“Ingerman Land had the following technical parameters: Its length by waterline was 46.4 meters, width – 12.3 meters, draft – 5.4 meters. It had a displacement of 1,420 tons and a crew of 470.

In reality the documented characteristics of the dock were: 384 meters long, 34 meters wide and 10 meters deep (but even here there was some confusion according to a certain citizen Krekshin Peter Nikiforovich).

In this connection it seems logical to ask this question: why such gigantic sizes were necessary, if in this period it was impossible to find the ships exceeding 60 meters in length, 16 meters in width and 8 meters in draft (for comparison, look parameters of “Santisima-Trinidad”)? Peter could have had no reason to build such a manufacturing giant. Unless it was all about his looking about 2 centuries into the future and his assumption that the 19th century would be just such large-sized ships. Although these dimensions could be used to put ships in 2 rows. But next are questions that are extremely difficult to answer.

Plan of Petrovsky Dock:

1 – Petrovsky Dock itself 2,3 – dry chambers of unclear purpose 4 – dry chamber, looks like a continuing part of the ravine 5 6 – pond 7 – pond of unclear purpose 8 – cross, drainage basin, turning platform

And this is a commemorative plaque in honor of Petrovsky Dock.

Approved dimensions apply only to dock number 1, but about those who were engaged in the crossing, the story is not very talkative. The peculiarities of the landscape lead one to believe that sites #4 and #5 are parts of the same whole. If you look closely, you can see that the embankment and the road (Kommunisticheskaya str.) cut this whole into two parts. What is the use of the bridge over the ravine No.5 in this case, and with a rather impressive supporting construction?

The presence of reservoir 7 also gives rise to ambiguity. Due to the fact that this area is closed for visits, it is difficultly accessible to the study. Although it looks like an element of Petrovsky Dock.

A separate word should be given to crosshairs #2,3,4. Objects #2 and #3 are the same size (70 m long and 15 m wide). They fit perfectly for the ships of the Petrovsky fleet, except for one flaw. While section #1 of the dock has plenty of working space, sections #2 and #3 look like some useless compartments. The center of crosshead #8.

This is how the hole looks up close, it didn’t get to the descent there, the November day flies by very quickly.

When looking at the rails, it is clear that they were laid at the same time as those in Petrovsky Dock, namely in the early 20th century. In section number 1 you can come across an easily distinguishable date – “1914”.

A little more about the hole in section 8. At first glance it appears to be a drain, although it bears a resemblance to what may have been left of the foundation of some kind of rotary mechanism. Section #8 has a radius of 50 meters. It is hard to imagine how the ships were spun here to move them into sections #2 and #4. Although section #4 was exactly one piece with section #5 and the pond. Naturally, the size of the area under the sections leads one to believe that the ships were somehow spun after all. A brief overview of the exterior components of Petrovsky Dock

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Underfoot is the bottom, paved with cobblestones.

Stairs, mega granite blocks laid out in three rows, the bottom of the canal and a view of it.

The depth was recorded with this pointer.

The hinges embedded in the granite look as if they were made at the same time. The gateway, too, is a story covered in obscurity. There is no mention of when the main and north gates were put up. The gate is metal, so it could date from the 2nd half of the 19th century, when steel production began. Nevertheless, it is as if many of the metal and granite structures were made at the same time. Try to imagine the amount of construction work that was done in the 2nd half of the 19th century, but nothing can be authentically known about it. History is stingy with construction facts.

This is what the lower part of the gate looks like now

By the looks of it, the water entered the canal through the main gate (first photo). They have holes through which water flowed, filling the dock, causing the gate to open. But the second gate, separating the sections from each other, has no drain holes. But it is necessary to open all the inner gates in order to fill all the crossings of the dock with water. However, when counting the number of gates, it is not difficult to determine that the way the dock was filled was different. But which one? At this point it remains a mystery behind the seven seals. Initially the material for the stairs was granite, then concrete, but most likely wooden stairs, which functioned as insurance in case the concrete one collapsed.

There are a lot of guns in Kronstadt.

The condition of the wall has deteriorated over time, and it is not known how many meters of masonry are further down.

Trees are climbing into every crevice.

Among the stunning architectural details is the high level of fit of the unmountable granite structures. The crevices are so narrow that no moss is breeding, either. These blocks lie at the base, constantly under water pressure, but no destruction is visible. This is impressive.

In order to better drain water from granite blocks, such special grooves are used. Only this miracle is already an architectural touch of our time. Or Peter missed this small, but important detail in the drawings, because he personally made drawings of ships and fortifications, and missed at the dock. That doesn’t sound like Peter. No matter how you look at it, the detail is not from Peter’s era.

Such a panorama, if you look from the bottom of the canal toward the south gate.

This is the way the granite blocks are pinned up here and there.

View of the entrance gate.

This is what the overgrown sections #2 and #3 look like.

The appearance of section number 4. So, today the Petrovsky Dock can be called an architectural achievement of its era, a structure that carefully keeps its secrets. It is an advanced project, which at different times was remodeled, about which also not much is known. Unfortunately historians do not comment in any way on the use of building technologies which did not exist during Peter’s time. But about that in the second part.

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