For the first half of my second field study during core course week my class visited the M/S Maritime Museum.
Transportation to the museum were very simple. We took the S train from the Nørreport station to Helsingør, north of Copenhagen. The train ride is about 45 minutes. The time goes by fast as the train speeds up the coast. On one side you can see the ocean and hints of Sweden if the sky is clear. On the other side the landscape transitions from city to suburb to countryside dotted with small town. One of the coolest sights you can see along the ride is the Jægersborg Dyrehave nature preserve. It’s a 1000-acre deer park in a beautiful forest that is the location of the royal hunting palace. From the train you can spot herds of deer and a quick look at the beautiful palace.
M/S Maritime Museum
Located in front of Kronborg Castle, the museum is shaped like an enormous ship. When trying to find the M/S Maritime Museum you might think your lost because you won’t be able to see it. Designed by the famous Danish architects BIG – Bjarke Ingels Group, one of the biggest critics for the design is that visitors can’t find the entrance. This is due to the museum being completely underground. Built around an old, dry dock the museum is almost completely hidden from surface level.
The museum exhibition is beautifully designed. You start off by entering a dark space with a buoy slowly swaying back and forth. Light and shadows play on the dark blue walls and floor. The ringing of the buoys bell and splashing waves draws you further in.
As you wander through piles of crates made into display cases you feel almost as if you are below deck in the dark space. There is an abundance of information and artifacts displayed. This allows the visitor to pick and choose what they want to learn about. Through this exhibition a visitor is able to experience the story of Denmark as one of the worlds leading maritime nations.
One of the things I found most interesting was that while their husbands where traveling the globe women took care of the children, ran the farm, and could conduct business in their husbands name. There were special farm tools designed to fit more ergonomically to the wives.
Walk Away with A Sailor’s Tattoo
But the clear crowd favorite of the museum was the sailor tattoo exhibit. Sailors would collect tattoos on their journeys. In this exhibit you could sit in a chair and read about different tattoos and their meanings. Then you can decide which one you would like for yourself and “get inked”. At each chair was a tattoo gun with a pen and a light that would cast a shadow of stencil for you to copy.
Each tattoo had a meaning behind it. If a sailor had a swallow it signified he had sailed 5000 nautical miles. Which is roughly 5,754 regular miles. The circumference of the earth is 21,639 nautical miles, which is about 4.15 sparrows. The words “Hold” and “Fast” on the knuckles of a sailor were meant to bring them good luck while griping the rigging. Holding fast means the sailor isn’t going to let go of the line, no matter what.
I went with the North Star tattoo. Sailors have sailed by the stars at night, the North Star is always easy to find. It was said that if you can find the North Star, then you can find your way home. A tattoo of the North Star was a symbol of the hope of finding the way home again.
Fun Fact: the bathrooms are bight red and bright green. This is apparently a calling card of BIG Architects. I’m not usually one for bathroom mirror selfies but I felt I could make an exception for this. I needed proof for how bright it was.