Lightships in Saint Petersburg


To the main page

From mid-XIX century there were three lightships standing on approach to St.Petersburg - Yelaginsky, Nevsky and Londonsky. Another two lightships were positioned more to the West - Werkommatala by the port of Koivisto (Primorsk) and a Reception lightship by the entrance to the Finnish gulf.

In general, by 1905 Russia posessed around ten lightships on the Baltic sea. Apart from the above mentioned, the other such vessels were anchored by the coasts of Great Duchy of Finland, provinces of Courland and Estland (now Latvia and Estonia).

Shortly before the WWI a few more were commissioned, including Lyserortsky, that was standing near to the location where in 50 yeas Irbensky lightship was placed. All these lightships were lost sooner or later with no replacement to come. Some of them were used by the hydrographic offices of the newly formed Finnish and Baltic states. Lyserortsky lightship abandoned its position in the Irbensky strait during WWI and destroyed in WWII, during Soviet Navy base evacuation from Tallinn to Leningrad (now St.Petersburg).

Below you may see extracts from the Naval Lights and Signals Handbook, 1840.

Source: "Описание маяков, башен и других предостерегательных для мореплавателей знаков", SPb, 1840. Hydrographic archive.

Same lightships in 1905: reference reads that all three were re-built in 1863-1870.

Source: "Описание маяков, башен и знаков Российский Империи по берегам Балтийского моря с заливами" , SPb, 1905. Hydrographic archive.

Now we locate the lightships on the naval maps dated 1917-1923

Londonsky lightship has been warning the mariners of the Londonsky shoal to the west from the isle of Kotlin, on approach to the roadstead of Kronstadt.

Nevsky lightship met the ships going to St.Petersburg along the Main marine channel (in the middle of the below picture). Yelaginsky lightship - those going along the Yelaginsky channel (on the top of the picture) . On the map dated 1922 there is no Yelaginsky lightship - it is relocated to the entrance to Middle Petrovsky channel and thus renamed to Petrovsky (on the picture - next to Yelaginsky)

Petrovsky lightship (ex-Yelaginsky).

Source: Maps of Finnish Gulf, from Petrograd to the isle of Seskar, SPb, 1917-1923, Hydrographic archive

Click below two fragments of maps to see them enlagred

Source: Maps of Finnish Gulf, from Petrograd to the isle of Seskar, SPb, 1917-1923, Hydrographic office archive

Petrovsky and Nevsky lightships may be also found on the civil maps, e.g. Petersburg and Vicinity by Y.Gash. Click the map fragment to enlarge it.

Below is the photo of Yelaginsky lightship on the postcard, early XX century (source).
Lots of interesting materials are stored on the shelves of archives. More interesting is, however, to see the lightship alive, to walk along her deck, to see how keepers live and work. There is only one lightship remained in Russia, making her far more valuable than the metal she is made of.
© 2009—2010 «», e-mail: