Gdańsk Crane (Żuraw)
Gdańsk became increasingly important in the 14th and 15th century as trade city. It had a strategical location near the Baltic Sea and was appealing to many merchants. Authorities built the first wooden port crane in the second half of the 14th century. In the first half of the 15th century it got rebuilt after burning down. It is one of the biggest port cranes in its sort.
Mechanism of a treadmill
As primary purpose the crane lifted goods (e.g wine and beer barrels) from ships using a treadmill or treadwheel mechanism. As the crane had to lift heavy loads, it consisted out of a double mechanism. Treadwheel workers operated the crane by walking inside it, pretty much the same as a hamster operating its treadmill wheel. A rope was rolled around a large wooden wheel. The treadway of one wheel had to be wide enough so that 2 workers could operate it by walking side by side. In this way 4 treadmill workers could lift heavy loads, sometimes as much as 2 tons.
The crane master gave orders at the treadwheel workers usually from the outside. He helped to manipulate the movement laterally by a small rope attached to the load that was being lifted vertically.
The port crane changed its function
In the 19th century the port crane changed its function: it got specialized at mounting masts to newly built sailing ships. At a later stage, in the 20th century, it became a tool to lift engines from vessels that needed repair.
After the last crane master died in 1858, private people used the crane. There was a shoe maker, a hairdresser’s and other local businesses.
The National Maritime Museum in Gdańsk
At first there was a museum only in the crane. It started officially on 1 January 1962. Its mission among others is dedicated to keep track of artifacts, documents related to ship transport, international trade. In 1962 the Maritime Museum acquired the crane. Ten years later the Museum changed its name into the Polish Maritime Museum and got its final title of The National Maritime Museum of Gdańsk on 10 December 2013.
Other parts of the National Maritime Museum of Gdańsk include the Sołdek. This ship was built in Gdańsk after World War II. It was the first ship (steamer) that was able to ocean-worthy.