Crawling through the green belly of the submarine Nordkaparen, past hundreds of dials and knobs, is like maneuvering through a hard-shelled dreamscape.
The museum boats are anything but normal, though. Guns prickle atop the destroyer HMS Småland, fire hoses wreath the Flodsprutan II, primitive radar antennae juts up from the minelayer Kalmarsund. There's a harbor crane, two cute little tugs, a few lifeboats, a massive cargo ship and a rare, 19th century Monitor named the Sölve. There's even a floating lighthouse, the No. 29 Fladen (the red tower can be seen in the left of the picture). The No. 29 was, rather pitiably, replaced by an "anchored buoy" in 1969.
Levels and directions are pointless after a while. Partly, the strangeness is because of the movement of the ship and the swaying of the lights. Partly, it's because of the low ceilings, the perpetual crouch, the tight spaces. It's rare, aboard the warships, to be able to stand up straight and get a good look around. But the disorientation is partly willful - I didn't care about getting lost.
Yes, up in the fresh air, the ship is impressively armed. But that aspect of it hardly resonates below. It was difficult to recognize what anything was - even a kitchen looked warped, too small and foreign. I could hear a few other visitors, somewhere in the corridors around me, but I didn't see anyone until I found myself back in sunlight.
After clambering down a long ladder, one can imagine immediately that they are deep under the surface. Sounds are transmitted with watery vagueness. There are no windows. Wires and tubes criss-cross around you. It's as much Jules Verne as Tom Clancy.
Torpedos shouldn't feel surprising in this realm, but somehow they caught me off guard. There were several of them, bright orange, protruding from their barrels. Most of the bunks were arrayed around the weapons, presumably because that's where there was some space.