Oct 30, 2011

A shipyard in Golden Horn with rocks from Vesuvius

Pool no. 1 at Halic (Golden Horn) shipyard in Istanbul.

Pool no. 1 at Halic Shipyard looks like a
Roman theatre when empty in Istanbul.

Rumor has it that the shipyard in Golden Horn in Istanbul has been there since the Byzantine times. As Golden Horn is a natural harbor and water inlet, this makes sense. What is certain, however, is that Mehmet the Conqueror ordered the establishment of a shipyard there given the big power ambitions of the Ottomans. Mehmet surely was a man to understand the importance of naval power. When he laid siege on Constantinople, as Istanbul was called then, the Byzantines laid a huge chain at the entrance of the Golden Horn to block the passage of his ships. Undeterred, Mehmet, however, had his ships rolled over greased logs to gain access to the inlet sea. When the attempt succeeded, the Ottomans were able to continue the siege from the sea and finally gain access to the city state.
Nihal Gunduz's works still in exhibition
at Halic shipyard in Istanbul.

Pool no. 3 at Halic shipyard with its volcanic
stones brought from Mount Vesuvius of Italy.

Established after the Ottoman in 1455, the shipyard still operates today with three pools and workshops. Located in an area of 70.000 m2 and having served the Ottoman Navy until 1910, it has been transferred to civilian authority and now serves as repair and maintenance spot of passenger ships and ferries. Being so old, the place is full of treasures of history. One of the stone pools of the shipyard was built with the same stones used at the building of the Fatih Mosque. And pool number 3 has been built with the volcanic stones brought from Volcano Vesuvius of Italy between 1796-9.

Colors and items at workshops at Halic shipyard in Istanbul.

Not only its pools are centuries old built by the orders of various sultans, it has an amazing location overlooking the Old City with Süleymaniye and Fatih Mosques as well as the Byzantium Aqueduct in distance. To top it off, photographer Nihal Gündüz’s works are still exhibited on the billboards around the pools in an open air exhibition. For more about those shipyard pictures click here.

The chain that was laid by Byzantines at the entrance
of Golden Horn is in display at the Military Museum in Istanbul.

The prime location precludes the industrial feeling of ships and shipyards. In fact, there is an open air museum feeling complimented by the equipment in workshops that can be show pieces in technology museums if not in retro fashion shootings. At the same time, the shipyard reminds one of Edward Burtynsky photos of Ship breaking taken in Bangladesh  and contrasts with its proximity to Beyoglu and Galata, two increasingly touristy and historic neighborhoods in Istanbul. The cupboards of staff and emergency aid or other furniture even posters and warnings on walls can be all collectors’ items.

The halic shipyard salutes Sinan's Suleymaniye in Istanbul.

Another salute to Sinan built Sokullu Mehmet Pasha mosque
at Halic shipyard in Istanbul.

If you are in the shipping business, you must insist that your contacts arrange for a visit to the shipyard as prior permission is required to access the site. In a city so full with the sea, the world’s oldest shipyard still in operation is definitely worth a visit. If you are interested in photography on the other hand, try your luck with the security guards at the entrance. Human relations go along way to gain access in TurkeyJ.