Lake Ladoga is the largest lake in Europe. Its total surface amounts to 18,400 square meters, its length from the north to the south equals 206 km, its width from the east to the west constitutes 138 km, the average depth equals 51 m, and the maximal depth amounts to 230 m. In the north part the lakeside is carved with fiords. Lake Ladoga has around 600 islands.
Lake Ladoga often has storms, misty weather and constant rough water which makes sailing there quite difficult. It does not fully freeze in winter. Since time immemorial people knew that the lake was treacherous and that sailing on it was extremely hard. The order of Peter I from November 1718 states: "There is such a great damage at Lake Ladoga every year that in this summer alone around a thousand boats have been lost there and since the beginning of the building of this place (i. e. Petersburg) more than ten thousand".
Since ancient times Lake Ladoga has been positioned on the very important way "from the Varangians to the Greeks". The struggle to possess Lake Ladoga started as early as in the IXth century. In 1323 the Novgorod prince Yury Danilovich built a fortress on the Orekhov island (at the beginning of the Neva) that was called Oreshek (a "Nut"). As a result of numerous wars the fortress often passed from one owner to another and changed its name. In 1702 during the Northern war the Russian army took the Noteburg (Oreshek) fortress from the Swedes, and since then it has been an integral part of the Russian lands.
In order to maintain safe sailing in 1724 thee started the construction of a sailing canal along the southern bank of Ladoga. It allowed ships to bypass the stormy lake. Later this canal was called the Old Ladoga Canal. When it became too shallow a new canal was dug out between it and Ladoga. It was named the New Ladoga Canal. Before the war almost all cargo was transported via these canals. The exposition shows the models of XIX century ships that demonstrate the history of sailing on Lake Ladoga.
The XVIII century marks the beginning of scientific studies of Lake Ladoga which also continued after the October revolution (the 1917-1934 expeditions led by L. S. Berg and I. V. Molchanov).