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Fort Alexander. Ice in waterway. Cargo ship.
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Maritime Image of the Day: “The Plague Fort”

PortandTerminal.com, December 22, 2020

HALIFAX, NOVA SCOTIA – The abandoned Fort Alexander, aka The Plague Fort, sits on an artificial island near Saint Petersburg, Russia.

Originally built to guard the Baltic waterway to Saint Petersburg, construction of the naval fortress began in 1838 and was completed in 1845. It was used right up until 1917, the year the Russian Revolution broke out.

To construct the fort its builders first drove 5535 piles, each almost 40-feet long, into the sea bed to reinforce the ground. They then covered the piles with a layer of sand, a layer of concrete blocks, and a layer of granite slabs.

Aerial view of Fort
Interior view of the fort which is three floors in height
Interior view of the fort which is three floors in height

The fort measures 295 feet by 197, with three floors. In all, the fort was large enough to hold a garrison of up to 1000 men. There are 103 cannon ports with additional space on the roof for 34 guns.

In or around the year 1900, the fort was repurposed as a as a plague research base which is where it gets its nickname “The Plague Fort”. The site’s isolation from the mainland was the ideal spot for Russian scientists to study such deadly viruses as cholera, tetanus, and even the bubonic plague. Using horses as test animals the scientists worked to create serums and vaccines for the various sicknesses. The isolation proved well-considered as some of the researchers contracted the bubonic plague and pneumonia.

After the research concluded, the fort was abandoned in the 1980s.


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