Ponape – The miniature miracle

What does a restless sailor do without his ship? He builds one.

One of the world’s most lifelike and fully functioning ship models was built under exceptional circumstances by Åland-born model builder and sea captain Runar Husell during his time as a prisoner of war during World War II. He had no drawings, no tools and no proper building materials, only his extraordinarily exact recollection of previous models he had built of the four-masted barque Ponape, as well as his memories from his time on board the ship. Still he created an unique work of art. There is nothing like it, experts say.

This is the story of Runar Husell and his Ponape – the ship model with a story of origin unlike any other.

Watch the documentary about Ponape

No drawings, no building materials and no tools, only his own exceptionally exact recollections of previously built models and from his time on board, resulted in a unique work of art.

The poop deck of the model. The rain wet deck of Ponape? No, this is the main deck of the model.

A love declaration to life at sea

Behind every ship model lies a story of the ship the model depicts, a piece of history captured in the intricacies of the model. But with the model of Ponape, the Italian-built four-masted bark which criss-crossed the oceans during the first three decades of the 1900s, the real story lies in the people behind the model, and one man specifically.

The ship model was built from scratch using unconventional materials found in the prison camp where Åland-born sea captain Runar Husell was detained during World War II. Most of the metal details were built from brass which Husell extracted from a wasted iron bedstead.

Runar’s vision went far beyond building a resembling model of the windjammer; he essentially set out to build a fully functioning Ponape in the scale 1:40. This meant for instance that for every brace winch, Runar extracted 82 small pieces of brass from the bedstead and used them as building material. The model also includes a fully furnished captain’s saloon and chart house, along with the traditional pea soup pot on the stove in the caboose.

The ship model Ponape is a tale of survival through insurmountable loss but also of success against all odds. Ponape is also a testimony of the grit by which the Ålanders went from poverty to welfare by seafaring.

The model Ponape


The model was built in the scale 1:40 and is 226 cm long.


The ship model was built in Isle of Man during World War II and assembled in Mariehamn in 1954.


Runar Husell spent at least 8,000 working hours on his model of Ponape.

The ship Ponape

90.58 x 12.93 x 7.06 m

Real-life dimensions of Ponape.


The real-life Ponape was built in 1903 in Italy as Regina Elena.


In 1911 she was sold to Germany and renamed Ponape.

The story continues

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