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Preußen (ship)

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Preußen (ship)

Preußen under full sail
Career (Germany)
Name: Preußen
Namesake: State and Kingdom of Preußen (Prussia)
Owner: F. Laeisz Shipping Company
Route: Hamburg-Chile (12 journeys); 1 journey round the world in charter to Standard Oil Co.
Ordered: November, 1900
Builder: Joh. C. Tecklenborg Shipyard, Geestemünde
Naval architect: Dr. h.c. Georg W. Claussen
Cost: M 1,200,000.00 ( About $300,000.00 then?)
Yard number: 179
Laid down: August 1901
Launched: 7 May 1902 and christened the same day
Completed: 7 July 1902
Commissioned: 10 July 1902
Maiden voyage: 31 July 1902 to Iquique, Chile in 64 days
Homeport: Hamburg, Germany
Identification: code letters RMPT:
Fate: stranded near Dover on 6 November 1910, no loss of men
Status: wreck, only a few plates and parts are left
Badge: none; no figurehead, a volute instead
General characteristics
Class & type: five-masted full rigged steel ship
nitrate carrier, bulk carrier
Tonnage: 5,081 GRT / 4,788 NRT
Displacement: 11,150 long tons (11,330 t) (at 8,000 long tons or 8,100 metric tons load)
Length: 482 ft (147 m) (overall)
439.6 ft (134.0 m) (hull)
400.3 ft (122.0 m) (btw. perpendiculars)
Beam: 53.8 ft (16.4 m)
Height: 223.1 ft (68.0 m) (keel to masthead truck)
190.28 ft (58.00 m) (deck to masthead truck)
Draft: 27.09 ft (8.26 m)
Depth: 33.59 ft (10.24 m) (depth molded)
Depth of hold: 32.48 ft (9.90 m)
Decks: 2 continuous steel, poop, forecastle, and midship island (bridge) decks
Deck clearance: 8 ft (2.4 m)
Installed power: no auxiliary propulsion; 2 donkey engines for sail winches, loading gear, pumps, generator
Propulsion: sail
Sail plan: 47 sails: 30 square sails; 17 fore-and-aft sails: 12 staysails, 4 foresails, 1 spanker
sail area: 6,806 m2 (73,260 sq ft)
Speed: 20.5 knots (38.0 km/h)
Boats & landing
craft carried:
4 lifeboats on the aft main deck
Capacity: 8,000 long tons or 8,100 metric tons load
Complement: 45, 49 max.
Crew: captain, 1st, 2nd, & 3rd mates, steward, cook, sailmaker, 38 to 42 able seamen and shipboys
Notes: small surgery, Jarvis patent brace winches for each mast

The Preußen (usually Preussen in English) (PROY-sin) was a German steel-hulled five-masted ship-rigged windjammer built in 1902 for the F. Laeisz shipping company and named after the German state and kingdom of Prussia. It was the only ship of this class with five masts carrying six sails on each mast within the world merchant fleet.

Until the 2000 launch of the Royal Clipper, a sail cruise liner, she was the only five-masted full-rigged ship ever built.


The Preußen was built as hull-number 179 at the Joh. C. Tecklenborg ship yard in Bremerhaven the same day on her maiden voyage to Iquique under the command of Capt. Boye Richard Petersen who assisted naval architect Claussen in his plans. The basic idea of building such a ship is said to come from famous Laeisz captain Robert Hilgendorf, commander of the five-masted steel barque Potosi. Story has it that Kaiser Wilhelm II, while visiting the Potosi on 18 June 1899, asked Carl H. Laeisz when the five-masted full-rigged ship will finally "come". This inspired Laeisz to build the ship. The initial construction plans were found among the effects of Carl Ferdinand Laeisz, grandson of founder Ferdinand Laeisz and son of C. H. Laeisz, who died early at an age of 48 in 1900, even before his father Carl Heinrich Laeisz who died in 1901. The ship was subsequently ordered in November 1900.

Soon after the 1910 collision

The sturdily built ship could weather every storm and even tack in force 9 winds. In such conditions eight men had to hold the 6 12-foot-tall (2.0 m) double steering wheel. She was successfully used in the saltpeter trade with Chile, setting speed records in the process. Due to her appearance, uniqueness, and excellent sailing characteristics seamen called her the "Queen of the Queens of the Seas". In 1903 (2 February – 1 May) she sailed an unequalled record voyage from Lizard Point to Iquique in 57 days. She made twelve "round trips" (Hamburg–Chile and back home) and one journey round the world via New York and Yokohama, Japan in charter to the Standard Oil Co. When she entered New York harbour, almost all New Yorkers were "on their legs" to see and welcome that unique tall sailing ship. Capt. B. R. Petersen was accompanied by his wife and his little son; both left the ship and returned to Hamburg later by steamer. The mighty Preußen, as she was named by many seamen, had only two skippers in her career, Captain Boye Richard Petersen (11 voyages) and Captain Jochim Hans Hinrich Nissen (2 voyages and the last voyage). Both masters learned and developed their skills sailing such a huge sailing ship under Capt. Robert Hilgendorf, late master of the Potosí.

On 6 November 1910, on her 14th outbound voyage, carrying a mixed cargo including a number of pianos for Chile, the Preußen was rammed by the small British cross-channel steamer Brighton 8 nautical miles (15 km) south of Newhaven.[1] Contrary to regulations, the Brighton had tried to cross before her bows, underestimating her high speed of 16 knots (30 km/h). The Preußen was seriously damaged and lost much of her forward rigging (bowsprit, fore topgallant mast), making it impossible to steer the ship to safety. Brighton returned to Newhaven to summon aid and the tug Alert was sent to assist Preußen. A November gale thwarted attempts to sail or tug her to safety in Dover Harbour. It was intended to anchor her off Dover but both anchor chains broke and Preußen was driven onto rocks at Crab Bay where she sank as a result of the damage inflicted on her. While crew, cargo and some equipment could be saved from Preußen, the hull with the keel broken was rendered unsalvageable. She sits in 6 metres (3.3 fathoms) of water at . The Master of the Brighton was found to be responsible for the accident and lost his licence as a result. A few ribs of the Preußen can be seen off Crab Bay at low spring tides.[2]

Technical data

The Preußen was steel-built with a waterline length of 124 m and a total hull length of 132 m. The hull was 16.4 m wide and the ship had a displacement of 11,150 long tons (11,330 t), for an effective carrying capacity of 8,000 long tons (8,100 t). The five masts were fully rigged, with courses, upper and lower topsails, upper and lower topgallant sails, and royals. Counting staysails, she carried 47 sails (30 square sails in six storeys, 12 staysails between the five masts, four foresails (jibs) and a small fore-and-aft spanker) with a total sail area of 6,806 square meters (73,260 sq ft) (according to other sources 5,560 square meters (59,800 sq ft), which probably refer to the square sail area only). Not only the hull was steel: masts (lower and top mast were made in one piece) and spars (yard, spanker boom) were constructed of steel tubing, and most of the rigging was steel cable. All bobstays between jibboom and bow were made of massive steel rods and chains. The only wooden spar was the gaff of the small spanker. The hoistable yards were equipped with special shoes to slide in rails riveted to the masts. "Jarvis' Patent" brace winches[3] for the lower and top-sail yards were mounted before each of the five masts. The fall winches were of "Hall's Patent".

Wreck of the Preußen

She was designed as a so-called "three-island ship", i. e. a ship with a third "high level deck" amidships beside the forecastle (41 ft (12 m)) and poop (65 ft (20 m)) decks. The midship island (74 ft (23 m)), also called the midship bridge, is also called a "Liverpool house", because the first ships equipped with that feature came from Liverpool yards. Dry and well-ventilated accommodations for crew, mates, and captain, as well as the pantry and chart room, were built in this middle deck. The main helm — a double rudder wheel of 6.2 ft (1.89 m) diameter with a steam driven rudder machine — was mounted on top of it, well protected against the dangerous huge waves from aft. A second helm (emergency helm) was near the stern. Four huge main hatches were set in the upper main deck. Behind the foremast a little deckhouse contained the two donkey boilers that drove four steam winches, a steam capstan, the rudder machine, and a generator for electricity. Four lifeboats with davits were securely fixed on a tubing rack above the main deck before the aftmost mast.

The five masts were referred to as the fore, main, middle, mizzen, and jigger (in German: Vor-, Groß-, Mittel-, Achter-, Kreuzmast) masts.

Under good conditions, the ship could reach a speed of 20 knots (37 km/h). Her best 24-hour runs were 392 nm in 1908 on her voyage to Japan and 426 nm in 1904 in the South Pacific. The Preußen was manned by a crew of 45, which was supported by two steam engines powering the pumps, the rudder steering engine, the loading gear, and winches. English seamen estimate her the fastest sailing ship after the clipper era, even faster than her fleet sister Potosí. Only a few clippers were faster than Preußen, and they had considerably less cargo capacity.


1977 German stamp with the Preußen on it

Preußen has appeared on postage stamps issued by the Falkland Islands, Germany, Grenada, Paraguay and Sierra Leone.[4]

See also


  1. ^ "Launched 1903: ss BRIGHTON". Clydesite. Retrieved 5 January 2010. 
  2. ^ "Remains of the Preussen shipwreck, Dover". Fearntech Limited. 2008. Retrieved 9 February 2011.  Has a photo of the remains of the ship at low tide.
  3. ^ Biography of Captain John Charles Barron Jarvis (1857-1935)
  4. ^ "'"Maritime Topics On Stamps :Sailing vessel 'Preussen. Seemotive. Retrieved 14 February 2010. 
  • Oliver E. Allen: Die Windjammer, Time-Life Books, 1980 (Original US edition: The Windjammers, 1978)
  • Heinz Blöß: Glanz und Schicksal der "Potosi" und "Preußen", Hamburgs und der Welt größte Segler. Schmidt Verlag, Kiel 1960
  • Jochen Brennecke: Windjammer.  Der große Bericht über die Entwicklung, Reisen und Schicksale der "Königinnen der Sieben Meere". Koehlers Verlagsgesellschaft, Herford, 3. Aufl. 1984; Kap. XXII - Die Größten unter den Segelschiffen der Welt, S. 291-297; ISBN 3-7822-0009-8
  • Hans-Jörg Furrer: Die Vier- und Fünfmast-Rahsegler der Welt.  Koehlers Verlagsgesellschaft, Herford 1984, pp 168, ISBN 3-7822-0341-0
  • Horst Hamecher: Fünfmast-Vollschiff »PREUSSEN«, Königin der See. Der Lebensweg eines Tiefwasserseglers.  Hamecher Eigenverlag, Kassel 1993, ill.; ISBN 3-920307-46-1 (the book describes in detail everything concerning the ship including all her voyages)
  • W. Kaemmerer: Das Fünfmast-Vollschiff Preußen, erbaut von Joh. C. Tecklenborg A.-G., Schiffswerft und Maschinenfabrik in Bremerhaven-Geestemünde.  Zeitschrift der Vereins deutscher Ingenieure, vol. 48, No. 34, Berlin 1904
  • Peter Klingbeil: Die Flying P-Liner. Die Segelschiffe der Reederei F. Laeisz.  Verlag "Die Hanse", Hamburg 1998 / 2000; ISBN 3-434-52562-9
  • Björn Landström: Das Schiff.  C. Bertelsmann Verlag, München (Munich) 1961
  • Hans Georg Prager: „F. Laeisz“ vom Frachtsegler bis zum Bulk Carrier.  Koehlers Verlagsgesellschaft mbH, Herford 1974; ISBN 3-7822-0096-9
  • Manfred Prager: Vergleich zwischen dem Fünfmastvollschiff  "Preußen" und der Fünfmastbark  "Potosi" auf den Reisen nach der Westküste Südamerikas und zurück. Annalen der Hydrographie und maritimen Meteorologie: Zeitschrift für Seefahrt und Meereskunde, Hamburg, Berlin 1908; ISSN 0174-8114
  • Schiff und Zeit. Fachzeitschrift der Deutschen Gesellschaft für Schiffahrts- und Marinegeschichte. Fünfmastvollschiff  "Preußen". Heft 5/1977, Herford 1977, Bestell-Nr.: 5872
  • Jens Jansson: SOS - Schicksale deutscher Schiffe - Weiße Segel über blauen Wogen - vol. Nr. 51 - Fünfmastvollschiff  "Preußen".   pp 2, Pabel-Moewig Verlag KG, Rastatt 1976

External links

  • (German) description with ship characteristics & photographs
  • at www.bruzelius.infoPreußen
  • (German) Preußenprofile of the
  • (German) description with ship characteristics, photographs, report on the accident
  • CapHorniers on F. Laeisz (and A. D. Bordes & Fils), Chile, photographs etc.
  • , scale 1/300 (.pdf file)PreussenModelling the
  • is on display at the San Francisco Maritime MuseumPreussenA large 1/48th scale model of
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