July 7, 1902
Two months after being christened, the sailing vessel Preußen – named in honor of the German kingdom and state of Prussia – was completed at the Joh. C. Tecklenborg shipyard in the German Empire’s seaport of Geestemünde (now part of the city of Bremerhaven in the Republic of Germany). Preußen, which is usually called “Preussen” in English, was a steel-hulled, five-masted windjammer built for the F. Laeisz shipping company in the German Empire’s city of Hamburg. The chief designer of the ship was naval architect Georg Wilhelm Claussen.
Preussen had the distinction of being the only vessel of her kind built with five masts that each carried six square sails. She would remain the only five-masted, full-rigged ship to be built until the launch of the sail cruise liner Royal Clipper in 2000. Preussen also may have been the first ship of her type that was equipped with wireless telegraphy.
Twenty-four days after work on her was finished, Preussen made her maiden voyage from Bremerhaven to the Chilean port of Iquique. This trip was made under the command of Captain Boye Richard Petersen, who had helped Claussen design the ship. Preussen was subsequently used in Germany’s saltpeter trade with Chile, and in the process established various speed records for that kind of vessel. Preussen made a dozen round trips between Hamburg and Iquique and – in charter to the Standard Oil Company – once even sailed around the world.
Many considered Preussen to be the fastest sailing ship introduced after the 19th century boom years of the clipper ships. In addition, Preussen had been sturdily built and was able to safely weather strong gale winds. The ship’s unique square-rigged appearance and tough-to-surpass sailing characteristics made her highly popular, earning her the nickname “Queen of the Queens of the Seas.”
Preussen’s career, though, turned out to be relatively short-lived. In 1910, the ship was on her 14th voyage when the British steamer Brighton accidentally rammed into her eight nautical miles (15 kilometers) off England’s southeastern coast. Preussen was seriously damaged and, following an unsuccessful salvage attempt, ended up sinking. ship remains immortalized, however, on postage stamps issued by Grenada, Paraguay, Sierra Leone, the Falkland Islands, and – in 1977 – the republic known between 1949 and 1990 as West Germany.
For more information on the sailing vessel Preußen (also known as Preussen), please check out http://www.bruzelius.info/Nautica/Ships/Fivemast_ships/Preussen(1902).html and http://www.steelnavy.com/Preussen48.htm