History of Europe

When the Gorch Fock was launched

August 23, 1958:Tens of thousands of guests gathered at the Blohm + Voss shipyard to witness the launch of the "Gorch Fock" in the Port of Hamburg. At 11.16 a.m. the three-masted barque of the German Navy rushed into the water to the sound of the ship's horns and the cheers of the spectators, when the call was "Stop, go!".

"Gorch Fock" is christened in Low German

Ulli Kinau christened the "Gorch Fock" after her uncle Johann Kinau.

Before that, 14-year-old Ulli Kinau christened the ship. With the words:"Boben dat life is de Dod, but Boben den Dod is neither dat life. Ick döp di op den Naam 'Gorch Fock'!" (Death stands above life, but life stands above death again. I baptize you "Gorch Fock") she smashes a champagne bottle on the bow. Gorch Fock was the pseudonym of her famous uncle, Johann Kinau, who became known in particular for his novel "Seefahrt ist not". However, Ulli Kinau did not get to know her uncle. In 1916 he went down during the First World War with the cruiser "Wiesbaden" in the Battle of the Skagerrak.

Ulli Kinau's father, Rudolf Kinau, is also standing on the baptismal pulpit under the bowsprit, which is decorated in the colors of Hamburg. He delivers the christening speech and uses Low German to describe the life of his older brother, the seafaring poet Gorch Fock. Among the guests are also Mrs. Gorch Focks, Rosa-Elisabeth Kinau and his grandchildren.

Sinking of the "Pamir" overshadows the party

However, the launching of the German Navy's first sail training ship is not a carefree celebration. The guests remember the catastrophe almost a year earlier, when the "Pamir" - the sail training ship of the German merchant marine - sank in the Atlantic and 80 of the 86 crew members died. This catastrophe is also the subject of the speech by the Inspector of the Federal Navy, Vice Admiral Ruge, who takes the floor after the guests have been welcomed by shipyard boss Walther Blohm. He tries to explain to the critical audience that the "Gorch Fock" launched today is safer than the "Pamir", which sank due to 'lack of stability'. In fact, the construction plans of the "Gorch Fock" were revised again after the "Pamir" sank. Around 300 tons of iron ballast in the hull give the ship particularly high stability at sea - theoretically heeling up to 90 degrees.

But there are still more doubts:Some fear that with the "Gorch Fock" another warship will be launched. Because Kaiser Wilhelm II already had his warships built by Blohm + Voss, later the Navy of the "Third Reich" was one of the largest customers of the Hamburg shipyard.

Peace Ambassador "Gorch Fock"

But these fears soon prove to be unfounded. In 1959 the "Gorch Fock" set sail on her first training voyage. The new sail training ship is warmly welcomed in ports around the world. Instead of a warship, people perceive the barque as a "Peace Messenger in White".

Heavy criticism after fatal accidents

For decades, the "Gorch Fock" has been the pride of the German Navy. But when two cadets died on board in accidents in 2008 and 2010, there were heated discussions about the conditions on board. The training trips are temporarily suspended, a new training concept is being developed, with which the ship will set sail again from 2012.

Repair costs millions

At the turn of the year 2015/16, the "Gorch Fock" comes to the dock of the Bredo shipyard in Bremerhaven for inspection. There is serious damage there. The costs for the repair increase from the initially estimated ten million euros to up to 135 million euros. Because of the explosion in costs, the German Navy is now also discussing a new building. But in the meantime it has been decided:after its current retreading, the "Gorch Fock" should continue to serve as a sail training ship for the Navy beyond 2040.

Previous Post