Humboldt was originally built in 1906 by the German shipyard AG Weser
at Bremen as "Reserve Sonderburg". She was operated throughout the
North and Baltic Seas until being retired in 1986. Subsequently she
was converted into a three masted barque by the German shipyard
Motorwerke Bremerhaven and was re-launched in 1988 as Alexander von
Planned and ordered in 1906 as a reserve light vessel (to stand in for
other light vessels during scheduled yard maintenance), the ship was
launched on 10 September 1906 at AG Weser with construction serial
number 155 as the first of its class. Her hull was based on a sailing
ship, as was common in this class. There is no clear record if she was
christened Reserve Fehmarnbelt (after her first station) or Reserve
Sonderburg, as both names are documented. On the ship's bell appears
Reserve; a first home port at Sonderburg (today Sønderborg, Denmark)
is most likely. From 1920 to 1945 the ship was home ported at Kiel-Holtenau
and served in many locations, but mainly along Baltic shores.
She was installed in 1945 as a permanent replacement for the bombed
and damaged light vessel Kiel. In the spring of 1957 she was rammed by
a Swedish freighter and sank, was raised and after a two-year overhaul
returned to service in 1959.
During the summer of 1967 her location was upgraded to a lighthouse
and she returned to stand-by reserve for North Sea deployment.
Eventually she was assigned as permanent replacement for the retired
Amrumbank. Being supplanted again by a fully automated light vessel –
and following another collision and overhaul in Wilhelmshaven – was
towed to Bremerhaven and named Confidentia.
Alexander von Humboldt
A newly established foundation, the Deutsche Stiftung Sail Training or
DSST [German Sail Training Foundation] bought the vessel and
transformed her into a tall ship based on her sailing ship hull. On 30
May 1988 she was christened Alexander von Humboldt after the
celebrated German explorer. In a historical reference to the sailing
ships of the Rickmers shipping company of Bremen, her hull was painted
green. Green sails were installed as a marketing tool for advertizing
campaigns by the ship's sponsor, the German brewer Beck's.
"Alex", as she is called by her crew, serves as a sail training ship
and is the flagship of DSST and has traveled over 300,000 nautical
miles (560,000 km) in 20 years (equal to 14 times around the equator).
High points every year are tall ships' races and winter cruises to the
Canary Islands in the North Atlantic Ocean. During summer months she
sails in the North and Baltic Seas.
Her longest cruise to date was a voyage in commemoration of Alexander
von Humboldt's expedition to South America and the Caribbean. On 19
January 2006, Alex rounded Cape Horn under sail, following the route
of the legendary Tall Ships of the 19th and early 20th century in
celebration of her centenary year.