PEKING's History

PEKING is a cargo sailing ship which was completed in 1911 by the shipyard Blohm & Voss in Hamburg on behalf of the ship owner F. Laeisz. The length is 115 meters (length overall), respectively 96.01 meters (length between the perpendiculars) and a breadth of 14.40 meters, the ship is a four-masted barque, with a total of 32 sails on the four masts. PEKING has an identical sister ship - PASSAT located in Travemünde, Germany.

PEKING was launched on 25th February 1911, and delivered to the F. Laiesz on 16 May 1911 who paid 680,000 Marks for her. As it was customary for Laeisz their sailing ships carried a name with the initial letter "P" (see P-Liner History).

On 22 June 1911, PEKING left the port of Hamburg for the first time under the command of Captain Hinrich Nissen. She was particularly suitable for transport of nitrate (saltpeter) from Chile to Europe. In the following few years, she called ports such as Valparaiso, Taltal, Talcahuano, Iquique and Mejillones. From these ports, PEKING returned regularly home to Hamburg.

In 1914 Capt. August Ötzmann took command of PEKING. However, he did not command the sailing ship for long, as she was interned in Chile at the beginning of the First World War and anchored off Valparaiso. PEKING stayed there for six years before she was allowed to sail to Caleto Coloso under the command of Heinrich August Georg Oellrich and from there to London. The Treaty of Versailles after the First World War stipulated that PEKING had to be handed over to Italy as reparation. However, since Italy had no use for the ship, PEKING remained in London for the time being.

In 1923 F. Laeisz was able to re-purchase its ship for £ 8.500. Under the renewed command of Capt. Heinrich August Georg Oellrich, PEKING was once again transporting nitrate (saltpeter) from Chile to Europe. She also called ports in the Netherlands and San Antonio (USA) During an anchor manoeuvre in 1925, the ship suffered some damage to the hull, and had to be repaired in a dry dock in Hamburg. After that, PEKING returned to her usual voyages , again under the command of Captain Joachim Hans Hinrich Nissen. In 1926 Captain J. Hermann Piening took over the command of the PEKING .

After a voyage to Chile in 1927, PEKING returned to Hamburg, where she was modified at Blohm & Voss. The poop deck was extended by ten metres, as PEKING was to be used from then on as a cargo carrying sailing training vessel. The ship now offered room for 31 sailors and 43 naval cadets.

During the following five years PEKING sailed - mainly under the command of Captain Jürs - on round trips between Europe and Chile.

On 9 September 1932, Shaftesbury Homes and Arethusa Training Ship Co. in England bought PEKING for £ 6,250. The tug TITAN towed PEKING out of Hamburg on 10 October to be firmly anchored on the Medway Riverin Rochester. The ship was converted into a training ship and her name was changed to ARETHUSA. On ARETHUSA 200 to 300 boys received semi-military training.

The appearance of the ARETHUSA changed during this time. The hull was painted with a new white stripe and soon only the fixed yards could be seen on the foremast. In addition, the sand ballast up to the keelson level was replaced by concrete. The new floor offered space for rooms and sheds for storing the equipment. Two new boiler plants for heating and hot water had to be installed to supply the young trainees. An additional wooden deck was built in the upper deck of the lower room. New portholes provided the necessary daylight.

When World War II began in 1939, ARETHUSA was requisitioned by the Royal Navy and brought to Salcombe. There she got the name HMS PEKING, since there was already a ship with the name HMS ARETHUSA.

After the end of World War II, Shaftesbury Homes and Arethusa Training Ship Co. received the ship back and the name was reverted to ARETHUSA. ARETHUSA was towed back from Salcombe to Upnor, where she continued to serve as a training ship until 1974. Due to high maintenance costs for the old ship the organization finally decided to part with her. She almost returned to Hamburg at that time, but experts were of the opinion that she would not survive the tow to Hamburg.

In 1974, the South Street Seaport Museum in New York bought ARETHUSA for £ 70,000. After a shipyard stay of a year the ARETHUSA was towed to New York by the Dutch tug UTRECHT and given her original name – PEKING again. She was also painted in the original colours of F. Laeisz. However the rigging was restored more cost-effectively than true to the original.

In the long run, however, the museum was not able to maintain the two large ships it owned and as a consequence the necessary maintenance work was increasingly neglected over the years. As PEKING was in poor condition, the upper deck had to be lined with plywood panels. The decks in the lower holds were dilapidated and not open to the public.

Beginning in 2002, members of the association negotiated with the museum for the return of PEKING to its original home port of Hamburg. Initially, however, this failed due to the museums high asking price .

After the realization sunk in that it was no longer possible to sell the ship due to her need for repair, the interested parties in Hamburg asked for restoration quotations from local yards.

At the same time, the association looked for funds for the transport - which due to the vessels condition has to be carried out by using a dock ship - and for the complete renovation of the hull and rigging. Initially, an attempt was made to raise the necessary funds from the Hamburg business community, unfortunately without success.

In spring 2015, however, it was announced that the berth in New York would have to be vacated at the end of June, which would have meant the final end for PEKING at a scrap yard. This further aggravated the situation and eventually led to discussions about financing the project with public funds.

On 12 November 2015, the Budget Committee of the German Bundestag decided to make funds available for a new large German harbor museum. The main attraction was to be the restored PEKING.

The Hamburg Maritim Foundation ("Stiftung Maritim") was commissioned to carry out the transport and restoration of PEKING. The transfer to Germany by dock ship COMBI DOCK III took place in July 2017, the tow to the shipyard was followed by the media and a large number of observers on water and on land on August 2.

The Peters Yard in Wewelsfleth carried out the renovation which was completed in May 2020, on september 7. in 2020 PEKING returned to her home port Hamburg surrounded by hundreds of ships of every size. Her berth is now in Hansahafen at Bremer Kai beneath the old harbour museum.