Before the second world war, the two largest German passenger shipping companies, Norddeutscher Lloyd and Hamburg Amerika Line both had ships running from the main land to the small isle of Helgoland. When the war had ended, their interest in this service was over as they focussed on their deep sea passenger services to restore them to their former glory.
Pre war poster
HADAG-Lloyd, a company owning small vessels like harbor ferries and excursion boats, took over the service to Helgoland in 1952. Helgoland had been parly destroyed during the war and there was absolutely nothing to offer passengers there. Quickly, the most necessary facilities were restored. Before, HADAG's ship, the Burgermeister Ross only circumnavigated the island on its way from Hambrg/ Cuxhaven to Hornum on the isle of Sylt. Now the Burgermeister Ross could actually call at Helgoland.
The service poved very popular and HADAG decided to order a newbuilding, which was delivered in 1955. Wappen von Hamburg as she was called, measured 2500 GRT and could carry 1600 passengers. She continiously attracted full passenger loads and it didn't take HADAG very long to order a second almost identical vessel, the Bunte Kuh. She joined her fleetmate in 1957.
Wappen von Hamburg (1965)
Both vessels low speed proved to be a drawback, as passengers had very limited time at Helgoland, and HADAG chartered additional tonnage to serve the island from Cuxhaven allowing Wappen von Hamburg and Bunte Kuh to sail directly to Helgoland from Hamburg, thus saving time and making it possible for passengers to have a longer stay at the isle of Helgoland.
Wappen von Hamburg (1965) at night
In 1960, HADAG suddenly sold Wappen von Hamburg to a Greek shipping company Nomikos and after the vessel was rebuilt in Germany for cruise service she left for Greek waters as Delos and quickly earned herself a high reputation. Later she was sold again and sailed as Polar Star in northern waters. This was followed by a short stint in Mexican waters as Tropic Star. After another change of ownership, the Xanadu as she was now called, was arrested for debt. She past from one owner to another and never saw active service again. Until June 2005 nothing happened to her (apart from a name change to Faithfull and then Xanadu 2) and she slowly deteriorated being laid up. Suddenly she was sold and as recently as September 2005 she has left Los Angeles under tow to Alameda, California to undergo conversion to a private yacht.
Two years later, Bunte Kuh was also sold to a Greek company, Sun Lines who rebuilt her to the cruise vessel Stella Solaris. In 1971 she was sold to the Sjeik of Quatar who used her as his private yacht Naief.
As a replacement for the Bunte Kuh, in 1963 the Helgoland was taken into service. She sailed on the route to Helgoland for just 4 years when she was chartered out as a hospital ship in Vietnam which lasted until 1972. After her return she was immediately sold to Stena Line and served as a ferry for a short time before she passed on to new charterers in 1974 (she was bought two years later): KG Seetouristik aus Flensburg. She was renamed Baltic Star and sailed on so called Butterfahrten until 2000 (!), day trips where passengers can buy duty free goods on board. After a year in lay up she was acquired by Latin Cruises and after the addition of 46 cabins, the Galapagos Legend as she is now called, today still cruises in the Galapagos Isles region.
Some sailing schedules of 2003 - 2005
(click on picture for larger image)
In the mean time, Wappen von Hamburg II was delivered by Blohm & Voss to HADAG in 1962. She started sailing on the familiar route from Hamburg via Cuxhaven to Helgoland in the summer season and was chartered out for cruise and ferry service in the winter.
Surprisingly, another Wappen von Hamburg III was ordered in 1965 already. Wappen von Hamburg II was sold and from that moment on traded as a ferry for new owners Stena Line. Wappen von Hamburg III was larger than her predecessors: she measured 4500 GRT, carried 1800 passengers and could easily make over 20 knots. In winter, Wappen von Hamburg III could sail as a cruise vessel, as to her 51 cabins could easily be added another 40 cabins. One winter she even went as far afield as the Caribbean as the Lucaya, but this venture wasn't a great succes and it was not repeated the following years. Instead she was given another, stationary task: for several winters she served as a floating restaurant and hotel ship at the St. Pauli Landungsbrucke in Hamburg.
The former Helgoland day cruiser Wilhemshaven in August 2005 at the Mariotti ship yard in Genova where she was rebuilt into the ferry Leviathan for Italian Argo Ferries
In 1982, HADAG ended the Helgoland-service because of financial difficulties and Wappen von Hamburg III was laid up and offered for sale. It wasn't until 1984 before a buyer was found: KG Seetouristik from Flensburg. After removal of all but a dozen cabins, she resumed service to Helgoland, now based at Cuxhaven (only in July and August she occaisionally departed from Hamburg).
In the mean time, Wappen von Hamburg II, after her sale to Stena Line was used on various ferry services in Norway and Sweden. However a few years later when HADAG had chartered out their Helgoland for long term service in Vietnam as a floating hospital and they were left without suitable tonnage for the Cuxhaven-Helgoland service, Stena sold the Wappen von Hamburg II back to HADAG in1966. She was renamed Alte Liebe.
From September 2004 until August 2005, Helgoland (1962) was laid up in Bremerhaven
Sadly, together with her fleetmate Wappen von Hamburg III, Alte Liebe was laid up in 1982 as her owners HADAG-Lloyd got into financial difficulties. She was sold in 1984 to Reederei Oltman from Bremen, was renamed Helgoland and was employed on the Bremerhaven-Helgoland service. In 1986, Oltman sold its Helgoland service to Reederei Warrings, who continiously employed the Helgoland on this route until 1997. Then, because of disappointing passenger loads, she was replaced by a smaller ship until 2000 when the interest for day trips to Helgoland suddenly grew. In 2003 she was sold to Fordereederei Seetouristik aus Flensburg and again became the fleetmate of Wappen von Hamburg III.
However, history is repeating itself at the moment: Helgoland has been laid up again in 2004 in Bremerhaven because of dwindling passenger loads and she has been replaced by the same vessel that took over in 1997, the Atlantis. Unfortunately, Atlantis broke down in 2005 with serious engine problems and the Helgoland service has been carried out with fast ferries the remainder of the season.
Helgoland (1962) at sea
Helgoland (ex Wappen von Hamburg II) has been sold in the summer of 2005 to a Dutch investment firm which has plans to use her as the party ship Supper Clubcruise 2 on cruises in the Mediterranean in the summer of 2007 afer she has been converted to a cruise ship in Turkey.
As more and more passengers choose for the faster catamarans which reach Helgoland in half the sailing time, it remains to be seen how long Wappen von Hamburg III, Germany's largest Seebaderschiff can soldier on. She celebrated her 40th birthday this year and still is in remarkably good shape. Although rumours circulate she is on the sales list also, I was very pleased to see her schedule for 2006 published on the internet, so next season there will still be a (last?) possibility to sail from Cuxhaven to Helgoland the old fashioned way.......
In 2005, Atlantis was chartered to take over the Bremerhaven - Helgoland route from the laid up Helgoland, but in mid season, she suffered serious engine damage and had to be withdrawn. FRS state she will re-enter service in 2006 after repairs have been completed
Atlantis again, she has just off-loaded her passengers
Funny Girl sails on the Bosum - Helgoland service, here she is at anchor at Helgoland