Lightship 'Amrumbank/Deutsche Bucht'
feuerschiff sandra langenbach

Anyone who visits the East Frisian port city of Emden discovers a beacon ship called the “Amrumbank” in the Delft harbor basin and immediately asks themselves:

How does such a special ship with the name of a shoal northwest of Amrum get here, and what is the relationship between the two?

Well, the “Amrumbank in Emden was located outside Amrum from 1917 to 1939 and served its purpose there. And the nautical port between Steenodde and Wittdün was set up specifically for the lighthouse ship, namely as a berth for possible repairs.

The lightship lying in Emden today should actually have the addition “Amrumbank II”. The lightship at this station was laid out in the late summer of 1907, after quite a dispute had broken out decades before. It was a question of whether a lightship should be laid out or a lighthouse should be built. In the course of perfecting the navigation system after the change of state from Denmark to Prussia (1864), the government sent the chief pilot Wichers to Amrum to locate the location of a lighthouse.

The Nautical Association in Husum, however, stubbornly advocated the stationing of a lightship approximately 16-17 nautical miles from land, with the open intention being that the entrance to Husum via the Hever was the area of the sea affected by constant strandings (in the From 1860 to 1870 there were no fewer than 41 strandings. For years, from 1867 to 1873, the Husum Nautical Association tried to prevent the construction of the Amrum lighthouse. But the government was undeterred, and on January 1, 1875, the lighthouse on “Groß-Dün” was completed and showed its light from that day on.

But in 1905 the question of a lightship on the Amrum Bank arose again when a spa traffic with large passenger steamers developed from Hamburg to Hörnum/Sylt during the summer season and which was in response to the growing Navy (in response to the growing British fleet). The German government was interested in securing the German coastal area for fleet movements.

None other than the director of the “North Sea Line”, Albert Ballin, turned to the district president with the demand “… to secure the Hamburg-Hörnum traffic, the Vortrapp low should be marked with buoys and buoys and a light ship to mark the way through the land low and the Vortrapp low... In light of a number of recent maritime accidents, the press also took up this concern and threatened “... that with increasing traffic, a catastrophe involving large passenger steamers would not be blamed on the captain, but on the authorities...

Incidentally, the construction of the Amrum lighthouse was forced with similar threats, and the authorities were apparently terrified of such public accusations! At the same time (1906) a lighthouse was built on Hörnum - an almost exuberant perfection of navigational signals - which can only be explained by the military ulterior motives of a state that was entirely oriented towards militarism. The lightship “Amrumbank” was 46 meters long and 8 meters wide and had a crew of 13 men. The ship cost the state almost 260,000 marks, an unheard of sum, and cost 34,000 marks annually in maintenance. The beacon lantern with a diameter of 2 meters was operated with an incandescent burner and gas. The alternating six-week service required the crew to be highly tolerant of the solitude at sea.

Amrumers were only on board a few times. For almost all ranks, especially the higher ones, the “civil pension certificate”, proof that the person concerned had completed their compulsory service in the Prussian military, was a prerequisite.

The first lightship was built by the Weser AG shipyard, but was drafted during the First World War and put on the chain as a reserve ship for the Tönning Hydraulic Engineering Authority. It was sunk in the Bay of Kiel in 1944 and has been lying on the seabed ever since. The second lightship “AMRUMBANK II was built in 1915 by the Meyer shipyard in Papenburg, cost the proud sum of 480,000 Reichsmarks and was first stationed in front of the mouth of the Eider in 1918, then from 1919 to its namesake station Amrum-Bank, where it remained until 1939 . The lightship “AMRUMBANK II” was slightly larger (52.50 meters long) than the previous ship. The crew of 13 men was on board for 14 days and then had 14 days of shore leave.

In 1939 the lightship was taken up, probably as a result of the Second World War, but survived the war years unscathed. But after the end of the war, the Amrum Bank position was not filled again. The light ship was then at various stations and most recently, from 1969, at a position about 22 kilometers west-southwest of Helgoland in the German Bight, and was then given this name. After a total of 65 years of service, the “AMRUMBANK” or “DEUT SCHE BUCHT” was retired, but was fortunate enough to be moved to Emden as a fossil of German engineering not for scrapping, but as a nautical-technical monument to keep the ship in operational condition. The “Museum Lightship Amrumbank / Deutsche Bucht” association has been fulfilling this task for over 30 years.

When the ship celebrated its 100th birthday at the beginning of September 2015, it once again demonstrated its full functionality. Towed by two Dutch tugs from the Emden Delft, it went out under its own power to the North Sea course for Borkum and back to the berth in Emden. Here the lighthouse ship, declared a “cultural monument” since 1999, has long been considered an indispensable landmark, with a wedding room and a restaurant on board and a lively visitor traffic, still looked after by the above-mentioned association, which has to raise around 30,000 euros every year to support the lighthouse ship under color and in all its splendor.

The lightship “AMRUMBANK” in the harbor of Emden is not the only ship of this name on the North Sea coast. There is also an “AMRUMBANK” in the Amrum seamark harbor, namely the new buoy layer since November 17th, 2011 as the successor to the “Johann Georg Repsold”, which had been on station here since January 1st, 1984.

The new buoy-laying ship was built on the Fassmer Erft in Berne on the Weser, is 44.5 meters long and has a crew of 6 men. The transfer from the Weser to Amrum was carried out by Amrum captain Hinrich William Ricklefs, thus rounding off the 135-year tradition of the buoy laying family.

The geological Amrum Bank is an almost 90 square kilometer shoal, starting around 20 km west-southwest of Amrum. The water depth increases from 8 meters to an average of 22 meters, and in some places steep slopes characterize the boundaries of the Amrum Bank. It is probably an original geest island that was only flooded as a result of the post-ice age rise in sea level shortly before or after the beginning of the common era.


Museum info: Museums-Feuerschiff - Amrumbank
Address: Georg-Breusing Promenade, 26721, Emden, Germany
Phone: +49 (0)4921 23285
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