This lively action photograph of hardy seamen at the wheel of the four-masted barque Herzogin Cecilie was taken on a voyage from Port Lincoln, South Australia via Cape Horn to Falmouth, England in 1935, that journey recorded as lasting 117 days.
The term barque derives from the French form of barge or bark (the etymology of the word is a chapter in itself), in English usage since as early as the late 1500s. By the mid 19th century the French spelling had been adopted and the term had come to refer to any ship with three or more masts and a particular kind of sail plan. Specifically, this was with the fore and main masts rigged square and only the mizzen (or aftermost mast) rigged fore and aft.
This predominantly square rigging is evident in our photo of the barque Pamir (once captained by Whakaraupō Lyttelton Harbour's own Captain Champion). It differed significantly from a fully-rigged (or brig-rigged) ship and enabled efficiencies of cost because less crew were required to manage the fewer sails; 10 men could manage the work rather than the usual crew of 30. Vessels rigged thus also sailed well to windward, handling admirably on routes with strong following winds.
Built in 1902 by Rickmers Schiffbau AG in Bremerhaven, Germany, for the company Norddeutscher Lloyd Bremen, the Herzogin Cecilie was 102.01 m long and 14.10 m wide with a 7.37 m draught. She was named after the German Crown Princess, Duchess Cecilie of Mecklenbeurg-Schwerin, wife of Crown Prince Wilhelm of Prussia; Herzogin means Duchess in the German language.
The elegant vessel built a reputation as one of the fastest windjammers ever made with an early recorded speed of 21 knots. In the first decades of the 20th century, like others of her class, loaded with saltpetre she plied the trade route from Chile to England via Cape Horn. Saltpetre had many uses including as a fertiliser, but it was its primary role in the constitution of gunpowder that drove the trade in that era. At that time, merchant sailing ships could make the trip in around 120 days; Herzogin Cecilie's record for that route in 1903 was just 106 days.
Over the course of her career, in part due to the vagaries of WWI, she sailed under German, French and Finnish flags; interned by Chile at the start of the war she was returned to Germany in 1920 and, like many vessels, given to France as part of war reparations. Subsequently Finnish shipping magnate Gustaf Erikson (aka "Ploddy Gustav”), lifetime mariner and owner of a large fleet of windjammers, bought her for use on the increasingly lucrative grain route from the southern to northern hemispheres.
Post war, with demand for saltpetre in decline, she was put to compete in the so called "Grain Races" alongside other windjammers, battling to be first to get their cargo from Australia to England. There were potential economic benefits for vessels which arrived earliest as they were able to charge a premium for their South Australian grown wheat, but the reputational prestige of record holding for its own sake also held strong sway. Herzogin Cecilie won said races on six occasions with her best effort being 86 days “round the Horn”; that feat was surpassed only by another of Erikson ships the Parma, which holds the all time record of 83 days.
Although we have no record of the Herzogin Cecilie visiting Ōhinehou Lyttelton, she was photographed along the Queensland coast and her pursuits were actively followed in shipping news columns in papers within Aotearoa New Zealand. No doubt the novelty of a "Girl Stowaway" on board added to the public appeal of this fast and glamourous vessel;
"A distinct touch of romance was imparted to the voyage of the Herzogin Cecilie from Port Lincoln to London, a girl stowaway being discovered after the barque had been three days at sea. When brought before the master of the ship, Captain de Cloux, she said she was a music teacher and journalist in Melbourne, and, bored with life in that city, had secreted herself in the hold of the ship when the vessel was lying in the Harbour at Port Lincoln. She declared her intention of remaining in England."
Sun (Auckland) 8 June 1928 Papers Past
In 1936, on what was ironically to be her last journey, she achieved her 86 day record and thus held the second fastest merchant sailing voyage from Port Lincoln to Falmouth via the Horn. Tragically, hampered by thick fog, Herzogin Cecilie grounded on Ham Stone Rock off the South Devon coast and drifted towards the cliffs, wind no longer filling her sails. Although refloated and later towed to safety at the mouth of the estuary near Salcombe, three years later she capsized and sank, to remain at a depth of seven metres to this day. Some of her fittings were salvaged and are held in museums at Captain Sven Erikson's family home in Finland, and at Hope Cove in Devon. The now beautifully restored ship’s saloon graces the Åland Maritime Museum at Mariehamm, Finland.