“Alexander von Humboldt” als Name für Forschungsschiffe vor dem Hintergrund seiner meereskundlichen Arbeiten


  • Gerhard Kortum




„A. v. Humboldt“ als Schiffsname, Forschungsschiffe, Meereskunde



A number of special purpose vessels in the world carried or carry the name of Alexander von Humboldt, who had substantial interests in oceanography. However, most of his marine texts are scattered over his major works, and he never finished his manuscript on ocean circulation. But there is a general agreement that A. v. Humboldt was one of the pioneers of marine sciences. He made his own observations on the sailing vessels he used on his expedition to the Neotropics, mainly concerning sea surface temperatures.

In 2002 there was a discussion in Germany about the name of a new research vessel which is going to be commissioned in the summer of 2004. It was suggested by the science community to take the name of „Alexander von Humboldt“ again, as the new vessel is replacing a medium-sized ship with this name operated now by the Baltic Sea Research Institute in Rostock-Warnemünde.

This vessel has been in service from 1970 to 1990 for the Academy of Sciences of the former German Democratic Republic. The first German research vessel „Alexander von Humboldt“ was a fishing trawler (1939). Furthermore, Peru and Mexico operate research vessels bearing Humboldt’s name.

The best known „Alexander von Humboldt“ is an ocean going sailing ship of the International Sail Training Association, based in Bremen. She is engaged in educational programmes and went the South America in 1999 following Humboldt’s route. Thus, Humboldt’s marine legacy is preserved. The proposal to use the undisputed name of this great all-round scientist for the new German vessel under construction now was not successful. A high-ranking jury decided to prefer “Maria Sibylla Merian” (1647-1717), which was suggested by a young student in a nation-wide competition to find a name. As Humboldt 100 years later, she went to South America to study plants and other fields of natural history.



Kortum, G. (2002). “Alexander von Humboldt” als Name für Forschungsschiffe vor dem Hintergrund seiner meereskundlichen Arbeiten . HiN - Alexander Von Humboldt Im Netz. Internationale Zeitschrift für Humboldt-Studien, 3(05), 19–38. https://doi.org/10.18443/30