‘The most beautiful ship in the world’ docks in Brooklyn

December 22, 2021 Mary Frost
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Sailing around the globe to highlight climate change

A 278-foot sailing vessel called by many “the most beautiful ship in the world” sailed majestically into ONE°15 Brooklyn Marina at Brooklyn Bridge Park on Sunday morning. 

The Statsraad Lehmkuhl, Norway’s 107-year-old three-masted tall ship, will be docked at the marina until Jan. 4. 

Brooklyn resident Marcie Roth was on Pier 5 on Sunday to welcome the graceful sailing vessel. “I think it’s amazing that this is how people used to sail around the world, and today we are on these monstrous cruise ships,” Roth said. “It’s just beautiful.”

The Statsraad Lehmkuhl (named in honor of Norwegian cabinet minister Kristofer Lehmkuhl), is a maritime training vessel which is fitted out as a state-of-the-art floating environmental research lab. The ship is circumnavigating the globe as part of the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development, and will visit more than 30 ports through April 2023. 

“This is the most beautiful ship in the world,” Captain Jens Joachim Hiorth told the Brooklyn Eagle. 

Hiorth said the global tour was meant “to draw attention to the challenges we are facing as a whole with climate change, and to bring awareness to the ocean’s crucial role. The ocean is both part of the problem, with pollution, acidification, microplastics and rising temperatures, and also most likely a very important part of the solution, if we just handle it right.”

One of the Statsraad Lehmkuhl’s major partners is the Norwegian Marine Research Institute, which takes aboard professors, lecturers and students from around the world, Hiorth said.

Among other sophisticated scientific instruments, “We are towing a hydrophone array behind the ship to listen to the sound of the ocean. Not only the big mammals but also to detect noise in the oceans that is created by human activity. The advantage of doing it on a sailing ship is, obviously, that our own noise footprint is very low,” he said.

Captain Jens Joachim Hiorth says the Statsraad Lehmkuhl is “the most beautiful ship in the world.” Eagle photo by Mary Frost

Research on currents, CO2, krill and glaciers

Kim Holman, special adviser to the Norwegian Polar Institute, described research his institute is carrying out from the ship.

“We will be placing some buoys in the Drake Passage to measure ocean currents and we’ll retrieve them a year later,” he said. “We will be looking at some of the biology in the ocean — carbon dioxide exchange between atmosphere and ocean in particular — and ocean currents. Also, the production of krill, which governs the populations of penguins, is an investigation that my institute is very interested in.

“We do a lot of research on glaciers in the Arctic and the Antarctic,” he added. “How calving is increasing, how warm air and warm water is melting the glaciers, and in the Norwegian part of the Arctic we see glaciers diminishing by 20 feet per year in thickness.”

Steve Paulus sailed on the Statsraad Lehmkuhl in 1973 and again in 2019, 46 years later. Photo courtesy of Steve Paulus

Reliving old memories

“I sailed on this ship for seven months in 1972,” said Manhattan resident Steve Paulus. 

“We sailed from Norway to Africa to Brazil and then back to Norway,” Paulus said. “An American high school had chartered the ship that year. I was a teenager and I sailed all around the Atlantic Ocean, and we learned how to speak Norwegian, trim the sails and do all the work. I was lucky enough to go back a couple of years ago with my son and sail for a couple weeks. 

“The ship is so near and dear to my heart,” he added. “It’s the most beautiful sailing ship in the world … It was the greatest time of my life and seeing it again you relive it. I go back to my youth.”  

Paulus sent the Eagle a photo of himself on the ship in from May 1973 and again in 2019, 46 years later, sitting in the exact same spot. 

Kim Holman, special advisor to the Norwegian Polar Institute. Eagle photo by Mary Frost

Two tugboats to bring her in

“The vessel required two tugboats for her approach, and we had eight line handlers on hand to catch and tie their lines,” said Sam Barrett-Cotter, dockmaster at ONE°15 Brooklyn Marina. “Our outside dock is over 800 feet long, and with its deep water and ship-rated steel bollards can accommodate nearly any vessel in the world.

He added, “As a marina with a special focus on sailing and community boating, the Lehmkuhl is sort of the perfect match for us. Today they offered an offshore wind seminar, and we know we have a lot to learn there from that part of the world. They were gracious to offer our staff a tour of the vessel which we will definitely be accepting.”

“The team has had great experience hosting unusual vessels and we were able to draw upon that expertise to get them situated safely,” said marina CEO Estelle Lau. “Plus it’s a lot of fun to be collaborating more closely with Brooklyn Bridge Park to host the Norwegians, and we look forward to seeing the public down here to enjoy the Norwegian hospitality which we have already encountered.”

This is the fifth time the Statsraad Lehmkuhl has visited New York, starting with two visits in the 1950s. She was the first ship to come into NY harbor after 9/11.

Several educational and civic events are planned during the ship’s stay. The Security Council of the UN will be on board on Jan. 4 to mark the occasion of Norway taking over the chair of the Council this year. A public Open Ship Day takes place on Dec. 27, and is sold out.

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