The 46 meters long two-master schooner “Noorderlicht”(aurora borealis or northern lights) has originally been built as a lightship in the Baltic.
On July 2nd, 1910 the ship acquired a fixed anchorage close to Flensburg. Its name was ‘Kalkgrund’, named after the shallowness where the ship was anchored. In 1925 the name was changed into ‘Flensburg’. Originally, the ship has been rigged as a three-master schooner. The fore and aft masts were equipped with a light. The ship had no engine. From October 1 through to April 1, the sails were bent in order to be able to sail away in case of an emergency. A small engine unit produced compressed air for the foghorn.
The crew existed of 15 people. They worked on a schedule of 6 weeks on, 6 weeks off. As the ship also did the piloting of ships the pilots worked both in their own capacity and in the capacity of deck crew. About a captain serving at the ‘Flensburg’ it was said that:”In heavy weather the old man got seasick, went to his berth and wrote poems!”.
And this story about a gale was told as well: “We had a young captain, he was afraid and had the second bow anchor launched against my advice. It is only a matter of course that the chains were fouled!”
In 1940 the mid mast, 27 meters high, was removed. It was replaced by a deckhouse. A year later the ‘Flensburg’ drifted with chain and anchor in the ice up to Neukirchen. The ship had got stuck in the ice, the ship’s carpenter made a sleigh with which coals and provisions could be fetched from land.
The icing up was the biggest problem. In the cold period every day two men had to break the ice. Through the years the bowsprit was shortened twice to avoid icing up, as -for example- this bow sprit at times reached a weight of 5 tons in the winter of 1946/1947.
On June 12, 1963 the light ship was taken out of service as its function was taken over by the ‘Kalkgrund’ lighthouse. The ship was towed away to Kiel. The ship then was used for a number of years as a houseboat for workers in Flensburg.
Then the yacht club ‘Möltener Segelkameradschaft’ showed an interest in the ‘Flensburg’.
They acquired the ‘Flensburg’ for an amount of 16,000 DEM, whereas it was originally built for 184,000 Goldmark. It now served as a club house for the yacht club. Each member of the club was to take charge of a small part of the ship and thus had to perform maintenance on that specific part of the ship. However, due to disengagement within the yacht club it was decided that the ‘Flensburg’ would be sold to The Netherlands.
In 1992, the in the mean time totally stripped and rusty hull of the ship was discovered in Friesland by its present owners, Ted van Broeckhuysen and Gert Ritzema. Charmed by its beautiful outline and lines they decided to buy this hull for an amount of 180,000 Dutch guilders. They expanded this hull in some 2.5 years time into the two-master ‘Noorderlicht’. The old bollards were placed back on the new decks so as to take the history of the ship along into the new era.
In summer months Spitsbergen was its destination and in winters the ship sailed to the sunny Canary Islands and the Azores. In 2003 plans were made to use the ship in the autumn months in northern Norway to look at the killer whalesover there. In 2004 a Norwegian tour operator approached the owners requesting for the ‘Noorderlicht’ to become icebound in winter in a fjord in Spitsbergen. This challenge was met and after a number of imperative alterations were made to meet the extreme cold weather conditions the ship became icebound in the ice of Tempelfjorden. Thus, the warm regions remained but a warm memory in the history of the ‘Noorderlicht’ and ever since then the ship stays in the Arctic regions throughout the year.