From Expedition Vessel in the Arctic to sailing with students around the globe.

This is the Origin Story of Tall Ship Noorderlicht.

How it began

Tall Ship Noorderlicht is the most beautiful two-masted schooner in the world. The ship was launched in Germany over 100 years ago, originally serving as the lightvessel Kalkgrund II in the limestone shallows off Flensburg. Did you know that the story behind Noorderlicht is very special? It’s a story where entrepreneurship, courage, and vision turn dreams into reality!

Kalkgrund II

Noorderlicht’s history starts more than a century ago as the lightship Kalkgrund II. The ship was originally rigged as a three-masted schooner and not equipped with an engine. As a lightship, the ship is always anchored and the sails are only used for emergencies or to sail to the harbor for maintenance. The ship already has a really beautiful hull.

From Lightship to Tall Ship

After her service as a lightship, the ship was converted into a houseboat and then taken into use as the clubhouse of a German sailing club. Unfortunately the beautiful ship was so neglected that hull was in a bad shape.

In 1992 sailors and entrepreneurs Ted van Broeckhuizen and Gert Ritzema discovered the rusty Noorderlicht. The dream of the gentlemen was to make special voyages to very remote areas, including the cold regions around the North Pole.

Noorderlicht starts sailing

In the spring of 1994, the first sailing season in Spitsbergen became a reality. As a pioneer in this unique region, there was much to be done. At the time, there was no offer for people to discover Spitsbergen, so the expeditions were fully booked. The Spitsbergen adventure had begun.

Frozen in polar ice

In 2003, the question arose whether the ship could remain in the freezing cold winter in the thick ice of Spitsbergen. After reinforcements to the hull against the ice pressure and facilities to accommodate sled dogs, Noorderlicht stays in the polar ice in February 2004 in a Fjord in Spitsbergen. For more than 10 years this had been the way to spent the polarwinter. It offered space to hotelguests and researchers. In 2015, it was no longer be possible to hibernate Noorderlicht in the ice due to rising temperatures.

Expeditions around Svalbard

A year later, Gert and Ted, the entrepreneurs from the very beginning, sold the ship to Floris de Waard. Floris successfully continued to operate the Noorderlicht. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, the ship’s operation came to a complete halt in Kampen. A “FOR SALE” sign was placed in the rigging.

Swan Expeditions and Masterskip

In the meantime, another player entered the market. The Swan Expeditions team began rescuing the two-masted topsail schooner Wylde Swan in 2018. It turned out there was more demand than supply. Their Masterskip school-at-sea program became a resounding success. It was time to look into expanding their fleet with a second Tall Ship.


With the purchase of Noorderlicht, the dream of offering more trainees the experience of a lifetime has become a reality. Masterskip now sails for eight months a year with inquisitive and ambitious students on international waters.

Svalbard Expeditions

For the mid-summer voyages, the Masterskip/Swan Expeditions team chose to visit Iceland and Greenland, and that sailing schedule was fully booked immediately. Swan Expeditions then started searching for a second ship, with the requirement that it could accommodate the students of Masterskip and sail to very remote, preferably polar, areas.


This is what we do


Noorderlicht sails with high school students during their school-at-sea programme.

More information (NL) >


Noorderlicht is often seen at Tall Ship events around the globe. Would you like to welcome our ship on your event?

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Let's take a look inside

View the specifications and the inside of Tall Ship Noorderlicht