09. July 2015 FS ALKOR: 25 Years in Service of Science

The youngest ship in the Kiel research fleet celebrates its jubilee

She spends 290 days a year at sea. There the ALKOR serves as a research platform for scientists from Germany and abroad who explore the climate, study marine animals, observe ecosystems or analyze pollutants in the ocean. Countless students have learnt the fundamentals of hands-on marine research on board.


On Thursday July 9th the ship celebrates its 25th birthday. Numerous active and former ALKOR scientists, crew and shipping company representatives were there to congratulate her.

The ALKOR is a well-established name in the history of Kiel marine science. Since 1966 a ship with this name, named after a star in the constellation of the “Plough”, has been taken across the North Sea and the Baltic. Yet the service of the ALKOR (I) ended after 23 years when stricter environmental regulations and increased technical requirements necessitated an extensive retrofitting of the 30 meter long research vessel. As the conversion would have been too expensive, the federal government and the state of Schleswig-Holstein decided on a new ship. In May 1990 the new, 55 meter long ALKOR (II) was put into service. On Thursday the 9th of July 2015, scientists, crew and many others connected to the ship, will celebrate her 25th birthday. “On May 2nd, her actual birthday, the ALKOR was away on expedition. Because research is top priority for a research vessel, we are celebrating the jubilee later,” explains Dr. Klas Lackschewitz, ship coordinator at GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel.

Many of the scientists congratulating the birthday child, learnt their craftsmanship on board. The ship is used not only for various tasks in physical oceanography, marine chemistry, biological marine science (including fisheries biology), maritime meteorology, marine geophysics and geology, it also trains students. “Lectures and lab exercises are important of course. But those who want to conduct research at sea, should get to know the work on board during their studies,” emphasizes Dr. Lackschewitz.

The ALKOR was built at the Cassens ship yard in Emden and cost 32 million German marks. The ship’s sister HEINCKE was built at the same time and is stationed at the Biological Institute Helgoland (now part of the Alfred Wegener Institute Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research).

During the course of her service time so far, the ALKOR has been on 459 expeditions and countless day trips, amounting to 580,000 nautical miles (more than 1,000,000 kilometers). She has the sailing permit for the European marginal seas. The longest research trip took the ALKOR down to the coastal waters off Portugal. However, the main operational areas are the Baltic Sea, the Kattegat, the Skagerrak as well as the North Sea.

Even though the ALKOR is stationed at GEOMAR in Kiel, she is available to the entire German marine research community. Since 1997, she has been run by a centralized application and allocation procedure in the “Pool of Middle-Large Research Ships”. “This means that the applications for expeditions using the ALKOR are examined on the basis of scientific quality. For the participants, every approved expedition is an acknowledgment of their scientific work,” explains Dr. Lackschewitz. The fact that the ALKOR is at sea 290 days a year shows how popular she is within the marine research community.

Despite this large amount of service, after a quarter of a century the Alkor is still with the times and fully suitable for modern, interdisciplinary research. “For this we have to thank the excellent crew and the technical inspectors from the shipping company Briese, which support us in all our tasks,” underlines ship coordinator Dr. Lackschewitz.

On Sunday July 12th, the ALKOR will be open to the public as part of the open house day at GEOMAR. On the following Monday she will be leaving Kiel once again for a two week expedition on the Baltic Sea.

www.geomar.de GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel
www.geomar.de/zentrum/einrichtungen/wasser/f-s-alkor/ ALKOR
www.geomar.de/n2222 Information on the open house day GEOMAR
www.awi.de/expedition/schiffe/heincke.html Information on HEINCKE

Image Material :
At www.geomar.de/n3903 image material is available for download. Video footage on request.


Jan Steffen (GEOMAR, Communication & Media), Tel.: +49 431 600-2811, presse@geomar.de