SMS Geier

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Bundesarchiv Bild 134-C0105, SMS "Geier", Kleiner Kreuzer.jpg
SMS Geier, 1894
Career (German Empire)
Name: Geier
Laid down: 1893
Launched: 18 October 1894
Commissioned: 24 October 1895
Captured: 6 April 1917
Fate: Sunk 21 June 1918 after collision
General characteristics
Class & type: Bussard-class cruiser
Type: Unprotected cruiser
Displacement: 1,918 t (1,888 long tons; 2,114 short tons)
Length: 83.9 m (275 ft 3 in)
Beam: 10.6 m (34 ft 9 in)
Draft: 4.74 m (15 ft 7 in)
Propulsion: 3-cylinder triple expansion engines, 2 screws
Speed: 15.5 knots (28.7 km/h)
Range: 3,610 nmi (6,690 km) at 9 knots (17 km/h)
Complement: 9 officers
152 enlisted men
Armament: 8 × 10.5 cm (4.1 in) SK L/35 guns
5 × revolver cannon
2 × 45 cm (18 in) torpedo tubes

SMS Geier ("His Majesty's Ship GeierVulture")[a] was an unprotected cruiser of the Bussard class built for the German Imperial Navy (Kaiserliche Marine). She was laid down in 1893 at the Imperial Dockyard in Wilhelmshaven, launched in October 1894, and commissioned into the fleet a year later in October 1895. She was equipped with a main battery of eight 10.5 cm (4.1 in) guns and had a top speed of 15.5 kn (28.7 km/h; 17.8 mph).

Geier spent the majority of her career on foreign stations, including the Caribbean and African stations. At the outbreak of World War I, the ship was in Singapore; she left the port and evaded the Allied warships searching for German raiders for several months. While at sea, she captured one British freighter, but did not sink her. In need of engine repairs and coal, Geier put into the then-neutral United States port at Honolulu, Hawaii in October 1914, where she was interned. After the American entrance into the war in April 1917, the US Navy seized Geier and commissioned her as USS Schurz and placed her on convoy duty. She was ultimately sunk following a collision off the coast of North Carolina. She rests at a depth of 115 feet (35 m) and is a popular scuba diving site.


Illustration of Geier
Main article: Bussard-class cruiser

Geier was 83.9 meters (275 ft) long overall and had a beam of 10.6 m (35 ft) and a draft of 4.74 m (15.6 ft) forward. She displaced 1,918 t (1,888 long tons; 2,114 short tons) at full combat load. Her propulsion system consisted of two horizontal 3-cylinder triple-expansion steam engines powered by four coal-fired cylindrical boilers. These provided a top speed of 15.5 kn (28.7 km/h; 17.8 mph) and a range of approximately 3,610 nautical miles (6,690 km; 4,150 mi) at 9 kn (17 km/h; 10 mph). She had a crew of 9 officers and 152 enlisted men.[1]

The ship was armed with eight 10.5 cm SK L/35 quick-firing (QF) guns in single pedestal mounts, supplied with 800 rounds of ammunition in total. They had a range of 10,800 m (35,400 ft).[1] Two guns were placed side by side forward, two on each broadside, and two side by side aft. The gun armament was rounded out by five revolver cannon.[2] She was also equipped with two 45 cm (18 in) torpedo tubes with five torpedoes, both of which were mounted on the deck.[1]

Service history[edit]

Kaiser Wilhelm onboard SMS Geier in 1894.

Geier was ordered under the contract name "F" and was laid down at the Imperial Dockyard in Wilhelmshaven in 1893.[1] She was launched on 18 October 1894, after which fitting-out work commenced. She was commissioned into the German Navy on 24 October 1895.[3] Geier served abroad from 1897 to 1905, after which she returned to Germany.[3] During the Spanish-American War, Geier was in the Caribbean. On 16 June 1898, the ship called on the port of Cienfuegos in Cuba. She passed through the American blockade of Santiago de Cuba twice, on 22–29 June and 1–4 August.[4] In 1911, she was again sent to Germany's overseas possessions.[3] The ship cruised in the eastern Mediterranean in the autumn of 1912, and was in Egypt when the Second Balkan War broke out.[5] She remained abroad until 1914.[3]

Geier was steaming from Tanganyika to Tsingtao to join Admiral Maximilian von Spee's East Asia Squadron at the outbreak of World War I in August 1914. The ship was to relieve her old sister ship Cormoran then on station there. Geier was in the British harbor of Singapore when she heard the rumors of war; she and the collier Bochum immediately left port.[6][7] On 20 August, she managed to contact the cruiser Emden, which was detached from the East Asia Squadron and operating as a commerce raider. Emden instructed Geier to rendezvous at the island of Anguar, but she was unable to reach the island before Emden departed.[8] Nevertheless, the two ships met at sea the following day; Geier still had Bochum with her. One of Geier's cutters took her commander, Lieutenant Commander Grasshoff, aboard Emden to meet with her captain. Emden then departed for the Molucca Strait, while Geier proceeded to Anguar.[9]

Since she was isolated from other German warships, Geier began to operate against Allied commerce. She scored only one partial success, in early September, at Kusaie in the eastern Carolines. There, she captured the British freighter Southport and disabled the ship's engines before departing. The freighter's crew repaired the damage, however, and Southport made for Australia where she reported the German gunboat's presence. Geier remained at large for another month, until by mid October, she was in need of repairs and short on coal. She therefore headed for neutral territory, and on 15 October, she entered Honolulu. Two Japanese ships—the battleship, Hizen (ex-Retvizan), and the armored cruiser, Asama—had been patrolling in the area. Upon learning of the arrival of Geier, the two ships remained just outside the three mile limit to await Geier's departure. On 8 November, however, the United States interned the gunboat.[7][10]

Service as USS Schurz[edit]

The United States entered the war on the side of the Allies on 6 April 1917. The US Navy seized Geier and refitted her for service in the Navy. The ship was renamed USS Schurz on 9 June, and commissioned on 15 September 1917, under the command of Commander Arthur Crenshaw. Schurz departed Pearl Harbor on 31 October and escorted Submarine Division 3 to San Diego. Arriving on 12 November, she continued on with the submarines K-3, K-4, K-7, and K-8, in early December. At the end of the month, the convoy transited the Panama Canal and proceeded to Honduras. On 4 January 1918, Schurz was relieved of escort duty. She carried the American consul from Puerto Cortes to Omao and back, after which she sailed for Key West. From Florida, she was transferred to New Orleans and then sailed for Charleston, South Carolina on 1 February where she entered dry dock for periodic maintenance.[7]

Assigned to the American Patrol Detachment, Schurz departed Charleston toward the end of April and, for the next two months, conducted patrols and performed escort duty and towing missions along the east coast and in the Caribbean. On 19 June, she departed New York for Key West. At 0444 on the 21st, southwest of Cape Lookout lightship, she was rammed by the merchant ship Florida. The ship hit Schurz on the starboard side, crumpling that wing of the bridge, penetrating the well and berth deck about 12 feet, and cutting through bunker no. 3 to the forward fire room. One of Schurz's crewmen was killed instantly; twelve others were injured. Schurz was abandoned and sank three hours later. The ship was struck from the Navy list on 26 August 1918.[7]


The wreckage rests at a depth of 115 feet (35 m) with the top of the wreck situated at 95 feet (29 m).[11] In 2000, the ship was subject of a Phase II archaeological investigation headed by East Carolina University.[11] The wreck is protected by sovereign immunity and it is therefore illegal to recover artifacts from the site.[12]

In 2013, Scuba Diving magazine named USS Schurz as one of the top ten wreck dives in North Carolina.[13]



  1. ^ "SMS" stands for "Seiner Majestät Schiff" (German: His Majesty's Ship).


  1. ^ a b c d Gröner, p. 97
  2. ^ Gardiner, p. 253
  3. ^ a b c d Gröner, p. 98
  4. ^ Nunez, p. 76
  5. ^ Vego, p. 124
  6. ^ Lochner, p. 65
  7. ^ a b c d "Schurz". Naval History & Heritage Command. Retrieved 5 May 2012. 
  8. ^ Lochner, p. 63
  9. ^ Lochner, pp. 65–66
  10. ^ Halpern, p. 80, 95
  11. ^ a b Casserly, Tane (2001). "Laser Digital Modeling and the Archaeological Investigation of USS Schurz". Stem to Stern 16: 15. Retrieved 2013-12-11. 
  12. ^ Barnette, Michael C (2004). "LOST AT SEA: A treatise on the management and ownership of shipwrecks and shipwreck artifacts". Association of Underwater Explorers. Retrieved 2013-12-11. 
  13. ^ Gerken, Michael (Apr 18, 2013). "Top 10 Wreck Dives of North Carolina". Scuba Diving. Retrieved 2013-12-11. 


  • Gardiner, Robert, ed. (1979). Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships 1860–1905. Greenwich: Conway Maritime Press. ISBN 0-8317-0302-4. 
  • Gröner, Erich (1990). German Warships 1815–1945. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 0870217909. 
  • Halpern, Paul G. (1995). A Naval History of World War I. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 1557503524. 
  • Lochner, R. K. (2002). The Last Gentleman-Of-War: The Raider Exploits of the Cruiser Emden. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 1557505381. 
  • Nunez, Severo Gómez (1899). The Spanish-American war: Blockades and Coast Defense. Washington, DC: Washington, Govt. Print. Off. 
  • Vego, Milan N. (1996). Austro-Hungarian Naval Policy, 1904–14. London: Frank Cass Publishers. ISBN 9780714642093. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 34°11.218′N 76°36.127′W / 34.186967°N 76.602117°W / 34.186967; -76.602117