MS Schwabenland (1925)

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Schwabenland before 1939
Weimar / Nazi Germany
Name: MS Schwabenland
Namesake: The region of Swabia in Germany
Launched: 1925
Refit: 1934
Fate: Loaded with poison gas shells and scuttled, 31 December 1946
General characteristics
Type: Steamship
Tonnage: 8,500 GRT
Propulsion: Twin diesel screws
Speed: 12 knots (22 km/h; 14 mph)
Aviation facilities: Crane and catapult for flying boats

MS Schwabenland was a German catapult ship owned by the Deutsche Luft Hansa. It took part in the 1938-1939 Third German Antarctic Expedition.[1]


Schwabenland was a Hansa liner of 8,500 gross register tons (GRT), built in 1925. It was converted into a catapult ship in 1934; a Heinkel-built K-9 catapult was installed on the ship's stern, along with a crane for lifting aircraft. The K-9 could accelerate a 15-ton aircraft to 94 miles per hour (151 km/h). Schwabenland's twin diesel screws gave it a speed of 12 knots (22 km/h; 14 mph).[2]

Lufthansa air mail[edit]

Lufthansa sought to engage in air mail service to the Americas using seaplanes launched off catapult ships, with Schwabenland being the second of those ships. The craft flew with a payload of 500 kg (1,100 lb) over 5,000 kilometres (3,100 mi);[3] each flight carried 100,000 air mail letters.[4]

Two Dornier Do 18 Lufthansa seaplanes christened Zephir and Aeolus were used for air mail flights from the Azores to the United States and from Fernando de Noronha to Natal.[5]

Third German Antarctic Expedition[edit]

Schwabenland was borrowed from Lufthansa for the 1938-1939 Third German Antarctic Expedition. The ship sailed in secret from Hamburg on 17 December 1938, carrying a complement of 82 men and two Dornier Wal seaplanes. The ship contacted the German whaling fleet off Bouvet Island, then anchored near the edge of the pack ice at 69°14′S, 4°30′W. After the expedition had completed its work, Schwabenland headed north on 6 February 1939, reaching Germany again on 11 April.[6]

World War II and fate[edit]

Schwabenland with two seaplanes near catapult, 1939

In October 1939 Schwabenland entered Luftwaffe service and used Blohm & Voss BV 138 seaplanes. After the fall of France it was stationed off the coast of Occupied France, based from the ports of Le Havre and Boulogne.[7]

In August 1942 it was transferred to Tromsø, Norway.[8]

The ship was damaged and forced to beach by the British submarine Terrapin in 1944 which was attacking a convoy off Flekkefjord, Norway. Schwabenland was then run aground at Sildeneset in Abelnes Harbour, and later refloated. When the war ended, the ship was taken by the British, and on 31 December 1946 it was loaded with poison gas ammunition, and scuttled in the Skagerrak.[9]


  1. ^ "The Schwabenland in the Antarctic". The Geographical Journal. The Royal Geographical Society (with the Institute of British Geographers). 95 (1): 52–54. January 1940. doi:10.2307/1788684. JSTOR 1788684.
  2. ^ Marriott, Leo (2006). Catapult aircraft : the story of seaplanes flown from battleships, cruisers and other warships of the world's navies, 1912-1950 (1. publ. in Great Britain. ed.). Barnsley: Pen & Sword Aviation. pp. 101–105. ISBN 184415419X.
  3. ^ Dancey, Peter Lufthansa to Luftwaffe-Hitlers: Secret Air Force Lulu Press, Inc, 12 Mar 2013
  4. ^ "80th anniversary of trailblazing airmail flight across the South Atlantic". Lufthansa Group. Deutsche Lufthansa AG. 30 January 2014. Archived from the original on 29 September 2014. Retrieved 3 September 2015.
  5. ^ Grosschopff, Robert (2010). "South Atlantic Mail Services". Retrieved 3 September 2015.
  6. ^ Mills, William James; et al. (2003). Exploring polar frontiers : a historical encyclopedia (Volume 1). Santa Barbara, Calif. [u.a.]: ABC-CLIO. pp. 552–553. ISBN 978-1576074220.
  7. ^ p. 420 Warship International, Volume 27 International Naval Research Organization, 1990
  8. ^ Page 420 Warship International - Volume 27 1990
  9. ^ Greenway, Ambrose (2011). Cargo liners : an illustrated history (New ed.). Barnsley: Seaforth Pub. p. 66. ISBN 978-1848321298. Retrieved 3 September 2015.


  • Caruana, Joseph; Grobmeier, Alvin H.; Layman, R. D. & Truebe, Carl E. (1990). "Question 33/89". Warship International. XXVI (4): 417–420. ISSN 0043-0374.
  • Murphy, David Thomas (2002). "Aryan Aurora". German Exploration of the Polar World : A History, 1870–1940. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press. pp. 183–207. ISBN 0-8032-3205-5.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 58°10′22″N 10°45′24″E / 58.1728°N 10.7567°E / 58.1728; 10.7567