Our Captain

Moritz Langhinrichs, age 33, shipping company F. Laeisz, Captain of "Polarstern" Hallmark: An attitude deeply rooted in the maritime tradition

Stormy Sea (2019/2019)Federal Ministry of Education and Research

Antarctica: Position 60° 02,8’ South, 029° 50,3’ West

The sea: it was always there. The sea and the light. This special light on Fischland. Between two seas. On one side, the wild Baltic Sea
with its colors and the cliffs. On the other side, the Bodden waters, a bit
brackish with picturesque reed beds. In between the Fischland people.
Proud. Tradition-conscious. "Yes, I'm a real Fischland man.
That's important to me," says our captain Moritz Langhinrichs. We sit in his
chamber on the B deck of "Polarstern", and talk about home,
proximity, distance, security and longing, about this unique ship, about
navigation in the ice, the power of nature, and the beauty of the sea.

Captains's Chamber (2019/2019)Federal Ministry of Education and Research

Two books are on the table. The report of the German polar researcher Wilhelm Filchner on the "Second German Southern Polar Expedition" and a book by the Fischland local poet Käthe Miethe. It is entitled "On a Big Trip." Wilhelm Filchner describes travelling the ice. Käthe Miethe, the thin stretch of land between the two seas and how fishermen became sailors. It is this book that Moritz Langhinrichs, who grew up in a tradition-rich seafaring family, followed since his childhood and also aroused in him a deep desire to go to sea.

After school, training as a ship’s mechanic. Rust knocking, painting, working in the machine, cleaning toilets. "I wanted to learn the profession from scratch, to penetrate the ship," says our captain. Then the nautical studies at the maritime school Warnemünde. Almost there. He joins F. Laeisz, the historic shipping company whose proud Flying-P-liners once sailed around Cape Horn in the saltpeter trade. It would not have been any better for someone like Langhinrichs, despite loving maritime history so much.

First assignments on container ships, then the offer to embark on the research vessel "Meteor" as a 3rd officer. After five months, he is already second officer, sails the following years for science, changes to a security officer on "Polarstern". A new challenge. He gets to know and love the ice navigation. It is the 19th day of our expedition, and it has just started snowing. Almost winter in the Antarctic. The power of ice – does it fascinate or perhaps even scare him sometimes? "Both - and that's a good thing," says our captain without hesitation.

At the Bridge (2019/2019)Federal Ministry of Education and Research

He is a man of clear words. Straightforward and precise are his instructions to the crew. He is responsible for the men and women here on board, for the ship and the science. Expecting friendly cooperation, team spirit and honesty. He’ll take a hard hit, if he has to – that's what his crew knows. Maybe also because everyone here knows that the ice is more demanding than the open ocean.

And when our captain says that we must never lose respect for nature, that's not just a sentence. These are words that come from his innermost being.

"The power of ice is unpredictable. Even with such a powerful ship as “Polarstern”, you have to expect that huge drift fields could capture you with their pressure. Navigating the ice is a big challenge."

Interview with Captain Moritz Langhinrichs (2019/2019)Federal Ministry of Education and Research

He loves this challenge, the ice, the science. Being part of the struggle for knowledge, to better understand our earth, nature, with each new expedition. In this sense, "Polarstern" is always Germany's ambassador of knowledge all over the world.

"Here on board, people of very different cultures and nations come together, and together they search for answers to the important questions of our time. Research connects them across borders, "says our captain as we steam to our next working station.

From his home, the family sent him gifts for his birthday at sea, including a book by Käthe Miethe, which he does not know yet. He will read it. Yes, there is a home port, the wooden boat he bought from a fisherman three days before our expedition, that he will lovingly restore one day, and the historical ice sailor, with which he hopes to sail again with his father over the frozen bay in winter.

Panorama of South Georgia (2019/2019)Federal Ministry of Education and Research

In the Antarctic – Fischland is far and yet so close. History. Tradition. These always resonate. Period. Although, wait, a captain’s picture is still missing. "Uwe Lütgen could, should, would have to paint it." Period.

"Polarstern" at Night (2019/2019)Federal Ministry of Education and Research

Credits: Story

TEXT: Stephanie von Neuhoff

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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