Captain F. Spiess and the German Meteor Expedition of 1925-27

Captain F. Spiess and the German Meteor Expedition of 1925-27

by William J. Emery, Walter Zenk


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Banned from taking naval vessels to foreign ports after WW1 Germany undertakes a comprehensive oceanographic expedition to the Atlantic Ocean to test many new measurement systems and to establish the long term circulation patterns of the Atlantic. Challenged by the proscription on German naval vessels from visiting foreign ports after WW1 a group of German oceanographers from the Institute for Marine Sciences in Berlin carried out a pioneering research expedition from 1925-27 to sample the hydrographic structure of the South Atlantic Ocean. Its captain Fritz Spiess was the primary driving force behind the expedition and the German navy supplied the survey ship Meteor. During this 2.5 year expedition the Meteor scientists tested a great many new measurement systems many of which later became routine oceanographic measurement systems. As a result of their observations the mean circulation pattern of the Atlantic was revealed that has remained valid to this day.

People interested in the history of ocean exploration, the history of Earth science and German scientific activity between the World Wars will find this volume to be an intriguing read. Much of the book has been taken from the original cruise report written by Captain Fritz Spiess (1933). In addition, his role has been expanded to demonstrate his essential contribution to the creation of the expedition, its execution and the dissemination of its results upon completion. The present text comments on the captain’s life before and after the expedition.

In 1934 Fritz Spiess started his second carrier as President of the German Marine Observatory (Deutsche Seewarte) in Hamburg. A great number of so far unpublished documents demonstrate Spiess’s ability to run his dignified agency in the turbulent times of Nazi Germany without becoming a Nazi himself.

Readers will learn how this first ocean expedition, dedicated to the study of the physics a whole ocean basin, helped to provide the background for modern physical oceanography.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781627347129
Publication date: 06/17/2019
Pages: 298
Product dimensions: 5.98(w) x 9.02(h) x 0.62(d)

About the Author

W. J. Emery is a Physical Oceanographer and an Emeritus Professor of Aerospace Engineering at the University of Colorado.

Walter Zenk is a retired Physical Oceanographer from the former Institut für Meereskunde at the Christian-Albrecht's-Universität zu Kiel, today Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel GEOMAR.

Table of Contents

1 Early Years of Fritz Spiess 1

2 Research Expedition 9

Background of the final construction of the Meteor 9

The President of the German Scientific Research Council 11

Alfred Merz 13

The Expedition Plan and its Scientific Rationale 16

3 Preparation for the Expedition 21

The Scientific Staff 21

The Naval Staff and Crew of the Meteor 24

The Ship and its Equipment 27

4 The Commissioning of the Meteor 37

Sea Trials 39

Preparations for the Pilot Expedition 40

The Pilot Expedition and its Outcomes 42

Modifications of the Meteor from Lessons Learned on the Pilot Expedition 51

5 Main Cruise with Fourteen Sections Across

the South Atlantic 55

The Plan of the Main Expedition 55

The Voyage to Buenos Aires 57

Navigation on the Meteor 64

Echo Sounding on the Meteor 66

On to Buenos Aires 71

6 Section I Along 42°S 75

Return to Buenos Aires and the Disembarkation of Prof. Merz 83

Return to the Section Along 42°S 86

First Visit to Cape Town 90

Biological Study Aboard the Meteor 95

News of the Death of Alfred Merz 98

First Brazilian Port of Call 99

Back in Buenos Aires 101

7 Observations on Section III at 48.5°S 103

Visit to the Falkland Islands 104

Back to Section III 106

Geological Research on the Meteor 107

From the Meteor Reef to Cape Town 111

8 Section IV Along 34° and 33°S 115

Chemical Studies on the Meteor Expedition 117

From Rio Grande to Buenos Aires 118

The Southernmost and Longest Section V 120

Punta Arenas, Chile’s Southernmost Port 124

Voyage through Tierra Del Fuego Channel 125

Deception Island our Southernmost Harbor 136

Grytviken Whaling Station 140

From South Georgia to Bouvet Island 145

9 Scientific Data Along Section V 149

Our Third Visit to Cape Town and Dockyard-Overhaul 150

10 Section VI at 15°S and Port Calls

on the West African Coast 155

From Bahia das Tigres to St. Helena 158

St. Helena and on to the South American Coast 160

11 Section VII from Rio to Walvis Bay 169

Current Measurements at Anchor Stations 171

The Stranded British Ship Cawdor Castle 173

A Visit to Windhoek 175

12 Section VIII at 8°S 179

Evaporation Measurements 184

13 Section IX, Bahia to Pernambuco and Freetown,

Sierra Leone 187

14 The Zigzag Profile X through Guinea

and South Equatorial Currents 191

Measurements of Transparency Depth and Water Color 193

15 Section XI 195

Stereophotogrammetric Wave Photographs 199

Pernambuco 200

16 Section XII 203

Porto Grande Again after Two Years 206

17 Finishing Sections XIII and XIV 209

18 Section XIII 213

Para on the Amazonas 215

19 The Last Section XIV and the Journey Home 217

Precious Metal Analyses 219

From Cape Verde to Tenerife 219

After Two Years Again in Tenerife 220

Back Home 221

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