Captain Adolph Albers (1843–1902)


Steamship Line: Hamburg-American Line

Ship's Commander: SS Lessing, SS Allemania, SS Silesia, SS Regia, SS Wieland, SS Auguste Victoria, and SS Fürst Bismarck, SS Blücher, SS Deutschland.


Hamburg America Line Captain Adolp Albers of the SS Fürst Bismarck.

Hamburg America Line Captain Adolp Albers of the SS Fürst Bismarck. The Great Atlantic Liners May 1895. GGA Image ID # 12e6769ba7


Captain Albers, the commander of the flyer Fürst Bismarck, is one of the best-known and most popular officers in the transatlantic service. He is the commodore of the Hamburg-America fleet. Captain Albers has a most notable record. He wears decorations from the king of Denmark for his gallant rescue of the passengers of the steamship Geyser.

The German Emperor has shown his appreciation of the captain's distinguished services to humanity by presenting him with the Order of the Crown, and the Turkish Sultan has conferred upon him the insignia of the Medjidie.

Captain Albers's popularity among ocean travelers was evident recently when many of New York's most distinguished citizens gave him a banquet at the Union League Club.

Among some of the representative men who attended it were F. D. Tappon, J. Edward Simmons, Banker E. C. Benedict, the friend of President Cleveland, H. O. Armour, and Thomas C. Acton. A set of engrossed resolutions were presented to the captain, extolling his virtues as a man and an officer.

Captain Albers, in 1891, completed his one-hundredth trip as a commander in the Hamburg Line. He was born in June 1843. He began his sea career in 1857. He graduated from the nautical school in 1865 and received his master's commission. A year later, he joined the service of the Hamburg Line. He was made captain in 1877.


Captain Adolph Albers, Four Popular Commanders of The Hamburg America Line.

Captain Adolph Albers, Four Popular Commanders of The Hamburg America Line. Home Journal: A Paper of Today, Old Serial Volume 42, New Serial Volume 12, No. 43, Boston, Saturday, 22 October 1898. GGA Image ID # 12e6fb8efd


He has commanded the Lessing, Allemania, Silesia, Regia, Wieland, Auguste Victoria, and Fürst Bismarck, his present charge. No captain has a better record than the Fürst Bismarck's commander. On numerous occasions, he has exhibited his gallantry, and most conspicuously, in his rescue of the passengers of the sinking Geyser.

Captain Albers's popularity among ocean travelers is evidenced by the people patronizing his steamer. He has piloted some of the most influential of our public men across the ocean, and he numbers many of New York's and Boston's most prominent social lights among his admirers. He is a ready and witty talker and most charming companion. Aboard ship, he is courteous but a most rigid disciplinarian.

Albers, later Commodore of the Hamburg America fleet, held several speed records for trans-Atlantic crossings before his death at the helm of the SS Deutschland in 1902.


1,000 Miles without a Rudder

Steered the Deutschland by Her Twin Screws. The Captain Drops Dead in Sight of Port.

Captain Adolph Albers, of the Hamburg-American steamer SS Deutschland, is the latest notable victim of our strenuous civilisation.

The terrible responsibility of commanding the largest steamship in the world, and of steering it for 1,000 miles without a rudder, broke the veteran captain's heart, and he died in the chart-house of his vessel as she came in tight of her port. No captain had ever been subjected to such a strain before.

For three days and nights Captain Albers stood in his charthouse and steered his great steamship, 687 feet in length, by means of two screws alone. When tho rudder of the Deutschland broke, on April 26, the vessel was 400 miles from land. The nearest point was Bishop's Rock.

Hundreds of lives and millions of dol- lars were at stake. In theory it was quite possible to steer a rudderless twin- screw steamer with the two screws alone, but as a matter of fact it had never been done before by the captain of any large vessel.

To steer a ship without a rudder is Uko driving a team of horses without reins by touching up first one horse and then tho other.

It requires constant attention and sig- nalling to the engineer's department. Five minutes' carelessness or bad judgment would bring the great steamer out of her course and set her roiling like a log through the trough of the sea.

Captain Albers at once set her courso for Bremerhaven, landed his passengers safely, aud then put out for Cuxhaven and Belfast, where the vessel was to be repaired. For 72 hours, with only an occasional wink of sleep, Captain Albers stood in his charthouse.

For 1,000 miles through the choppy waters of the North Sea he steered the great steamship without a rudder. He endured the terrific strain until the port of Cuxhaven came in sight, and then without a word fell into the arms of his first officer, dying in a few minutes.

Captain Albers was a man of vigorous and robust constitution. His good health had boen his boast and pride, it was not disease or physical weakness, but the mental strain that killed him.

For twenty-five years Captain Albers commanded tho largest steamships in the world without a single serious accident. He was the commodore of the Hamburg-American fleet, the only captain who was entitled to wear three stars on his collar.

He was bom in Stettin, on the Baltic Sea, nearly 59 years ago. At the age of thirteen he shipped as a cabin boy on a West India schooner. In 1866, he joined the service of tho Hamburg-American line as third officer, and in 1877 was given the command of a West India steamer.

To American tourists, he became best known as the captain of the Fürst Bismarck. Captain-Albers was the dean of the transtlantic fleet. Kings and Emperors honored him with docorations.

In his home are hundreds of tokens of esteem from the passengers whom he had safely, carried.

He expected to retire at the close of this season, and spend the remainder of his life at his home in Stettin.

Several years ago a banquet was given him at the Union League Club in celebration of his one hundredth trip across the Atlantic.


Captain Albers Commanding the SS Deutschland

The Deutschland left Bremerhaven on the 5th of July 1900, commanded by Captain Adolf Albers, with a stop at Cherbourg and Plymouth bound for New York. She crossed Sandy Hook in 5 days, 11 hours, and 5 minutes, with an average of 23,51 knots.

She won the blue riband from Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse; the fanfare in Germany and the U.S. was enormous. His Majesty Kaiser Wilhelm II sent a telegram to HAPAG with the words "Bravo Deutschland!" congratulating her on breaking the record.

They broke the eastbound record on the way back, averaging 23.38 knots. With five days, 11 hours, and 45 minutes. However, it became apparent among the fanfare that the ship had big vibration problems, especially when reaching high speeds.

Second class passengers felt it the worst as they were situated in the stern of the vessel where the vibrations were the strongest. A year later, she was drydocked in Stettin, where her propellers were replaced to try to minimize the problem to no avail.

In March 1902, she played a role in the Deutschland incident. When she was carrying Prince Henry, the brother of the Kaiser, back to Europe from a highly publicized visit to the United States, the ship was prevented from using her Slaby-d'Arco system of wireless telegraphy as the Marconi radio stations refused its radio traffic through their nets and blocked the rival system.

Prince Henry—who tried to send wireless messages to the U.S. and Germany—was outraged. During a later conference, the Marconi company was forced to give access to their stations to other companies. This incident was one of the crucial moments in the early history of wireless transmission.

Also, in 1902, during a rough storm returning from New York, Deutschland's whole rudder and a part of her keel were ripped off her stern; the ship had to be maneuvered to Europe and the dock using only her propellers.

This exhausted Captain Albers to such an extent that during her docking in Bremerhaven, he collapsed in the chart room in the hands of his 1st Officer and died of a heart attack.


Death of Captain A. Albers

Belief that Recent Accident to the Deutschland Caused It.

Ocean Career of the Hamburg-American Commodore, who many Time Held the Blue Ribbon of the Sea.

BERLIN, April 29.—Capt. Adolph Albers of The Hamburg-American liner Deutschland fell dead from heart disease in the chart house of his vessel as she was approaching the port of Cuxhaven. He expired in the arms of his first officer, who caught him as he fell—the long hours spent by Capt. Albers on the vessel's bridge after the recent loss of her rudder at sea probably hastened his collapse.

As the senior Captain of the Hamburg-American Steam Packet Company, Captain Albers expected to retire after a few more trips.

Emperor William sent a telegram to the Hamburg-American Company, expressing his sorrow at the loss of an excellent and capable officer who brought my brother from the United States. The Kaiser adds:

"The steering of the rudderless Deutschland with her screws on her last homeward trip was a master stroke of seamanship. Honor to his memory."

News of the death of Capt. Albers was received yesterday in this city at the offices of the Hamburg-American Line. Emil L. Boas, the agent of the line, expressed the belief that the death of Capt. Albers was brought about by excitement about the recent accident on his ship when she was disabled at sea by the loss of her rudder on the voyage from New York to Hamburg. An examination has shown that due to the accident, the Deutschland must be laid up for some time.

Capt. Albers had been, for many years, Commodore of the Hamburg-American Line. The King of Denmark had decorated him for his gallant rescue of the passengers of the steamship Geyser.

He also wore the German Order of the Crown, which had been presented to him by Emperor William for distinguished services on several occasions. He was also entitled to wear the insignia of the Madjidjie conferred upon him by the Sultan of Turkey.

Born in 1843, Capt. Albers began his career on the sea in 1857. He spent almost all his active maritime life in the Hamburg-American Line service. He graduated from a German nautical school in 1865, and his first voyage was made to the West Indies. In 1S6S, he entered the benefit of the Hamburg-American Line.

It was not until 1877 that he was raised to a Captain. Since that time, among other steamships, he had commanded the following: Lessing, Allemanla, Ailesia, Rugia, Auguste-Victoria, Weiland, Fürst Bismarck, and the Deutschland. Capt. Albers had been singularly fortunate in avoiding mishaps to the vessels under his command, which was one reason stated yesterday why he should have taken the loss of the rudder of the Deutschland so much to heart.

Capt. Albers was popular among transatlantic travelers and had many acquaintances in this city. Some time ago, a complimentary dinner was given to him in the Union League Club in this city by many well-known business people who, at various times, had crossed the Atlantic under his charge.

Thomas Acton, J. Edward Simmons, E. C. Benedict, and H. O. Armour were present on that occasion. A set of engrossed resolutions was presented to him upon the conclusion of the dinner. On March 11, as commander of the Deutschland, Capt. Albers took Prince Henry and his suite back to Germany after they visited this country.

On the last trip to this port, he brought, among the other passengers, Miss Stone, the missionary whom brigands had captured, and Santos-Dumont.

Capt. Albers had a notable record as a record-breaker in crossing the Atlantic. Several vessels under his command held the blue ribbon of the sea for a fast time.

Although he never crowded a ship up to her limit to lower the ocean record, he was believed to have a peculiar faculty in getting the highest speed out of her without incurring more than the minimum risk. However, he was very fond of New York.

Capt. Albers made his home in Hamburg, where a wife and two daughters survived him.



"1,000 Miles Without a Rudder," in The Mercury, Tasmania: Hobart, Wednesday, 20 July 1902, p. 2.

"Death of Capt. A. Albers," in The New York Times, Wednesday, 30 April 1902, P. 9, Col. 1.


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