Navigational Track Chart for the German Nitrate Ships Pitlochry and Preussen, 1909

By the mid-1870s, the Pacific guano trade had mined all the available bird guano from the South American and remote Pacific Ocean islands. Fortunately for international agricultural interests, nitrate and phosphate mines had recently been discovered inland in Peru and Chile to fill the gap, and big sailing ships from Europe and the United States exchanged the avian excrement for chemicals that could be mined and blended for synthetic fertilizers and other products.
The German four-masted steel barque Pitlochry was built in Scotland in 1894 for the Flying P Line of nitrate clippers and was one of the fastest of the line. It measured 319 ft. 5 in. in length and 3,111 tons (gross) and set a speed record in 1902 on a nitrate voyage to Valparaiso. In 1905 it was partly dismasted on a trip around Cape Horn. This track chart measured daily progress for Pitlochry from Hamburg, Germany to "The West Coast" (South America) on a 1908 nitrate voyage that took only 72 days. In 1913 Pitlochry sank in the English Channel after a collision with a British steamship.
The Flying P Liner Preussen was the only five-masted full-rigged ship in the world until 2000. Built at Geestemunde, Germany in 1902, it measured 482 ft. long and 5,081 tons (gross). Each of the ship's five masts had six square sails stacked atop one another. The 45-man crew sailed the ship as fast as 20 knots, and it set several speed records during her dozen round trips from Germany to Chile. In 1910, Preussen was rammed by a British steamship in the English Channel. The giant ship drifted onto the rocks off the English coast and sank.
Currently not on view
Object Name
date made
Physical Description
paper (overall material)
overall: 11 1/2 in x 14 3/8 in; 29.21 cm x 36.5125 cm
ID Number
catalog number
nonaccession number
Measuring & Mapping
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Work and Industry: Maritime
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Credit Line
Gift of Capt. J. Ferrell Colton

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