Navigational Track chart for the German Nitrate Barque Potosi, 1914

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.
This track chart measured daily progress for the five-masted German barque Potosi on a nitrate voyage from Hamburg, Germany to Valparaiso, Chile in 1914. The ship was built at Geestemunde, Germany in 1895 for the Flying P Line and measured 366.3 ft. in length and 4,026 tons. Potosi cleared Hamburg on 4 July 1914, rounded Cape Horn and arrived at Valparaiso, Chile 81 days later on 23 September.
It was Potosi's last voyage under the German flag before the ship was interned at Valparaiso for the duration of World War I. The ship's captain used the time to train in Chilean navigation and obtained a Chilean Master's license. In April 1917 he received direct orders to prevent the ship from being used by the enemy, so he destroyed its steering gear as well as the standing and running rigging. After the war, new owners used Potosi in the coasting trade, but in 1925 the ship caught fire off the Argentine coast and was deliberately sunk.
Currently not on view
date made
Physical Description
paper (overall material)
cardboard (overall material)
overall: 23 1/4 in x 15 in x 3/16 in; 59.055 cm x 38.1 cm x .47625 cm
ID Number
catalog number
nonaccession number
Credit Line
Gift of Capt. J. Ferrell Colton
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Work and Industry: Maritime
Measuring & Mapping
Data Source
National Museum of American History


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