'The Pearl of Norway' | Sunday Observer

'The Pearl of Norway'

13 November, 2016

The world’s oldest working full-rigged ship, SS Sørlandet from Norway arrived in Colombo recently. The ship was on a two-year circumnavigation of the world, with 70 high school students from A+ Academy. During their stay in Colombo they hosted Sri Lankan maritime students. The Royal Norwegian Embassy in Colombo hosted a reception on board and Minister of Ports and Shipping, Arjuna Ranatunga graced the occasion.

“The Pearl of Norway”, she is quite a beauty with her 27 sails. She has sailed the oceans of the world for close to 90 years, most of the time as a training ship, hosting students and cadets. But, her story also has a darker side, when she was used as a prison ship during the second world war.

The visit to Colombo was only one of 44 ports and 22 countries she visited on her two-year circumnavigation. The 70 students on board was a mix of Norwegian and international high school students attending the on board boarding school. They welcomed the Mahapola Training institute where the Sri Lankan maritime students got a real life and hands-on experience of a true sail ship.

The students exchanged valuable experiences about the life as a sailor and mariner. On October 30, 2016, the 'Pearl of Norway' once again set sail and headed to her next port; the Maldives. The ship set sail from her home port of Kristiansand, Norway on August 2015. When she returns home nearly two years later, she and her students would have visited more than 44 cities in 22 countries.

Sørlandet is a Norwegian heritage vessel and the world’s oldest fully rigged ship in operation. She was built in 1927 on the south coast of Norway. She is the oldest of three Norwegian tall ships, the “Great Trio of Norway.” In 1927 the ship owner O.A.T. Skjelbred built Sørlandet for 25,000 pounds sterling. She measured 210 feet in length and 577 gross tons. She had no engines and played a vital role in the education of young seamen from the southern region of Norway, known as Sørlandet .

On her maiden voyage to Oslo in 1927, Sørlandet was inspected by King Haakon and Crown Prince Olav. Later in the same year, she sailed for London with 90 young men on board as trainee crew. She sailed to Chicago to take part in the World Fair in 1933. being the first Norwegian training ship to cross the Atlantic Ocean.

During World War II she was used by the German Navy and served as a prison ship for deserters and as an accommodation vessel for German submariners. She was restored and ready to sail in 1948. In 1958 she was equipped with an engine. From 1980 to 1983 Sørlandet was the only operating Norwegian sail training ship, and the first to open for men and women of all ages and nationalities. Sørlandet had crossed the Atlantic four times in 1981.

In keeping with International Maritime Organization (IMO) rules of the 1969 convention that dictate the measurement of vessels of her class, Sørlandet is now 499 gross tons. She is well equipped with an air-conditioner and in her original condition.

The main engine is of 560 HP. In 1980, Sørlandet went through a full restoration. She had extensive repairs in 1988 and again from 2003 to 2007.