A historic four-masted sailing ship that’s been a tourist attraction for 42 years left New York City’s seaport district for good Wednesday on a journey that will eventually return it to its birthplace in Hamburg, Germany.
The Peking, built of riveted steel in 1911 with the tallest mast reaching 170 feet, departed under cloudy skies from a pier at the South Street Seaport Museum. The 377-foot-long vessel was pulled by two barges to a Staten Island dry dock where it will be readied for its trans-Atlantic crossing atop a heavy-lift ship next spring.
Once in Hamburg, it will undergo a $25 million restoration and become part of a planned maritime museum.
“The Peking is an important witness of the maritime history of Hamburg,” said Joachim Kaiser, a staffer at the Stiftung-Hamburg Martim. “We will bring her back to her old glory.”
The Peking was one of seven sister nitrate clippers that carried guano from South America that was used for making fertilizer and explosives. It made 34 trips around the treacherous Cape Horn of South America.
After it was retired in 1933, it served as a cargo ship, as a school ship for training German officers and as an English floating maritime school. The Seaport Museum saved it from being scrapped in 1974.
“The best part of the story for me is that the Peking was headed to be scrapped when the museum purchased her, and we’ve kept her alive for 42 years,” said Captain Jonathan Boulware, the museum’s executive director. “In 2016, she could have gone to scrap, but instead she’s got a good home that is all funded.”