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The RAU IX – evidence of past whaling

Explore the eventful history of RAU IX. Go on board to get an idea of the working conditions and technical developments, but also to understand the overexploitation of marine mammals.

The Rau IX, built in 1939, lies in our museum harbour as a testimony to Germany's efforts in industrial whaling. She was the ninth in a series of ships built between 1937 and 1939 for the Walter Rau whaling fleet at the Seebeck shipyard in Wesermünde (now Bremerhaven). Walter Rau was a margarine producer with good contacts to the political elite in National Socialist Germany. Since he needed whale fat to produce his margarine, he had his own whaling fleet built. It originally consisted of eight ships, RAU I to RAU VIII, which carried out the actual whaling, as well as the factory ship WALTER RAU, which received, slaughtered and processed the killed whales directly on site.

The design of the Rau IX was typical for a whaler of the 1930s. The hull of the ship was built according to the so-called Maier form with a protruding stem. This shape meant that the water was displaced from the ship rather than cut through it. This gave the whaler a high degree of manoeuvrability, which was an advantage when manoeuvring in the icy cold waters of the Arctic and Antarctic. On the ship, which is located in our museum harbour, you can see other features of industrial whaling: a harpoon gun, with which larger and heavier whales could be shot, as well as winches and a system of steel cables and double hawsers, with which the killed whales could be secured to the side of the ship and brought to the factory ship WALTER RAU for further processing.


Whale oil and whale products

Whale oil was one of the main ingredients of margarine until the second half of the 20th century. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, whale oil was also used to make soaps, washing powder and machine oil. You can see many such products in our future exhibition. Whale beards were processed into corset sticks, bone meal into fertilizer. And finally, whale meat as food for humans and animals was supposed to alleviate the lack of domestic food after the First World War, which, however, met with little approval among the population. Before the 1930s, Germany was dependent on the import of whale products - especially from Norway and Great Britain - despite its own research in the whaling industry. According to Hermann Göring's four-year plan, Germany was to become economically and agriculturally independent of imports from 1936. Whales and other marine resources played a crucial role in this plan. However, RAU IX came too late for this - the war had begun.


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RAU IX initially sought submarines and mines for Germany instead of hunting whales

Immediately after the RAU IX was built, the ship was confiscated by the German navy, sent back to the shipyard and converted. Under the names UJ-D and U-J 1212 it served the Kriegsmarine as a submarine hunter from 1940 to 1944. From 1944 it protected German warships in the port of Hammerfest in occupied Norway. After the end of the war, the RAU IX was used for a short time by the German Mine Clearance Service on the instructions of the Allies to search for mines, before finally being deployed under the British flag from 1948-1949 for Falkland Shipowners Ltd. in whaling operations. In the 1950s the RAU IX was renamed KRUTT and went whaling for Norway. After 1955 it was renamed HVALUR 5 again, first under the Icelandic flag and then in 1968 for the Faroe Islands.



The RAU IX returns to Bremerhaven

In 1969, the board of trustees of the Old Port acquired RAU IX, which was restored to its original condition in the best possible way. This ship with an eventful history has been moored in the Old Port of Bremerhaven since 1970 and is one of the main attractions for visitors to our museum, which opened in 1975. In 2005, the RAU IX was listed as a historical monument. If you are on or in the ship and read the inscriptions and advertisements in German, Norwegian and Icelandic or see machine parts and superstructures from the late 1930s to the 1960s, you can experience the ship's multi-national history for yourself.

Explore the relationship between ships and the environment with RAU IX

RAU IX will be integrated into our new exhibition on "Ships, Resources and the Underwater Environment" as a flagship of our museum. Photographs, log books, ivory carvings and other memorabilia will bring the history of the German whaling industry from the 1890s to the 1950s to life for you. In our new exhibition we also show the work and life of fishermen and whalers as well as the effects of modern sea use on the biology of the oceans. We show you the interactions between technical feasibility and resource availability as well as the substantial changes in the environment under water. The shipyard models of the RAU IX and the WALTER RAU factory ship will also be digitised together with many other ship models and will be available as 3D models via smartphones, tablets and PCs. In this way, you can also take a journey into history outside our rooms.



Lloyd Register 1949-50, Vol. 1 A-L, Nr. 15804. (Officielle Number 181923).

Lloyd Register Appendix 1949.

Lloyd Register 1955-56, Vol 1 Nr. 16704.

Lloyd Register 1956-57, Vol. 1 Nr. 64761.

Lloyd Register 1968-69, Vol. 1 Nr. 5157315, S. 1356


This ship can be visited within the opening hours of the museum harbour.


Further reading

Ian Hart: Whale Factory Ships and Modern Whaling, 1881-2016, London 2016


Christian Ostersehlte: Rau IX. Schwimmendes Highlight im Museumshafen des DSM, in: Heimat Nordseeküste, Bd. 60 (2008), S. 49–51


Ole Sparenberg: „Segen des Meeres“: Hochseefischerei und Walfang in Rahmen der nationalsozialistischen Autarkiepolitik, Berlin 2012


Johan N. Tønnessen: The History of Modern Whaling, London 1982


Edmund Winterhoff: Walfangdampfer Rau IX(Bremerhaven: Kuratorium Deutsches Schiffahrtsmuseum, [1971])

Lesen Sie dazu auch folgenden Artikel bei RP-online:

Walfangboot RAU IX aus Neuss wird in Bremerhaven digitalisiert



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