Since land-based marine research is severely limited in scope, the availability of suitable ships for research at sea was a basic requirement from the start.
Initially, i.e. shortly after the research station was established in Wilhelmshaven in 1928, Senckenberg scientists were able to use boats provided by the navy. However, in 1932 and particularly onwards from 1933, the navy was no longer able to support Senckenberg because its boat capacities were fully occupied by the rapid expansion of its fleet and port facilities, which also demanded a greater involvement of the navy in the maintenance of the Jade waterway.
Independent sea-based research at Senckenberg thus began in 1932/33 with the acquisition of two small motorboats. Initially the main purpose was to be able to take scientists to remote study sites that could not be reached from land, e.g., distant intertidal flats and islands such as Mellum. In any case, with the exception of occasional fish hauls, there was hardly any systematic sampling done in deeper water and larger vessels were therefore not required at that time.
Shortly after the 2nd World War, a variety of seagoing vessels were available for more systematic research in the German Bight and the North Sea in general. This research was initially financed by commercial contracts sponsored by the owner of the shipping company (Sander Jakobs KG, subsequently Jade-Dienst). It was only from 1954 onward, i.e. with the admission of Senckenberg to the funding scheme of the Königstein Agreement (between the Federal and State Governments), that regular budget funds for ship charter were available. It nevertheless took another seven years before Senckenberg (in 1961) was able to acquire a majority share in the fishing vessel “Astarte”.
Finally, since 1976, Senckenberg has been the sole owner of a proper research vessel (FK “Senckenberg”). For the first time in its history, “Senckenberg am Meer” was able to conduct research in the North Sea in an independent and self-sufficient manner.
This historical review emphasizes that marine research is inevitably linked to ships and that the size and type of vessel have a profound influence on the nature of scientific endeavours. However, for the passionate marine scientist, research vessels are not merely large technical instruments but “personalities” to which particular emotional ties are developed.
Marine Biology is severely limited when only researched from land. One of the most important things for the marine biologists, which was clear from the start, would be the ships they had access to for their research.