Book “Cape Race – Eine Biographie” | Polarjournal
A ship that is also still in service gets a biography? In the case of the “Cape Race”, this is well deserved. For the small ship, built in 1963, has come a long way and has had a (literally) moving history, from a fishing trawler in Canada to an expedition ship in the Arctic. Image: mareverlag

Writing a biography is almost a must these days. But the first thing that comes to mind for most people when asked about a lasting biography is a celebrity. Polar heroes are no exception. But, as the word “biography” implies, the written word remains the preserve of the living (or formerly living). Really? May a ship not also have a biography? Nikolaus Gelpke, publisher and editor-in-chief, shows that it is indeed possible and breathes life into a ship.

From the cod trawler built in Canada in 1963, only to be used as a shellfish catcher, to the attempt to convert the ship into a research platform, to its current life as an Arctic expedition ship for a maximum of 12 people. No doubt, the Cape Race has already experienced a lot within her 59 years. And it had also impacted numerous lives. Not least that of Nikolaus Gelpke, the editor of the book “Cape Race – Eine Biographie” (A Biography), because he is also its current owner. On 100 pages he does not simply describe the history and the technical aspects of the ship, underlaid with individual anecdotes. No, he lets the people who were directly involved with the ship and whose lives were intertwined with that of the Cape Race have their say. So not only do the characters come alive again and the reader imerges in the middle of the action, but the ship begins to live. And it lived more than one life so far.

People like Alan Atlas, who knew the “Cape Race” from its time as a shellfish catcher, as well as Milos Simovic, who wanted to use the ship as a media and research platform, tell of the ship and all the people who once inhabited it. Image: mareverlag

A ship is often more than an object. Many sailors used to call ships their one true love and made it their companion. Even today, many people going to sea favor a ship, whether because of its shape or its cperformance on the high seas in wind and weather. But mostly ships have only one or two lives, or one or maybe two purposes of existence. But Nikolaus Gelpke shows in his book how the Cape Race already led 4 different lives or better said, still leads. But what makes it special is that the life stories are cleverly linked to the lives of people who were involved with the Cape Race at the time. For example, there is Orlando Vallis, the first captain to accompany the maiden voyage and the time as a cod fishing trawler, and who was survived by the ship. Or the stories of Milos Simovic, who found the ship rusty and in a sad state at the beginning of the 2000s and wanted to give her a new life as a research vessel and media platform, giving her a new face. The editor describes in an exciting way how the scrapped shellfish trawler became an expedition ship for researchers, film people and guests and how the ship was used as a research platform in the northwest of Greenland. A special aspect in the history of the ship: The Cape Race always kept its name.

In the past, most biographies were written about celebrities to honor their lives and work after their deaths and to preserve them for generations to come. Nowadays, biographies are often published during the lifetime of individuals after they have achieved one or more successes. Here the book by Nikolaus Gelpke is in no way inferior to this trend. Because the last chapter of the book is not the last chapter of the Cape Race story. On the contrary: with the same devotion and love with which the ship had been completely renewed, the editor Nikolaus Gelpke describes exactly this chapter. One notices that it is also his story, a part of his life in which the little ship now plays a big role. And probably for many years to come.

Production information

Title:Cape Race – Eine Biographie
Publisher:Nikolaus Gelpke
ISBN:978-3-86648-678-2
Format:Softcover with flaps in half-linen
Publisher:mare publishing house
Number Pages:100
Weight:219g
Size:L21.4cm x W15.2cm x D1.5cm
First published2021
Edition1st edition
Language:German

Dr Michael Wenger, PolarJournal

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