Gustav Erikson and his Shipping Company

Text kindly written by Mrs. Jocelyn PALMER, from Aland Islands
Translated to Spanish by Rear Admiral Roberto BENAVENTE, President Chilean Section.
[sued version] [spanish version]

Gustaf Adolf Mauritz ERIKSSONGustaf Adolf Mauritz Eriksson was born on 24 October 1872, the son of Gustav Adolf Eriksson and his wife Amalia of Hansas farmstead, Hellestorp in the municipality of Lemland in the Åland Islands. (Gustaf later spelt his surname Erikson).

At the age of ten he spent a summer at sea as cabin-boy of the barquentine ADELE, and in 1885 and 1886 he served as cook of the barque NEPTUN. In 1887 he became ordinary seaman in the ADELE, and the following year he was employed as able seaman in the same ship. In 1889 he became steward of the barque ANSGAR.

In 1890 he signed on the barquentine FENNIA as bosun, and the following year as Second Mate of the barque SOUTHERN BELLE.

After attending maritime college in Mariehamn, he obtained his Second Mate's certificate in the spring of 1892. In 1893 and 1894 he served as Master of the barquentine of the ADELE, although not formally qualified for that post. He then attended navigation college in Oulu, obtaining his Chief Mate's certificate in 1895.

After that Gustaf served as Chief Mate of the barque MATILDA and then as mate of the barque MARIEHAMN and later as mate of the barque FINLAND. There he suffered a broken thigh-bone after falling from the rigging, and he was left with a limp for the rest of his life.

Gustaf obtained his Master Mariner's certificate at the college in Vasa in 1900. He then became Master of the barque SOUTHERN BELLE, remaining in her until 1905. In 1906 he married Hilda Bergman, with whom he eventually had four children, Edgar, Greta, Gustaf-Adolf and Eva.

From 1906 until 1908 he was Master of the full-rigger ALBANIA, and from 1909 he served as Master of the barque LOCHEE, remaining there until 1913, when he left the sea for good.

In that same year he formed a shipping company which purchased the barque TJERIMAI, and that November he formed another company which bought the four-masted barque RENEE RICKMERS.

During the 1920s sailing-ships of his fleet were engaged in trades such as carrying timber from the Baltic or Norway to Australia, loading coal there for Chile, and then taking nitrate back to Europe. They also carried guano from Peru to Europe or the USA. The smaller ships traded in the Baltic or the North Sea; sometimes they carried timber from Canada or logwood from the West Indies.

In the 1930s the big ships sailed mainly in ballast to ports in Spencer Gulf, South Australia, where they loaded grain for Europe. By 1935 Gustaf Erikson's companies owned fifteen ocean-going three or four-masted barques.

At the outbreak of World War II he still had eleven of his windjammers left. The OLIVEBANK, KILLORAN and PENANG became war casualties. The LAWHILL was seized by South Africa, and the PAMIR by New Zealand. The other ships lay scattered in various ports. In 1946 the VIKING and PASSAT sailed again, while the POMMERN remained in Mariehamn. In 1953 she was donated to the Mariehamn municipality by Gustaf's surviving children, Edgar and Eva, and became a museum-ship.

Gustaf Erikson died on 15 August 1947 and Edgar took over the management of the shipping company. The New Zealand Government restored the PAMIR to the Gustaf Erikson Company in 1948, when she and the PASSAT made their last grain voyages from Australia to Europe via Cape Horn.

Gustaf Erikson had also been owner or part-owner of several steamers. After his death the Company invested in more steamers and then motor-ships, eventually advancing to ro/ro and sto/ro dry cargo ships and refrigerated vessels. Edgar Erikson died in 1986 and the Company then underwent considerable reconstruction. At the present time, ERIKSON Company owns 20 moderm refrigerated vessels and 5 sto/ro dry cargo ships, medium size. It is now managed by Edgar and Solveig Erikson's daughter Mrs. Gun ERIKSON-HJERLING.

Valparaíso, November, 1999