Meteor III

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Meteor III
Meteor-III yacht launching.tif
Meteor III yacht launching
Owner: Kaiser Wilhelm II
Builder: Archibald Cary Smith
General characteristics
Displacement: 314 tonnes[1]
  • 161 ft (49 m)
  • 120 ft (37 m) (water-line)
Beam: 27 ft (8.2 m)
Draft: 15 ft (4.6 m)
Sail plan: Schooner 11,612 sq ft (1,078.8 m2)

Meteor III was a schooner-rigged yacht built in the United States for the German Emperor Wilhelm II. She was the world's largest yacht built when launched in 1902. The yacht was mainly a pleasure craft, but did participate in races. She was christened by the daughter of US President Theodore Roosevelt. The yacht had a 40-year career with twelve owners. She was requisitioned by the US Navy during World War II and ultimately sold for scrap.


Meteor III, which was designed by Archibald Cary Smith, was an improved and enlarged version of the yacht Yampa which was originally built by Smith for Chester W. Chapin, a United States Congressman from Massachusetts.[2] Yampa passed through several owners and eventually purchased by the German emperor. It was renamed Iduna and participated in foreign regattas. The emperor was so well pleased with the performance of Iduna that he placed an order with the naval architect Smith for the construction of a larger and improved version.[3][4] The new schooner yacht was named Meteor III following the scheme the emperor had going of naming his pleasure craft, as she was the next sequenced Meteor.[5][6]

Meteor III, was built by Townsend-Downey Shipbuilding Company at Shooters Island in New York City and launched February 25, 1902.[7] It took four months to put together from Smith's architectural drawings.[8] Miss Alice Roosevelt, US President Theodore Rooselvelt's daughter, christened the yacht upon launch.[9] The emperor's younger brother, Prince Henry of Prussia, traveled from Europe to New York City to attend as the Kaiser's personal representative.[10] Two thousand spectators were at the 10:30 A.M. launching including President Roosevelt and Prince Henry.[11][12]

Miss Roosevelt breaking a champagne bottle upon launching of Meteor III yacht

Miss Roosevelt christened the American-built schooner constructed for the emperor by breaking a bottle of champagne against the steel side of the yacht. She proclaimed in a loud clear voice, I christen thee Meteor. The yacht up to that point was just labeled job No. 24 by the shipyard. Next to her was Prince Henry, President Roosevelt, and a group of official guests. The time was 10:39 in the morning.[13] As the champagne was still foaming she cut the holding cord to a key block of weights that held the yacht in place on the dock support cradle.[14] Miss Roosevelt used a silver looking nickel hatchet to cut the cord that then released the yacht into the water.[15] Cannons were fired and brass bands were played. There was a twenty-one gun salute.[16][17]

Meteor III yacht leaving the slip way after christening by Miss Roosevelt

Miss Roosevelt struck the bow of the Kaiser's yacht with her palm as it started moving into the water leaving its supports. President Roosevelt and Prince Henry followed her example. Nearby German officers did the same, with some nearly being knocked off their feet as the yacht was picking up speed. Immediately after the yacht was launched into the water a message was cabled to Berlin from Prince Henry to the emperor saying, Yacht just launched under brilliant auspices. Christened by Miss Roosevelt's hand. Beautiful craft. Great enthusiasm. I congratulate you – Heinrich.[18][19][20]

In 1909, Meteor III was put up for sale by the emperor. She eventually was sold to professor Carl Harries of the University of Kiel.[21] She was renamed Nordstern and took part in the Kiel Regatta. Harries put the yacht for sale in 1921 at Barcelona, Spain.[22] It sold in 1922 to Maurice Bunau-Varilla, owner of the Paris newspaper Le Matin.[23] In 1924 Bunau-Varilla sold her to Italian Baron Alberto Fassini. In 1932 Fassini sold the vessel to a Mr. Gillet, who turned her over to Camper and Nicholsons, British yacht brokers. After being on the market for a few months she was sold to the American Francis Lenn Taylor, father of Elizabeth Taylor. Taylor used her for several years as a pleasure craft. He then sold her to Sterling Hayden, who didn't fulfill his financial arrangement, and it was repossessed. In 1940 Taylor then resold her to Gerald S. Foley who later sold her to a Mr. David Feinburg. Feinburg sold her to Nicholas Allen. The last owner gave the schooner yacht the name Aldabaran. The Navy requisitioned her during World War II for service and became the property of the United States War Shipping Administration (WSA).[24]

The yacht had ultimately passed through twelve owners. Some of the owners updated the yacht during their ownership. The vessel during this time had received new engines, radio equipment and a third mast. The yacht at one time was used as a fishing vessel. In 1942 she was taken to Shooters Island by the War Shipping Administration since they then owned her. Aldabaran, previously Kaiser's Meteor III, in 1945 was sold for $2,100 to John Witte, an iron salvager at Staten Island, a short distance from where the yacht was originally built in 1902. The yacht that was purchased by Witte from the United States government was then broken up and taken apart for scrap iron in 1946.[1][25][26]


Meteor III was based on the Yampa design. (circa 1902)

Meteor III had a overall length of 161 feet with 120 feet on waterline and a width of 27 feet. The draft was 15 feet.[27] The sail area was 11,612 square feet.[28] Her cost was $150,000.[29] Meteor III was the largest yacht in the world when made for the emperor.[5][7][30] The emperor left the overall boat layout design to Smith, but participated in the interior arrangements.[31] The interior rooms were paneled with mahogany and decorated in Colonial Adams style.[32] Meteor III, although mainly a pleasure craft with luxury accommodations, did participate in race events.[33][34][35]

Meteor III schooner yacht deck plan layout as shown in The New York Times, January 4, 1902

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Schwibode, Jürgen (2015). "METEOR III". Guardian Yacht METEOR III. arbeitskreis-historischer-schiffbau. Retrieved February 19, 2018.
  2. ^ "The Yacht Tampa [sic]: Mr. Chapin's Steel Schooner Receiving the Finishing Touches". The Brooklyn Daily Eagle. Brooklyn, New York. December 18, 1887. p. 16 – via open access.
  3. ^ Kenealy 1902, p. 128.
  4. ^ Leslie 1901, p. 540.
  5. ^ a b SA 1902, p. 141.
  6. ^ Stephens 1902, p. 121.
  7. ^ a b "Kaiser's New Yacht takes to the Water". Lincoln Journal Star. Lincoln, Nebraska. February 25, 1902. p. 1 – via open access. She is to be the largest schooner yacht afloat...
  8. ^ Thompson 1907, p. 435.
  9. ^ "Plan of the Emperor William of Germany's new schooner yacht Meteor now at Shooter's Island, N.Y." The New York Times. New York, New York. January 19, 1902. p. 2 – via open access. Emperor Wlllliam's new Meteor, which Miss Roosevelt is to christen, will, when launched, be the largest schooner yacht afloat, and probably one of the fastest ever built.
  10. ^ "The Emperor's Yacht, Meteor III, to be Launched next Tuesday". The Brooklyn Daily Eagle. Brooklyn, New York. February 22, 1902. p. 10 – via open access.
  11. ^ Seitz & Miller 2011, p. 319.
  12. ^ Hallock 1902, p. 194.
  13. ^ "Daughter of President christens Kaiser's Yacht / Miss Alice Roosevelt Breaks the Bottle of Wine on Bow of Meteor III". The Salt Lake Herald. Salt Lake City, Utah. February 26, 1902. p. 1 – via open access.
  14. ^ "Kaiser's Yacht is Launched". The Inter Ocean. Chicago, Illinois. February 26, 1902. p. 1 – via open access.
  15. ^ "Meteor Launching". The Buffalo Enquirer. Buffalo, New York. February 25, 1902. p. 7 – via open access.
  16. ^ "Meteor Launched". The Wyandott Herald. Kansas City, Kansas. p. 1 – via open access.
  17. ^ "Miss Alice Roosevelt will christen Meteor III today". The St Louis Republic. St. Louis, Missouri. February 25, 1902. p. 4 – via open access.
  18. ^ "Miss Roosevelt name the Meteor". The Times. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. February 26, 1902. p. 4 – via open access.
  19. ^ "Miss Roosevelt enjoys scene". Chicago Tribune. Chicago, Illinois. February 26, 1902. p. 2 – via open access.
  20. ^ "Meteor Christened by Miss Roosevelt". Boston Post. Boston, Massachusetts. February 26, 1902. p. 10 – via open access.
  21. ^ "Emperor sells Meteor III". The Sun. New York, New York. February 3, 1910. p. 8 – via open access.
  22. ^ "Ex-Kaiser sells Yacht". Daily Arkansas Gazette. Little Rock, Arkansas. February 23, 1921. p. 5 – via open access.
  23. ^ "Former German Schooner has had a varied and exciting Career". New York Herald. New York, New York. March 17, 1922. p. 12 – via open access.
  24. ^ NYM 1946, p. 66.
  25. ^ "Kaiser's Yacht Scrapped". The Morning News. Wilmington, Delaware. July 13, 1946. p. 8 – via open access.
  26. ^ "Yacht Now Scrap". Oakland Tribune. Oakland, California. July 14, 1946. p. 11 – via open access.
  27. ^ "Work on Meteor III almost finished". The Brooklyn Daily Eagle. Brooklyn, New York. February 13, 1902. p. 17 – via open access.
  28. ^ "Sail Plan of the Meteor III". The Sun. New York, New York. February 13, 1902. p. 2 – via open access.
  29. ^ White 1902, p. 569.
  30. ^ "Meteor III tops them all. Kaiser's New Yacht is Largest in the World - He Has Instilled a Love for the Sea - Meteor III's Lines are Very Fast". Detroit Free Press. Detroit, Michigan. March 9, 1902. p. 18 – via open access. Our yachts have not been equaled anywhere else, and by coming here for his latest yacht, which is the largest schooner yacht in the world, he has secured a specimen ship for his naval architects to study.
  31. ^ "Meteor III / The Yankee-built yacht for the Emperor of Germany". Quad-City Times. Davenport, Iowa. February 26, 1902. p. 1 – via open access.
  32. ^ "Decoration of Meteor III". The Sun. New York, New York. February 26, 1902. p. 2 – via open access.
  33. ^ "Emperor's Yacht Coming". The New York Times. New York, New York. November 7, 1903. p. 2 – via open access.
  34. ^ "Four more Boats for Ocean Race". Democrat and Chronicle. Rochester, New York. February 10, 1905. p. 14 – via open access.
  35. ^ "Kaiser and King at Kiel". The Baltimore Sun. Baltimore, Maryland. June 27, 1904. p. 1 – via open access.


External links[edit]