Norges Bank

The rescue lifeboat RS 14 Stavanger

Based on a text by Jo van der Eynden.

The lifeboat RS 14 Stavanger, on the front of the new 500-krone banknote, is a classic rescue lifeboat, built by Norway's perhaps most famous naval architect and shipbuilder, Colin Archer. The lifeboat was built at Archer's shipyard in Larvik and launched in 1901. In addition to its 37 years of active service for the Norwegian Society for Sea Rescue from 1901 to 1939, the lifeboat has had an interesting and varied life as a pleasure craft and heritage vessel.

It is a little unclear why the lifeboat was named Stavanger. Rescue lifeboats were often named after people who had made a significant contribution to the promotion of lifesaving at sea, or after a place, to commemorate a particular incident. Some rescue lifeboats are nonetheless named after towns, possibly because Norwegian shipowners, most of whom lived in towns, gave a regular financial contribution to the Norwegian Society for Sea Rescue according to their ships' tonnage. Or the choice of name may be related to the official application made to the government ministry for naval defence by shipmasters in Stavanger in 1852, requesting the establishment of a lifeboat rescue service for the most dangerous parts of the coast. A third possibility is that the town of Stavanger had distinguished itself during the fundraising campaign that was run to finance this particular vessel.

The RS 14 Stavanger is 14.35 metres long, with a beam of 4.65 metres and a 2.35 metre draught. Total sail area is 110 square metres, comprising mainsail, foresail, jib, mizzen and topsail. It is designed to be "unsinkable", thanks to an extra inner skin attached to the inside of the frame resulting in a layer of air between the inner and outer skin. The outer skin is made of inch-and-a-half-thick oak. The lifeboat sleeps eight. It was built as a sailing vessel and was not motorised while in the service of the Norwegian Society for Sea Rescue.

For most of its time as an active rescue lifeboat, the RS 14 Stavanger was stationed at Titran in Tr√łndelag, a small coastal community on the west coast of Norway that had experienced a catastrophic storm at sea in 1899 that took the lives of more than 100 people.

The lifeboat's main duties were to be on stand-by, ready to respond during the large-scale seasonal fisheries each winter. But the lifeboat was also used as a means of transport for the doctor and to ferry post and food supplies. The lifeboat was usually laid up in the summer for maintenance and repair.

During its years of active service, the RS 14 Stavanger and its crew saved the lives of 42 sailors on 12 boats and 11 sailors on 2 ships. In total, 2,976 boats and 20 ships received help in the form of towing or other kinds of assistance.

In 1939, the Stavanger was bought by Jul. Nielsen for use as a pleasure craft. Nielsen was an experienced and ardent sailor, and the Nielsen family would give the retired lifeboat a new, long lease of life that would bring it to faraway destinations and give it a reputation as the most famous and most admired veteran boat on the Norwegian coast. The Stavanger has sailed over the Atlantic and the North Sea, and in the Baltic and the Mediterranean, as well as along most of the Norwegian coast. Over the years, the boat has undergone meticulous restoration a number of times to preserve the vessel as part of our cultural heritage and as a museum vessel. There are plans to include the Stavanger in a Colin Archer museum in Larvik.

Published 5 October 2018 10:56