The former HSDG (Hamburg-Südamerikanische Dampfschifffahrts-Gesellschaft) merchant ship Santa Elena was converted into a seaplane tender in 1915. Equipped with two hangars, she was able to carry four seaplanes, in some cases even six, according to numerous sources. As the biggest German WWI seaplane tender, Santa Elena also had a very active career, including involvement in the famous "Operation Albion" in 1917. After the War she was taken over by France, converted into merchant ship again and renamed to Linios. Captured in 1940 by Italy and renamed to Orvieto, the famous former seaplane tender was active as a troopship. In 1943 the ship was taken over by Germany and sunk a year later during air attack.

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Santa Elena Vital Statistics

Launched - November 1907, Blohm & Voss, Hamburg conversion - 1915, Kaiserliche Werft, Danzig (Gdansk which is my hometown by he way): Dimensions: Length - 137,3 m; Beam - 16,7 m; Draught - 7,0 m; Displacement - 13 900 tons: Maximum Speed - 11 or 12, according to some sources, knots: Armament - 2 x 88 mm AA guns; 4 seaplanes: Crew - 122


Although I prefer battleships and battlecruisers, I'm an admirer of seaplane tenders and also auxiliary cruisers. However, can you say "no" to this strange looking warship, with box-like hangars and vintage biplanes? I cannot. Since there is no kit on the market and I doubt if any producer will release one in the near future, I've been forced to build my Santa Elena from scratch. Due to lack of documentation I thought this would be a rather difficult task. I've started with just a basic plan and a couple of vintage photos - so looking back I should say that the whole analysis phase took much more time than a building process! But yes, it was a very exciting adventure and I'm convinced I'll do it again in the future. There're so many other exotic WWI items to build.

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Dariusz Mazurowski
Gdansk - Poland