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MV Aurora (1955) facts for kids

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Wappen Von Hamburg (1) in 1958.jpg
Wappen von Hamburg in 1958 at Heligoland island
  • 1955-1960: Wappen von Hamburg
  • 1960-1967: Delos
  • 1967-1970: Polar Star
  • 1970-1972: Pacific Star
  • 1972-1977: Xanadu
  • 1984-1991: Expex
  • 1991-2009: Faithful
  • 2009-Present: Aurora
  • 1955-1960: HADAG
  • 1960-1967: Nomikos Line
  • 1967-1970: West Tour
  • 1972-1974: Xanadu Cruises
  • 1974-1982: J. Eisenberg
  • 1982-1984: Pan Aleutian Seafoods
  • 1984-1985: EXPEX
  • 1985-1991: Xanadu, Inc
  • 1991-1998: Friend Ships
  • 2005-Present: Chris Willson
Port of registry:
Builder: Blohm & Voss
Launched: February 1, 1955
Completed: May 14, 1955
In service: 1955
Identification: IMO number: 5088227

Moored at Stockton, CA

38°03′27″N 121°30′02″W / 38.057521°N 121.500494°W / 38.057521; -121.500494
Notes: Original name Wappen von Hamburg means "Coat of arms of Hamburg" in German.
Quick facts for kids
General characteristics
Tonnage: 2,496 GRT
Propulsion: Maybach diesel engines
Speed: 18 knots (33 km/h; 21 mph)
Capacity: 1955 (as a ferry): 1,600 passengers

MV Aurora is a cruise ship built in Germany in 1955. After several changes of ownership and name, as of 2020 she is moored in Stockton, California, and undergoing restoration.


Aurora was launched as the Wappen von Hamburg for HADAG at Blohm & Voss, intended to be used for day-long cruises from Hamburg to Helgoland. Her maiden cruise in the North Sea carried a full complement of 1,600 passengers.

Five years later, in 1960, Wappen Von Hamburg was sold to the Greek Nomikos Line. She was renamed Delos and refitted as one of the first luxury Aegean cruise ships, with the addition of a swimming pool and air conditioning in all cabins.

In 1967 the ship was sold to the Alaska Cruise Line (Westtours) of Vancouver and renamed to Polar Star for expedition cruises in Alaskan waters, then in 1970 resold to West Cruise Lines of Panama and renamed to Pacific Star and then Polar Star for expedition cruises in the South Atlantic. In 1972 Donald L. Ferguson bought her, renamed her Xanadu, and added antiques to her luxury fittings.

As the cruise industry began to fade, Xanadu was sold two further times and then in 1977 laid up and some of her fittings were auctioned. After repossession by a Seattle bank in Vancouver, she was sold in 1982 to Pan Aleutian Seafoods as a factory ship for crab, and in 1984 laid up again, in Tacoma.

In 1985 a new owner renamed her again to Expex and moored her at Los Angeles for trade show and exhibition use. A forty-foot intermodal container was mounted on her stern.

After this venture was unsuccessful, the ship was sold to Friendships, a Christian sect based in Wilmington, California, who renamed her Faithful. They repainted her hull blue but instead of using her for relief work, housed converts on the ship until she was seized by the Coast Guard.

Dr. James Mitchell bought Faithful from Friendships to use as a hospital ship, but resold her to in 2005 Dr. Mitchell sold the Faithful, which by now had rusting metal, fading and peeled paint, and missing railings, to Al Boraq Aviation, who planned to refurbish her as a luxury yacht and had her towed to Alameda. This refurbishment did not materialize; she was declared an abandoned vessel and eventually an arrangement was made to have her removed. In 2010 the Life After People episode "Holiday Hell" featured the ship with an interview with maritime enthusiast Peter Knego on her history and condition.

After seeing a Craigslist ad in 2008, Chris Willson bought the ship from the then owner, a marine salvage dealer who had been ordered by the California State Lands Commission to move the ship from Decker Island, in the San Joaquin River delta, but could not afford to do so. Willson had her towed to Rio Vista, where restoration work began, and then a year later, in August 2010, renamed Aurora, to Pier 38 in San Francisco, with plans to eventually open her as a tourist attraction. The following year, a Port of San Francisco wharfinger gave him three days' notice to move Aurora because Pier 38 was to be shut down due to structural and electrical issues.

Aurora was ultimately towed from San Francisco back to the delta in 2012 and moored at a marina in Little Potato Slough, approximately 15 miles from Stockton. Soon after, the marina went out of business over debts and regulatory problems, so Willson and his partner moved to the ship to watch over it. As of 2020 he is working with volunteers to complete restoration of Aurora, with plans to find a location that will host her as a tourist attraction.

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