Gustaf Adolf Mauritz Erikson (1872–1947) was a ship-owner from Mariehamn, in the Åland islands, famous for the fleet of windjammers he operated to the end of his life, mainly on the grain trade from Australia to Europe.
Erikson was involved in sailing virtually his entire life. He went to sea at age 9, was commanding a sailing vessel in the North Sea trade by age 19, and was master of a number of square-rigged vessels prior to becoming an owner.
His ships were bought cheaply as most shipping companies switched to steam ships about the turn of the century; Erikson would often acquire ships at shipbreakers prices. In the early 1920s there was still some competition for the windjammers sold – the shipping company F. Laeisz even ordered new sailing ships in the 1920s – but in the 1930s Erikson owned a significant share of the operational windjammers of the world. In March 1935, he purchased Moshulu, "one of the finest steel barques afloat", for only $12,000.
By the late 1930s, the South Australian grain trade was virtually the only profitable use for windjammers, and then only if the ship owner minimized costs as much as possible. Erikson supplied his ships adequately with crew and supplies as these were necessary for his ships to sail quickly and efficiently, but supplied neither more crew nor equipment than was necessary. Erikson's large four-masted barques would routinely sail on voyages of 30,000 nautical miles (56,000 km) with less than 30 crew.
A young Eric Newby sailed to Australia on Moshulu in 1938–1939, as part of the South Australian grain trade. At the time she was owned by Erikson and part of the last "great fleet of sailing ships". Newby chronicled his trip in The Last Grain Race and Learning the Ropes, where he wrote that Erikson was both respected and reviled by the crew, who knew him only as "Ploddy Gustav". Of the 13 ships which took part in the 1939 grain race, 10 were Erikson ships.
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... Sea 16.6.1942, 9 men drowned, among them the son of Gustaf Erikson, Gustaf Adolf Alca (1937–1947 ex Skåne), composite motor ship, 650 t, built 1919 in Sweden ... t, built 1915 in Oslo.) Kungsö (1947–1971, steamship, built 1947 in Turku, the year when Erikson died ... Sold 1971 to Greece.) Gustaf Erikson also owned parts in the following ships Mathilda (1891–1900, three-masted barque.) Gessner (1892–1899, three-masted barque, built 1854) Ad ...
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“It is not easy to construct by mere scientific synthesis a foolproof system which will lead our children in a desired direction and avoid an undesirable one. Obviously, good can come only from a continuing interplay between that which we, as students, are gradually learning and that which we believe in, as people.”
—Erik H. Erikson (20th century)