Karl Helbig (explorer)

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Karl Helbig in Hildesheim on July 18, 1988 after being awarded the Federal Cross of Merit

Karl Martin Alexander Helbig (born March 18, 1903 in Hildesheim , † October 9, 1991 in Hamburg ) was a German explorer , geographer and ethnologist . His travels took him to Java , Sumatra , Borneo and Central America, among others .

Helbig's works are characterized by keen observation, instructive content and clear, understandable language. In addition to his scientific work on geography and ethnography, he wrote popular travel reports, books for young people and adventure novels in which he presented his experiences to a wider public in a haunting and entertaining way. The same applies to the lectures he gave in schools and scientific institutes in Germany and abroad.

Helbig was awarded the Federal Cross of Merit on ribbon and the State Prize for Science of Mexico .


Since the last quarter of the 19th century, professional surveying expeditions have been active on behalf of the Dutch-East Indian colonial government, which have recorded and mapped wide areas of the Malay Archipelago over decades . The achievements of Karl Helbig deserve all the more recognition, who still managed to wipe out blank spots with traditional field research in the 1930s. He succeeded not only on the island of Borneo , the interior of which was largely unexplored, but also - following the research that Franz Wilhelm Junghuhn and Hermann von Rosenberg began in the southern Batak countries - on the island of Sumatra, which was already relatively well developed at the time .

His travels in Central America were no less important. Here, too, Helbig entered unexplored areas. In Chiapas and northeast Honduras , his research led to a fundamental revision of the existing map material.

Helbig's research was not limited to surveys of the country, which he - as a scientist on his own - could only carry out in broad outline, but also included geological, botanical, climatographic, ethnological and economic geographic studies. In his endeavors to design all-encompassing overall representations, he often saw himself as the successor to his role model Junghuhn, whose writings he admired. The intensity with which he studied all available sources for this versatility, showing his two thematically organized and annotated bibliographies on rear and island India and Borneo.

Adolescent years

Karl Helbig was born on March 18, 1903 as the son of the engineer Otto Helbig and his wife Ida, née Manß, in Hildesheim . In 1912 he moved from pre-school to the secondary school there and passed his matriculation examination in 1921. In between, from 1919 to 1920, he served as a volunteer in the Eastern Border Guard .

A difficult time followed for Helbig. In winter 1921, he was working up to 900 meters deep at 42 ° C as a conveyor man in a Kalisz night at Diekholzen . His mother died at the end of 1921, and after his father suffered a severe heart attack in the spring of 1922, he was forced to look after his sister Elisabeth, his father and himself alone. After working as an exporter in a Thuringian brick factory, as a worker on a farm near Peine and as a helper on a stud near Celle, he began studying agriculture at the University of Göttingen in autumn 1922 . His attempt to finance his studies and family maintenance as a stoker in a Göttingen hospital failed because of the inflation, whereupon he had to break off his studies in the summer of 1923.

His irresistible urge to get to know the big wide world eventually brought him to merchant shipping , where he served as a coal trimmer and ship heater until 1951 and then as a greaser and purser assistant . His overseas passages were free of charge and with the wages he could at least partially finance the excursions he carried out with minimal effort.

His first voyage was in 1923 on the steamer Drachenfels through the Red Sea to India, with stops in Karachi , Bombay , Colombo and Calcutta . In the port of Calcutta he received a letter from his sister with the news of his father's death. On their return to Hamburg, the two siblings had become so penniless due to the inflation that the urn with the father's ashes had to be secretly buried in the Eisenach family grave at night.

Eight more sea voyages followed before his study visit to Java . Called at over 60 ports in the Malay Archipelago, in Mexico and the West Indies, in the Mediterranean in Istanbul and on the Levant coast .

Study and dissertation

In the fall of 1927, Helbig enrolled at the University of Hamburg . When Siegfried Passarge he heard Geography, Schultz and Schott Oceanography in Lütgens economic geography in Kuhlbrodt climatology at Georg Gürich , Karl Gripp and Johann Wysogórski Geology and Paleontology in Dempwolff and Aichele Indonesian languages . He financed his studies with late and night shifts as a dock worker.

Helbig was on leave in the summer semester of 1929. With the consent of his doctoral supervisor Siegfried Passarge, he traveled to Java as a stoker on the Menes steamer . He stayed in Batavia and its surroundings for nine months . With financial support from Emil Helfferich , director of a German planting syndicate, Helbig collected material for his dissertation, which dealt with the development, structural structures, and economic, colonial and cultural significance of the capital of the Dutch East Indies , Batavia. The result of this work, the dissertation Batavia , with pictures, maps and drawings . A tropical urban landscape study within the framework of the island of Java was rated with distinction on June 28, 1930 by the mathematics / natural science faculty of the University of Hamburg; it was the very first scientific representation of a tropical urban landscape.

Since its area of ​​influence was also important for the development of the city of Batavia, trips to Java and its neighboring island Madura were undertaken as part of these studies . Volcanoes and high plateaus were climbed and areas of retreat that were rarely used were examined. In 1929 he published his first work, Eine Diengwanderung , which was followed in 1935 by the essays Der Kendeng, a limestone landscape on southeast Java and the construction and image of the island of Java . One of the most successful fiction publications is his book Ferne Tropen-Insel Java , a youth story about the life of a farmer boy in a Javanese village on the western slope of the Merapi volcano . He kept his travel experiences in his book At Mahamerus Feet. Walks on Java stuck.

Research on Sumatra

On September 4, 1930 Helbig drove as a washer on the steamer S. S. Menes from Hamburg to Sumatra. Belawan , the port of Medan on the Strait of Malacca , was not reached until October 19 .

For almost a year, extensive areas south-east and south of Lake Toba and the island of Nias off the west coast were explored. Accompanied by only one local porter, Helbig covered more than 2,000 kilometers on foot, some of which were still unknown. The research area extended on the one hand to the Batak lands south and southeast of Lake Toba, which are at a healthy altitude, and on the other hand to the sultanates of Asahan, Kualu, Bila, Kota Pinang and Pane in the former province of "East Coast of Sumatra" in the hot and unhealthy lowlands. These landscapes had never been described coherently before Helbig's research, and the extensive Simanalaksagebirge, often referred to as the "Bila chains", as well as large parts of the Habinsaran and Dolok landscapes were geographically and geologically largely unknown. Helbig chose a mission house in Parsoburan in Habinsaran as the base. His longest hike from here was over three months. His three-week visit to the Orang Lubu, a remnant of the indigenous population of northern Sumatra, who lived with only 2190 individuals on the eastern slopes of the Mandailing steppe valley in central Sumatra, was ethnologically significant in the summer of 1931. His main aim here was to record the language of this dying people for posterity.

Only after his return from Sumatra, on January 14, 1932, was he given his doctoral certificate in Hamburg. A few months later, on May 14th, he got engaged to Liselotte Siebrecht, daughter of Heinrich and Doris Siebrecht, in his home town of Hildesheim. There was no marriage.

Helbig's travel routes in North Sumatra and on the island of Nias. Simplified according to Figure 4 in his study Contributions to the cultural studies of Sumatra. Observations between Asahan and Barumun, Lake Toba and Malaka Strait .

The results of his travels in Sumatra have been considerable. Twenty articles have been published in specialist journals, daily newspapers and other organs. Most scientifically valuable is the study Contributions to the regional studies of Sumatra. Observations between Asahan and Barumun, Lake Toba and Malaka Strait. The eight contributions that Helbig published in 1931 under the modest collective title Lesser-Known Subregions of the Bataklande on Sumatra in the magazine Deutsche Wacht in Batavia , which have almost been forgotten, are also valuable : Habinsaran , Am Oberlauf des Koealoe , Die Bila-Ketten , Das Tal des Pahae , The high valley of Sipirok , the mountains of the Dolok , the grass steppes of the Padang Lawas , the Pane and Bila area . In addition to these geographical and geological representations, there were ethnographic essays about the Toba-Batak , which deal with all aspects of their daily life, from their view of nature and religion, through settlement and house building, to their moral conditions. A geographically and ethnologically substantial travelogue was published in 1934 under the title Tuan Gila - a crazy man walks on the equator . This title was awarded to Helbig by the Batak: It can only be a “crazy gentleman” who walks in the company of just one helper in the blazing sun over the steppes!

In the highlands of North Sumatra, Helbig came across a tea plantation that was run by the German Heinrich Gundert family. Inspired by a deep friendship with the five-year-old son of this family, which lasted until the end of his life, he wrote his book for young people Til comes to Sumatra. The life of a German boy in the tropics.

Crossing the island of Borneo

After voyages to the Caribbean, the European North Cape , Leningrad and once again to Central America, Helbig began his largest and most arduous journey in November 1936. As the only ship heater in the world with a doctorate, he traveled to Batavia on the Hanau cargo ship . After initial studies in West Java and on the tin islands of Bangka and Belitung , he arrived in Pontianak on the west coast of Borneo in April 1937 . From here he began one of the most courageous expeditions of the prewar period: While other researchers almost invariably used the waterways, Helbig was the first to cross the island of Borneo on a 3000 km long zigzag path through impassable jungle, mostly on foot. He succeeded in this achievement with only one white companion, the German seafaring comrade Erich Schreiter, and with three, at most four local, mostly female porters, who were changed from village to village. Rarely has a research trip been carried out on this scale with such little material expenditure.

The expedition initially led along the west coast towards Sarawak . In the mountains in the north-west of what was then the "Wester-Afdeeling" (western section), the Dayak tribes of the Songkong, Ketungan and Iban were visited. From there the hike went to Sanggau, Sekadau and Sintang on the Kapuas River and again north towards Sarawak. After circumnavigating the lake area of ​​the upper Kapuas, Putussibau was reached on the upper reaches of this river; then the Madi plateau was crossed in a southerly direction. Accompanied by only three porters, the Schwaner Mountains were conquered, an undertaking that was associated with great hardship due to the transport of a boat. Beyond this watershed, in the “Zuider- en Ooster-Afdeeling” (south and east department), Helbig and Schreiter drove down the Kahayan river, visited the Ngaju and Ot-Danum-Dayak and accepted in Tumbang-Mahuroi a nightly death ritual. Moving on in an easterly direction, they crossed the headwaters of the "small" Kapuas and Barito and reached the upper Mahakam at Tering and Longiram . Following this river downstream, they came to the wide lake area on its lower reaches and sailed into Jempang Lake in a boat. The end point of the west-east crossing, which was completed with numerous detours and detours, was the city of Samarinda above the Mahakam Delta.

From here I crossed the south-eastern part of Borneo, along an oil pipeline through the coal and oil region between Samarinda and Balikpapan , through the grass steppes of Pasir, inhabited by Mohammedan Kutai and Pasirese, and over the Meratus Mountains into the densely populated river basin of the lower Barito. In November 1937, eight months after leaving Pontianak, the expedition ended in Banjarmasin in southern Borneo.

Helbig's zigzag march through Borneo. In simplified terms, according to the folding map in his work A crossing of the island of Borneo (Kalimantan). According to the diaries from 1937.

At the age of 86, Helbig was interviewed by the film producer Sonja Balbach in his apartment in Hamburg-Altona about this trip. Borneo was crossed 52 years ago. As a result of this interview, the film Borneo was broadcast on January 15, 1990 by the television station Südwest 3 . Broadcast in the footsteps of Karl Helbig .

Apart from numerous lectures and publications in domestic and foreign youth and professional magazines, daily newspapers and journals and the popular travel report Urwaldwildnis Borneo , the scientific results of this expedition were only presented to German readers 45 years later. In 1982 the Dietrich Reimer publishing house in Berlin published the two-volume work Eine Durchquerung der Insel Borneo (Kalimantan). According to the diaries from 1937. With its almost 800 pages in large octaves , richly illustrated with drawings, maps and photographic images and provided with valuable scientific annexes, it is still an important book for those interested in Borneo. “The two volumes have the status of an indispensable standard work for Kalimantan research. They show the author again as one of the best Indonesian experts in the German-speaking area during the pre-war period ”(Werner Röll).

Helbig explained the reasons for the delay in the publication of this work in the first volume:

“[…] I was back in Germany in the middle of 1938. The Second World War, which soon broke out, presented many other tasks. The destruction of important source material in Hamburg and elsewhere made further elaboration of the results difficult. The unexplained situation in the Dutch colonial area and in the entire Far East delayed some insight and some decisions about the valid formation of the material, especially any attempt to carry out a supplementary inspection trip. Later research companies and study trips in other areas, primarily in Mexico and Central America, also in the Soviet Union, Scandinavia and several Mediterranean countries, together with various elaborations of the results, prevented the scientific analysis of my Borneo diaries from continuing. [...] The advancing age and the worry of finally having to leave the diaries lying around unused, which would have to be regarded as completely lost - especially since they are written in shorthand that is no longer in use today - drove me to continue anew the task undertaken. "

- Helbig, 1982

Helbig remained in the Dutch East Indies until the beginning of February 1938. He traveled through Java one more time, then the island of Bali and its neighboring island of Nusa Penida . Bali. Fulfillments and disappointments, Bali: A tropical island of contrasting landscapes , Nusa Penida, the island of the "bandits" and Nusa Penida. A tropical karst island are his most important essays on the latter islands.

In mid-1938, Helbig returned to Hamburg after a year and a half's absence. It was his last trip to Southeast Asia.


In 1940 Helbig's habilitation thesis was accepted by the Philosophical Faculty of the University of Marburg . It is entitled: Bangka Island. Example of a change in landscape and meaning due to a random geographic form. He collected the material for this work on Bangka before starting his Borneo expedition. In addition, there was the habilitation lecture, People in the Primeval Forest, held in Marburg on December 2, 1940 . Report on a trip to the Dayak in Borneo. But Helbig refused to join the NSDAP , which he despised , and so the universities were closed to him as a university professor.

War and post-war period

During the Second World War, Helbig worked as a civilian in the context of military support with geographical training for officers and soldiers in Norway, Romania, the Netherlands, France, Belgium, Russia and other European countries. In the winter of 1944 he experienced the withdrawal of the German army and the misery of the German refugees.

It was not until 1951, after he had again traveled to North America as a stoker on a freighter, that he was offered chairs in both German states at the universities of Hamburg, Leipzig, Jena, Rostock and Greifswald. Nevertheless, Helbig continued to work as a freelancer. This forced him to be as thrifty as possible until the end of his life.

Research in Central America

At the suggestion of the director of the Hamburg Museum of Ethnology, Franz Termer , Helbig turned to scientific studies in Central America . His first geographical study trip, supported by the German Research Foundation , took him in 1953/54, with stops in Mexico , Guatemala and San Salvador , to the north-eastern provinces of the Republic of Honduras , which were hardly known in geographical science at the time , which for seven months mainly on foot, on some larger ones Rivers and coastal lagoons were crossed by boat. He published part of his scientific results in his work The Landscapes of Northeast Honduras on the basis of a geographic study tour in 1953 and Antiguales (antiquities) of the Paya region and the Paya Indians of Northeast Honduras. Fundamental corrections of the map material available up to then for this area brought Helbig's multi-fold colored map, draft of a topographical overview of northeast Honduras with the Mosquitia: the height and arrangement of the mountains, the course of the rivers, the shape of the lagoons, the location of the settlements as well Traffic connections and place names have been corrected. A previously unnamed mountain complex was christened "Montaňas del Patuca" by Helbig. Of his popular science publications on these trips, the best known are the books From Mexico to Mosquitia and Indioland on the Caribbean Sea.

Helbig's travel routes in Northeast Honduras. - Simplified shown according to the map draft of a topographical overview of northeast Honduras with the Mosquitia. In: Petermanns Geographische Mitteilungen, 101st year, Gotha 1957, issue 2, plate 15.

His next trip took him to central and southern Mexico in 1957/58. The focus of his research was the state of Chiapas . Following Leo Waibel's work in the Sierra Madre de Chiapas , the areas of the Great Depression of the upper Rio Grijalva and the Mesa Central, which adjoin this mountain range to the north, as well as the more recent changes in the coffee-growing areas of the Sierra Madre de Chiapas due to war, agricultural reform, and new developments and migration movements are examined. His monographs The Soconusco landscape in the state of Chiapas, South Mexico, and its coffee zone and the river basin of the Rio Grijalva are scientifically valuable ; a landscape study from Chiapas, southern Mexico. In addition to further articles in journals and newspapers, these trips also resulted in the first edition of his successful book So I saw Mexico with the subtitle Research trip from Tampico to Chiapas.

Chiapas. Landscape structure according to Karl Helbig. Simplified according to Fig. 1 in Helbig's essay The river basin of
the upper Rio Grijalva ..., Hamburg 1961. - The reservoirs in the basin of the Rio Grijalva did not yet exist at that time.

Again supported by the German Research Foundation, Helbig traveled from Mexico through Guatemala, San Salvador, British Honduras, Nicaragua and Costa Rica to eastern Panama from 1962 to 1963 . The aim of these trips was a geographical and economic survey of the whole of Central America, the observation of the landscape change through the influences of the expanding agriculture and the exploration of possibilities for the future planned development of this area. For this purpose, Helbig undertook a supplementary trip to northern Mexico to Monterrey at the end of his studies. The scientific results were in the Central America works . Natural foundations, their present and possible future evaluation and the Central American economy. Published cartographically and explained . The book So I saw Mexico was revised and republished in 1967 with the subtitle From Monterrey to Tapachula .

Outline map of Central America

In 1971, Helbig was commissioned by the Mexican government with the geographical exploration of the state of Chiapas. Extensive field research had to be carried out. As with all previous excursions as a scientist on his own, he worked on this large project for five years. He summarized his results in the three-volume regional monograph Chiapas. Geografia de un Estado Mexicano , the printing and publication of which he personally supervised in Mexico City. In recognition of this large folio work, which was only published in Spanish, he was awarded the “Chiapas State Prize, Science Department”.

Last years of life

Karl Helbig visits Rüdiger Siebert in May 1989
Memorial plaque for Karl Helbig

His housekeeper Emma Mahler, née Fillsack (* 1884), died on December 21, 1973, whom he described in a dedication in his two-volume Borneo work as his "... almost five decades accompanying me and selfless companion". For her burial, he bought two graves in the Altona cemetery across from his last apartment: one for Mrs. Mahler and one for himself next to it.

His last work is titled Seafaring Before the Fires. Memories of a ship heater. This book, which describes the journey of a steamer to Central America in the 1920s in the style of a novel, not only reports on the technology and handling of the boiler systems and propulsion engines in steamships, but also on the hard work of the coal trimmers and ship heaters in Heat and dust. The presentation of this book took place in the port of Travemünde on board the steam icebreaker Stettin , an occasion at which the 84-year-old Helbig once again became active "in front of the fires": "With youthful enthusiasm", as his publisher Hans described him Georg Prager, he demonstrated to the guests all the activities required for expert “fire care”, from monitoring the steam pressure and the water levels in the boilers to shoveling in the coal to breaking the slag and pulling the ash. In July 1988, on a trip on the Stettin from Kiel to Travemünde, he showed his skills as a ship heater for the last time at the age of 85.

In the autumn of 1987, the TV journalist Eberhard Fechner interviewed eleven seafarers who had seen the days of sailing and steam ships. In addition to four captains, two ship engineers, a ship's cook, a sailmaker, a chief steward and a ship's carpenter, Helbig was there as a trimmer and stoker. On February 1, 1989, Fechner's report was broadcast by ARD and WDR in two parts under the title La Paloma . As a result, the article television appeared in the magazine Der Spiegel . Half way to the Caribbean , in which "the stern-looking man with the angular features" was referred to as "Fechner's secret hero".

In the last years of his rich research life, Helbig was restlessly busy organizing his ethnographic and literary legacy. The ethnographics he collected ended up in the Museum für Völkerkunde Hamburg and the Museum für Völkerkunde Stuttgart as well as in the ethnographic collection of the Roemer and Pelizaeus Museum in Hildesheim. The latter museum also houses his literary works, his photo collection and his library.

In recognition of his services in the cultural and geographical area, Helbig was awarded the Federal Cross of Merit on ribbon on July 18, 1988 during a ceremony in the town hall of his home town of Hildesheim. After completing the speeches, Helbig spoke up himself. The next day, the Hildesheimer Allgemeine Zeitung gave his stories almost a full page.

On October 9, 1991, Helbig died of a heart attack in his apartment in Hamburg-Altona . He died in the arms of Helmut Gundert, the man he met in Sumatra as the five-year-old son of the plantation owner Heinrich Gundert in 1931 and whom he received as "Til" in articles and books for posterity.

In his last will, Helbig had ordered that the public would not be informed of his death until three weeks later. The funeral service on October 22nd at the Altona cemetery between Bernadottestrasse and Bleickenallee therefore took place in complete silence: only 14 people entered the condolence list. The Hildesheimer Allgemeine Zeitung also respected Helbig's last will and did not publish the obituary notice until October 30, 1991.

From March 20-22, 2003, on the occasion of his 100th birthday, his hometown Hildesheim honored him with a scientific colloquium. At his last place of residence in Hamburg-Altona, Bleickenallee 22, a brass plaque commemorates Karl Helbig.

Expeditions, research and study trips

In the Dutch East Indies (today: Indonesia )

In Central America

Ships on which Karl Helbig was hired (selection)

  • 1923: S. S. Drachenfels , as a trimmer to India
  • 1923: S. S. Altona , as a trimmer to the Dutch East Indies
  • 1925: S. S. Ursula Siemers , as a trimmer and stoker in the Mediterranean
  • 1925: S. S. Schleswig Holstein , as a stoker to Mexico
  • 1926: S. S. Pontos , as a stoker in the Mediterranean
  • 1928: S. S. Galicia , as a stoker in the Caribbean (this trip provided the material for Helbig's last work Seafaring Before the Fires )
  • 1929: S. S. Menes , as a scrubber to Batavia (studies for his dissertation)
  • 1929: S. S. Ramses , back as a washer from Batavia
  • 1930: S. S. Menes , after Belawan-Deli (studies in Sumatra)
  • 1931: S. S. Freiburg , returned from Batavia as a washer and steward
  • 1934: S. S. Oceana , as a stoker to Scandinavia
  • 1935: S. S. Antioch , as a stoker to the West Indies and back
  • 1936: S. S. Hanau , as a stoker to Batavia and back in 1938 (Borneo crossing)
  • 1951: S. S. Clara Blumenfeld , as a stoker in 1951 in the USA, in 1952 and 1953 in the North and Baltic Seas
  • 1953: M. S. Westphalia , as a greaser to Mexico (studies in Honduras)
  • 1954: M. S. Cläre Hugo Stinnes , returned from Mexico as a greaser
  • 1957: M. S. Vulkan , as assistant paymaster to Cuba and Mexico (studies in central and southern Mexico)
  • 1958: M. S. Augsburg , returned from Mexico as assistant paymaster
  • 1962: M. S. Saarland , as cover scribe to Guatemala (studies in Central America)
  • 1963: M. S. Leipzig , returned from Mexico as assistant paymaster
  • 1971: M. S. Siegstein , as assistant paymaster to Mexico (studies in Chiapas)
  • 1972: T. S. Essen , returned from Mexico as assistant paymaster
  • 1975: M. S. Frankfurt , as assistant paymaster to Mexico (studies in Chiapas)
  • 1976: M. S. Frankfurt , returned from Mexico as assistant paymaster (last voyage as a member of a ship's crew).


Books and major articles on the Dutch East Indies (Indonesia)

Front cover of the dissertation
  • Batavia. A tropical urban landscape in the context of the island of Java. CH Wäsers print shop, Bad Segeberg. Without a year (the foreword is dated “Hamburg, in the summer of 1930”. The examination and evaluation of this work took place in June 1930. In Petermanns Mitteilungen, 78th year 1932, Geographischer Literaturbericht p. 314, literature review no. 533, 1931 is given as the year of publication ). - Dissertation to obtain a doctorate, accepted by the Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences at the University of Hamburg.
  • With the Orang-Loeboe in Central Sumatra. In: Baessler-Archiv, Verlag von Dietrich Reimer (Ernst Vohsen), Vol. XVI, pp. 164–187. Berlin 1933.
  • The Lubu language in Sumatra. In: Journal for native languages, published by Dietrich Reimer (Ernst Vohsen), Volume XXIV, Issue 1 (1933), pp. 15–58, Volume XXIV, Issue 2 (1934), pp. 100–121. Berlin 1933/34.
  • With the Orang Loeboe in Central Sumatra. In: Deutsche Wacht, Batavia, Jg. 1934, No. 8, pp. 32-33, No. 9, pp. 29-31, No. 10, pp. 30-33, No. 11, pp. 30-31 , No. 14, pp. 30-32.
  • Tropical jungle and people. Langensalza, published by Julius Beltz, Berlin-Leipzig, no year (two editions, 1934). - space and people. Geographic workbooks. Ed. by Mathias Volkenborn u. Severin Rüttgers . Group II. Gatherers and hunters' rooms. Book 1 [About Helbig's journey to the Orang Lubu].
  • Tuan Gila. A “mad man” walks on the equator. Leipzig, Brockhaus 1934. - Travel and Adventure , Volume 54 (second edition, slightly expanded in text and images: Leipzig, Brockhaus 1945).
  • The world of the Malays. Langensalza, published by Julius Beltz, Berlin-Leipzig, no year (1934). - space and people. Geographic workbooks. Ed. by Mathias Volkenborn u. Severin Rüttgers. Group V. Rooms of browns and yellows. Issue 5.
  • Til comes to Sumatra. The life of a German boy in the tropics. Gundert, Stuttgart 1935 (numerous editions up to 1957)
  • Some remarks about the moral conditions and the eroticism of the Toba-Batak in Sumatra. In: Baessler-Archiv, Verlag von Dietrich Reimer (Ernst Vohsen), Volume XVIII, pp. 22–37. Berlin 1935.
  • The southern Batakland in Sumatra. In: Ostasiatische Rundschau, Hamburg 19, vol. 1938, pp. 278–281, 302–305, 329–332, 491–493, 515–517, 540–542.
  • Bangka Island. Example of the change in landscape and meaning due to a geographical “random form”. In: German Geographical Sheets. Published by the Geographical Society in Bremen by Dr. Herbert Abel with the assistance of C. Honigsheim. - Writings of the Bremen Scientific Society, Series C, Volume 43, Issue 3–4, Bremen 1940 (Commission publisher Franz Leuwer). - Habilitation thesis, accepted by the Philosophical Faculty of the University of Marburg (also published as a special edition).
  • Bangka tin. In: Geographischer Anzeiger, 43rd year 1942, issue 1/2, pp. 26–29. For this purpose, panels 1 to 3 with 6 b / w photos. Justus Perthes, Gotha 1942.
  • Contributions to the cultural studies of Sumatra. Observations between Asahan and Barumun, Lake Toba and Malaka Straits. Ferdinand Hirt & Sohn, Leipzig 1940. - Scientific publications of the German Museum for Regional Geography. New episode 8.
  • Borneo jungle wilderness. 3000 kilometers of zigzag march through Asia's largest island. Gustav Wenzel & Sohn, Braunschweig 1940 (2nd edition 1941, 3rd edition 1942; also published by Brockhaus, Leipzig 1957).
  • Back and Island India (1926–1939 / 40). In: Ludwig Mecking (Hrsg.): Geographisches Jahrbuch. Founded in 1866 by E. Behm, continued by H. Wagner. 57th year 1942. Justus Perthes, Gotha 1943. First half volume pp. 138–360, second half volume pp. 547–791. Register of personal names in the 1st half volume, pp. 344–360 (this part also contains the personal names of a preceding article), in the 2nd half volume, pp. 770–791. Three pages of corrections were added to the personal names register for section C (2nd half volume, island India). - Bibliography of the publications published from 1926 to 1939/40 for the area of ​​Rear and Island India from the Indian-Burmese-Chinese border to the easternmost islands of the Malay Archipelago, including the Andaman and Nicobar groups, Cocos and Christmas Islands and the Philippines. 3,576 titles are listed with exact bibliographical information. The sorting of these titles is a rare example of exemplary hard work: After an overview of the entire area, they are arranged regionally by country, within these by subject area and in these subject area by subject group with introductory explanations. Scientifically usable titles are provided with brief critical content information and - if available - with references to reviews with sources.
  • Indonesia [bibliography]. In: Nature research and medicine in Germany 1939–1946. Edition of the Fiat Review of German Science intended for Germany . Volume 45 Geography Part II, Ed. by Hermann v. Wissmann, geographer. Institute of the Univ. Tübingen. Pp. 53-61. Dieterich'sche Verlagsbuchhandlung Inh. W. Klemm, Wiesbaden (no year). - Completion of the aforementioned work. 85 titles with introductory comments are listed in thematic order.
  • Some remarks on the worldview of the Ngadjoe-Dayak. In: Baessler-Archiv, Verlag von Dietrich Reimer, Vol. XXIV, pp. 60–79. Berlin 1941.
  • Distant tropical island of Java. A book about the fate of strange people and animals. Gundert, Stuttgart 1946 (2nd edition 1952).
  • Distant tropical island of Java. A book about the fate of strange people and animals. A selection. Schaffstein, Cologne 1950 (2nd edition 1965). Abridged edition of the aforementioned book: Selected by Marianne Spitzler with the kind permission of the author and the publisher D. Gundert from Karl Helbig Ferne Tropen-Insel Java and issued by the Lower Saxony Ministry of Culture with decree No. III / 3056/50 of June 27, 1950 for the School use approved. - One hundred and sixteenth of the "Green Ribbons".
  • Indonesia's tropical world. Cosmos / Society of Friends of Nature. Franckh'sche Verlagshandlung, Stuttgart 1947.
  • The Southeast Asian island world (island India). Franckh'sche Verlagshandlung (Licensed by Siebenberg-Verlag, Vienna). - Small country customers. Our knowledge of the earth. Ed. v. Dr. habil. W. Evers, private lecturer in geography at the Technical University of Hanover, series IV, booklet 7. Stuttgart 1949
  • Indonesia. An international overview of the Malay island world. Franz Mittelbach, Stuttgart 1949.
  • On the edge of the Pacific. Studies in regional and cultural studies in Southeast Asia. Kohlhammer, Stuttgart 1949.
  • Paradise in light and shadow. Experienced and listened to in island India. Vieweg, Braunschweig 1949.
  • Island india. Home of the Malays. Eilers & Schünemann Verlagsgesellschaft mbH., Bremen 1953. - ES issue No. 92.
  • At Mahamerus feet. Walks on Java. Brockhaus, Leipzig 1954.
  • The island of Borneo in research and literature. Self-published by the Geographical Society Hamburg. In: Communications from the Geographical Society in Hamburg. On behalf of the board published by Prof. Dr. Franz Termer. Volume 52, pp. 105-395. For this purpose, panels 16–24 with 19 b / w photos. Hamburg 1955. - Thematically arranged and annotated bibliography, containing 2410 works, with a detailed description of the history of the discovery.
  • A crossing of the island of Borneo (Kalimantan). Based on the diaries from 1937. 2 volumes. Dietrich Reimer Verlag, Berlin 1982. ISBN 3-496-00153-4 (paperback) and ISBN 3-496-00154-2 (linen). - With unchanged content, but in a smaller format, as a special volume in: Mitteilungen der Geographische Gesellschaft in Hamburg, 1982 (2 volumes, parts 1 and 2).

Books and major essays on Central America

  • The landscapes of Northeast Honduras. On the basis of a geographic study trip in 1953. Hermann Haack, Gotha 1959. - Supplementary booklet 268 to Petermanns Geographische Mitteilungen.
  • Antiguales (antiquities) of the Paya region and the Paya Indians of Northeast Honduras (based on a geographic exploration trip in 1953). Museum of Ethnology and Prehistory, Hamburg 1956. - Contributions to Central American Ethnology, Volume 3.
  • From Mexico to the Mosquitia. Small voyage of discovery in Central America. Brockhaus, Leipzig 1958.
  • Indioland on the Caribbean Sea. Central American trip. Brockhaus, Leipzig 1961.
  • The Soconusco landscape in the state of Chiapas, South Mexico, and its coffee zone. Friedrich Trüjen, Bremen 1961. In: Deutsche geographische Blätter, Volume 49, Issue 1/2.
  • The basin of the upper Rio Grijalva. A landscape study from Chiapas, southern Mexico. In: Mitteilungen der Geographische Gesellschaft zu Hamburg, Volume 54, pp. 7–274, Hamburg 1961
  • Central America. Natural foundations, their present and possible future evaluation. In: Petermanns Geographische Mitteilungen, 108th year, pp. 160–181 and 241–260, with 40 b / w illustrations on 8 plates. VEB Hermann Haack, Gotha 1964
  • This is how I saw Mexico - research trip from Tampico to Chiapas. Brockhaus, Leipzig 1962.
  • The economy of Central America. Illustrated and explained cartographically. Institute for Ibero-American Customers, Hamburg 1966.
  • Among Creoles, Indios and Ladinos: From Belize to Panama - travel impressions from the seven countries of Central America. Brockhaus, Leipzig 1966.
  • This is how I saw Mexico - from Monterrey to Tapachula. Brockhaus, Leipzig 1967 (new edition of the 1962 edition).
  • Chiapas: Geografia de un Estado Mexicano (2 volumes of text and 1 volume of maps). Instituto de Ciencias y Artes de Chiapas, Tuxtla Gutiérrez (Chiapas), 1976.

Books and larger articles on other subjects

  • Kurt Imme goes to India. The story of the first sea voyage of a Hamburg ship's boy. Gundert, Stuttgart 1933 (numerous editions up to 1955).
  • Levantepott in the Mediterranean. Kurt Immes adventurous sea trip with Mustafa, Krischan and the Dalmatians. Told for German boys. Gundert, Stuttgart 1934.
  • North Cape in sight. An unexpected north country trip. Gundert, Stuttgart 1935.
  • Front India (together with RE Kaltofen). In: Fritz Kluthe (Hrsg.): Handbuch der Geographischen Wissenschaft. Volume Front and South Asia, pp. 212–326. Academic Publishing Company Athenaion, Potsdam 1937.
  • From the countries and seas of the world. D. Gundert, Stuttgart 1947. - We begin. A call to the youth and a word on the way. A series of publications founded by Friedrich Gundert † edited by Kurt Müller. Issue 4.
  • Tramp ride in the Levant: experiences and adventures with all kinds of ship people on blue waters told for the young. Gundert, Stuttgart 1950. - Gundert's Blue Youth Books (new version of the book “Levantepott in the Mediterranean” published in 1934).
  • Sea before the fires. Memories of a ship heater. HG Prager Vlg., Hamburg 1987 (2nd revised edition 1988).

Some books have been translated into Czech, Slovak, Swedish and Russian, works on Central America have been translated into Spanish. For decades Ms. Gertrud Tischner, wife of the South Seas researcher Herbert Tischner, worked as a book illustrator.

Smaller fonts

Around 600 essays, treatises, teaching templates and book reviews were published in youth and specialist magazines, as well as in daily newspapers at home and abroad. One of the most important organs for Helbig's early articles was the magazine " Deutsche Wacht " published in Batavia . Outstanding are the numerous illustrated articles that appeared from 1948 to 1974 in the yearbook series “Through the wide world”, Stuttgart, Franckh'sche Verlagshandlung.


  • Werner Röll: Karl Helbig. Life and work . In: Bernhard Dahm (Ed.): Asia. German magazine for politics, economy and culture . On behalf of the German Society for Asian Studies e. V., Hamburg. No. 26, January 1988, pp. 59-63.
  • Rüdiger Siebert : geographer and seaman, scientist and world explorer: Karl Helbig (1903–1991) . In: Ingrid Wessel (Ed.): Indonesia at the end of the 20th century. Analysis of 50 Years of Independent Development - Germans in Indonesia . 2nd Edition. Abera, Hamburg 1999, ISBN 3-934376-07-X .
  • Rüdiger Siebert : Doctorate in steamship stoker explores Borneo. Karl Helbig, geographer and seaman . In: Traces of Germany in Indonesia. Ten résumés in turbulent times . Horlemann, Bad Honnef 2002, pp. 154-173.
  • Werner Rutz, Achim Sibeth (ed.): Karl Helbig - Scientist and Ship Heaters. His life's work from today's perspective. Looking back on the 100th birthday . Olms, Hildesheim et al. 2004, ISBN 3-487-12721-0 . (Table of contents as digitized version , PDF file).

Web links

  • Literature by and about Karl Helbig in the catalog of the German National Library
  • Michael von Beckerath: Memories of Karl Helbig. In: EisbärPost. Information for members and friends of the STETTIN eV steam icebreaker association online (PDF; see page 3; 4.8 MB)
  • Rüdiger Siebert : Tuan Gila - scientist and globetrotter. A “crazy gentleman” walks on the equator reading sample , published by the German-Indonesian Society eV, Cologne (2011).
  • Rüdiger Siebert : Challenge Indonesia. Power, criticism, liberation - Dutch colonial history in the mirror of German lives [Gustav Wilhelm Baron von Imhoff - Franz Wilhelm Junghuhn - Ludwig Ingwer Nommensen - Max Dauthendey - Emil Helfferich - Hans Overbeck - Karl Helbig - Walter Spies] Reading sample of the German-Indonesian Society, Cologne (2011). - Excerpts from the book by Rüdiger Siebert: " Traces of Germany in Indonesia - Ten résumés in turbulent times ". Horlemann-Verlag, Unkel / Rhein, 2002. ISBN 3-89502-159-8 .

Individual evidence

  1. See Helbig's essay Junghuhn. 1809-1864. In: Kurt Kayser (Hrsg.): The famous discoverers and explorers of the earth. Cologne 1965, pp. 179-181 (quoted in the article Franz Wilhelm Junghuhn in the chapter "Works")
  2. ^ Rutz, Sibeth: Karl Helbig. Scientist and ship heater. Olms Vlg., Hildesheim 2004, p. 13.
  3. Rutz, Sibeth, p. 15 f.
  4. German Watch. 15th year 1935, pp. 16-17. Dieng is the name of a volcanic high plateau in Central Java.
  5. Geographical weekly. 3rd vol., Issue 37, pp. 881–887, Breslau 1935. The Kendeng is a barren and sparsely populated mountain range on the south coast of Java.
  6. ^ Journal of the Society for Geography in Berlin. Born in 1935, pp. 102-125.
  7. ^ Gundert, Stuttgart 1946
  8. Brockhaus, Leipzig 1954
  9. See Petermanns Geographische Mitteilungen. 78. Volume 1932, p. 85.
  10. ^ Rutz, Sibeth, p. 16.
  11. Rutz, Sibeth, p. 72 f.
  12. Published by David Gundert, the planter's father, and his younger brother Friedrich Gundert in 1939 in Stuttgart.
  13. Rutz, Sibeth, p. 113.
  14. In addition to other depictions of this experience, which was deeply impressed in Helbig's memories, see his essay Magic Session at the Kahajan - A gruesome, nourishing experience on Borneo. In: Through the wide world. Volume 46, Franckh / Kosmos-Verlag, Stuttgart 1972, pp. 173-181.
  15. So named as a difference to the "big" Kapuas in the west of Borneo.
  16. See Petermanns Geographische Mitteilungen. 84th year 1938, p. 193.
  17. See publisher's prospectus (press reviews)
  18. Karl Helbig: A crossing of the island Borneo (Kalimantan). Based on the diaries from 1937. Berlin 1982, p. 15.
  19. In: Through all the world. Born in 1939 (9 sequels)
  20. In: Journal for Geography. Vol. 7, 1939, pp. 357-379.
  21. In: Deutsche Wacht. Vol. 25, pp. 38-40 and 54–56, Batavia 1939.
  22. ^ In: Communications of the Geographical Society in Hamburg. Born in 1941, pp. 391-409.
  23. German Geographical Sheets. Vol. 43, Bremen 1940, pp. 138-221.
  24. Siebert (2), p. 162.
  25. ^ Rutz, Sibeth, p. 21.
  26. See the article Tuan Gila - Scientist and Globetrotter by Rüdiger Siebert. In: Rutz, Sibeth, pp. 38–53.
  27. ^ Petermann's Geographical Communications. Supplementary booklet 268, Gotha 1959.
  28. Contributions to Central American Ethnology No. 3. Hamburg Museum of Ethnology, 1956
  29. Scale 1: 500,000. Plate 15 for the essay An overview map of Northeast Honduras. In: Petermann's communications. 101. Jg. 1957, pp. 104-108 (with corrections p. 177).
  30. ^ Petermann's communications. 101. Jg. 1957, p. 108; it was named after the river Rio Patuca, which breaks through this mountain range.
  31. ^ Petermann's Geographical Communications. 108th year 1964, p. 172.
  32. German Geographical Sheets. Volume 49, Bremen 1961.
  33. Communications from the Geographical Society of Hamburg. Volume 54, 1961.
  34. ^ Petermann's Geographical Communications. 108th year 1964, p. 172.
  35. ^ Petermann's Geographical Communications. 108th year 1964, pp. 160–181 and 241–260, with 40 b / w illustrations on 8 plates.
  36. ^ Hamburg, Institute for Ibero America Customer, 1966. With a multi-fold colored map.
  37. See the article A Hildesheimer as a stoker at sea in the Hildesheimer Allgemeine Zeitung of December 19, 1987.
  38. Rutz, Sibeth, p. 119 f.
  39. Der Spiegel , February 1989, pp. 169 and 172. Helbig is the only one named in this article. Another article entitled Diary. Ten and one story appeared in the features section of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (February 1, 1989, No. 27, page 26. Author: Uwe Schmitt).
  40. In order to congratulate Karl Helbig on March 18, 1988 on his 85th birthday with a reception, he was proposed by the Hildesheim City Director Wilhelm Buerstedde for the award of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany. In his letter of January 11, 1988 to the Hanover District Government, Buerstedde described Helbig's résumé and praised his life's work. A list of Helbig's scientific publications was attached to this letter. On the basis of these statements, which were forwarded by the Lower Saxony Prime Minister to the Federal President's Office, the Federal President conferred this award on May 20, 1988.
  41. Rutz, Sibeth, p. 51 f.
  42. ^ Rutz, Sibeth, p. 57.
  43. ^ Rutz, Sibeth, p. 26.
  44. ^ "On the occasion of the 100th birthday of Karl Helbig ..." - short report in circular no. 4, Leipzig, April 7, 2003; Ed .: Working group on the history of geography in the German Society for Geography (DGfG) .
  45. Rutz, Sibeth, p. 32.
  46. The Dutch spelling "oe" corresponds to the German "u": "Loeboe" thus corresponds to "Lubu"
  47. ^ Rutz, Sibeth, p. 62.
This article was added to the list of excellent articles on February 21, 2008 in this version .