Rescue cruiser

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SRK Hamburg (Bj. 1960) - representative of the Theodor Heuss class

As a rescue boat ( prefix SRK ), the open sea and are lifeboats to rescue the German Society for Sea Rescue Service (GMRS), respectively. Internally, the boats are named by the DGzRS Seenotkreuzer ( SK ). The term stands for a series of different classes of vehicles that have been in use on the North and Baltic Seas since the late 1950s. The company currently has - as it is respectfully called on the German coast - over 20 of these special ships for rescuing people and for providing assistance to ships in distress outside of the German coastal waters.

With a length between 20 and 46 meters, all SRK of the DGzRS offer the German special feature of a daughter boat that is permanently carried in a stern tub. This means that people can be easily picked up from the water and the extensive shallow water areas off the German coasts can be safely navigated. At 18 stations on the North and Baltic Seas, the SRK are on standby around the clock ( 24/7 ) and are ready to sail at any time. This is ensured by two full-time crews who take turns every 14 days and usually live on board.

The term rescue cruiser is not used internationally . Sometimes an SRK is called a rescue cruiser in English . The common name for a lifeboat in the English-speaking world is lifeboat . The the SRK comparable lifeboats of English Rescue Society RNLI be there as all-weather lifeboat ( English all-weather lifeboat called). In the United States and in Canada for the term motor lifeboat ( English Motor Lifeboat ) common.

Equipment features

Fire monitors in the 27.5 meter class

What all SRK have in common is the basic construction based on a net frame system made of seawater-resistant light metal. All the longitudinal and transverse ribs form a tight, solid network to which the planking is applied on both sides. This double-walled structure ensures that the entire hull is very strong and offers space for tanks and any ballast. This also enables the motors to be cooled on the outer skin. The hull is divided into various watertight compartments with tightly closing doors. These bulkheads also increase strength. The entire hull is traversed by a central bilge line to which all departments are connected.

The closed deck structure acts as a large air chamber, so that in the event of a capsize the center of gravity is above the water due to the heavy engines and tanks in the ground. As a result, all SRK are self -righting so that after capsizing, the boat automatically returns to its normal swimming position with the keel down. The open control stations that have been under construction (tower) for many years are no longer available in the current classes. The central control stands are now housed in the completely closed deck structure, which protects the crew from wind and waves. This means that all necessary devices for communication , navigation and intrinsic safety are kept dry and secure. These are e.g. B .:

Helicopter working deck in the stern of the Hermann Marwede

A room inside the superstructure can be used as an on-board hospital. Depending on the size of the SRK , a certain number of people can be accommodated below deck, where there is also space for the secure storage of basket stretchers. Comprehensive medical equipment is carried for emergency care, some of which is also available on the TB. Only on the two large SRK is there a helicopter deck above the rear hull , which makes it easier for people to winch up or set down. For assistance, every SRK has a stable and fixed tow hook that is firmly anchored to the basic structure with the associated towing line harness. Furthermore, a powerful fire extinguishing system and mobile recovery and bilge pumps are available. Various aids are on board for rescuing people in order to rescue them safely and accident-free from the water.

In contrast to the companies of the European neighbors, who install waterjets in their modern constructions , the DGzRS continues to rely on conventional propulsion via screws. The two largest units have the tried and tested 3-engine arrangement, while the new boats in the 28-meter class and the 23.1-meter class only have two main engines. In contrast, the 'little ones' in the 20-meter class have only one main engine. If the main engine fails, an auxiliary / emergency drive system is hydraulically switched to the main engine. The SRK can reach a maximum speed of 25 knots . The main engines used are the large diesel gensets from MTU Friedrichshafen .

In addition to the rescue cruisers, the DGzRS also operates smaller rescue units up to around 10 meters in length for coastal rescue , which it calls rescue boats (SRB). These are self-contained units with volunteer crews who fill the gaps between the major stations on the coast.

The SRK are named in many cases by supporters of DGzRS and meritorious crew members. New buildings are floated in every year. The need for renewal results from the average operating time of 30 years, during which sufficient spare parts are available for the installed technology. With 60 units there is therefore a need for two new buildings per year.

History of origin

The development of the SRC began in the early 1950s. Building on the experience with the motor lifeboats (MRB), the DGzRS began to think about a motor lifeboat of the future . Derived from the change in sea traffic to ever larger ships and shipping lanes far from the coast, new requirements were formulated, which also took into account technical progress in shipbuilding and engine development: (p. 14)

  • unlimited seaworthiness even in extremely bad weather
  • at least twice the speed of the previous boats
  • Use in both deep and shallow lake and coastal waters

In particular, the demand to increase the speed gave the experts considerable 'headaches', since the goal could not be achieved with the displacers built up to now . It was only the targeted collaboration between DGzRS, the shipyard industry and the Maierform engineering office in connection with intensive model tests that resulted in the new hull shape with the characteristic lines that can be found in all of the SRK's designs . On the initiative of nautical inspector DGzRS Captain John Schumacher, the idea was developed, (Engl. Piggyback method Piggyback ) constantly carry a smaller boat to be able to also operate in shallow waters. That was the hour of birth for the daughter boat system (TB), with which all SRK of the DGzRS are equipped today.

Trial cruiser Bremen

Trial cruiser Bremen

Since there were no models for such a new type of construction, it was initially decided to convert the decommissioned MRB “ Bremen ” as a test vehicle. In order to save weight, the new superstructures above water were made of light metal on the old steel hull. This was breaking new ground, because an effective shielding of both materials against contact corrosion had to be taken into account for durability. During the renovation, the Bremen already got the essential features of the future SRK : whale deck, tower structure and a daughter boat. As the first ship of the DGzRS, the Bremen was a self-erecting . However, despite the installation of two new diesel engines, it was still a long way from the target maximum speed, as the old steel hull was no longer available. The renovation was completed in 1953. The extensive test phase fully demonstrated the expectations placed on it. (P. 21)

First new building by Hermann Apelt

Hermann Apelt

With the experience gained from operating the Bremen , the first new construction of a new-generation rescue cruiser was started , in which the concept of the new hull shape could also be consistently implemented. The combination of displacer and glider as well as the cruiser stern with hinged gate for the daughter boat should be the sample for all subsequent SRK . With a length of 21.5 meters, the Hermann Apelt was the longest ship in the fleet at the time.

The three diesel engines from Maybach with a total of 1600 hp were already sufficient for a speed of 17 knots. A powerful mid-engine worked on a fixed pitch propeller and the two smaller side engines on separate controllable pitch propellers. Together with the 3 rudder blades behind the propellers, the new building was extremely maneuverable. This motor-drive concept was retained in the other new buildings.

The Hermann Apelt was to remain a one-off, however, as the rescue operations had resulted in a need for improvement. In particular, the top speed of 17 knots, which was only reached after the TB had been converted and removed, was not at all satisfactory.

The first sea rescue cruiser built in series

The knowledge gathered with both constructions has now flowed into the revised draft. And with that the breakthrough and the beginning of a new, groundbreaking era in the construction of modern, versatile sea rescue cruisers came about. The complete integration and enlargement of the lockable tower structure brought the highest possible technical safety for the crew in the event of capsizing. With the further extension to 23.2 meters and with the three machines with a total of 1750 hp, the required 20 knot speed could now be achieved. The Theodor Heuss was put into service in 1957 as the first boat and thus the type ship of its class , which at the time was a highly regarded innovative ship type. It was followed by 3 more new buildings by 1960.

The development up to the year 2000

Large rescue cruiser from 1975
Small SRK of the Eiswette I class from 1985
An SRK in the 23 meter class from 1996

1963 to 1965: The further development of the SRK led to the construction of a new series of three large cruisers for the exposed stations with heavy sea traffic in the North Sea: Borkum , Helgoland and Cuxhaven . With their length of 26.66 meters, the sister ships Georg Breusing , Arwed Emminghaus and Adolph Bermpohl - important founding fathers of the DGzRS - reached the new high of 24 knots.

1967: Another development step took place with the construction of the 17-meter cruiser Paul Denker , which was now made entirely of aluminum . All other new buildings after Paul Denker were now also made of aluminum. The boat was a prototype and test unit for less crowded sea areas and remained a one-off.

1969: The 4 boats of the Otto Schülke class with a length of 18.9 meters, which were necessary to secure the coastal lake and mudflat areas, are considered a further development of the Paul Denker . Precautions had to be taken, especially with regard to the increase in activities in recreational and sport boating. The boats Otto Schülke , H.-J. Kratschke , Hans Lüken and G. Kuchenbecker only equipped with one engine that could provide 18 knots of speed.

1975: In order to secure the large shipping lanes, the DGzRS considered it necessary to set up larger units with a permanent position at sea in the North Sea. The three large sea rescue cruisers John T. Essberger , Wilhelm Kaisen and Hermann Ritter are designed for use in the open sea and can accommodate a large number of people below deck in the event of major incidents without affecting normal ship operations. With the proven 3-engine arrangement and a total of over 7,000 hp, the 3 boats reached 26 knots.

1980 to 1991: The old motor lifeboats from the days of the war, which had been in use for a long time, urgently had to be replaced. For this purpose, a new series of small SRK was launched as an ice bet class . The six boats built each have two engines and run around 20 knots. After 30 years in service, all units are now decommissioned.

1985 to 1993: After around 30 years of service, the boats of the Theodor Heuss class had to be replaced by larger new builds, the gaps in which the new Berlin class filled. Of these six boats with a length of 27.5 meters (or 28.2 meters), two are currently (2020) still in use. With three engines totaling around 3,200 hp, the SRK can reach 23 knots.

1996 to 1997: With the introduction of the new 23-meter class , the DGzRS turned away from the hull shape that was so distinctive and actually tried and tested for German rescue cruisers; Instead of the previously always rounded stern, the four SRKs now have a delta hull based on the knowledge gained in recent years. Another innovation is the closed upper operator's platform, which in combination with a gas protection system enables gas protection operation. This gas protection operation ( citadel operation ) was only built into this class. Its purpose is to protect the crew from hazardous substances on a wrecked ship. In the future, these SRK are to be used as 'jumpers' without a fixed station and represent the 'stationed' units during one of the regular shipyard visits.

The new generation from 2000

After the year 2000, the appearance of the SRK changed significantly. The open steering positions above under construction have disappeared and a clear bridge given way, which grants a good view in all directions. The basis is a guideline of the Ship Safety Committee (MSC) of the International Maritime Organization ( IMO ) on the ergonomic design of navigating bridges . According to this, all windows of the bridge should be inclined outwards in the vertical plane by not less than 10 ° and not more than 25 ° in order to avoid reflections. This gave the new cruisers their characteristic appearance with corners and edges.

2003: The first ship of the new generation was the Hermann Marwede for the exposed German Bight sea ​​position . As a replacement for the 30-year-old large sea rescue cruiser , it is now 46 meters long and is the largest sea rescue cruiser in the world. The three machines with over 9,000 hp bring the ship to a speed of 25 knots. The permanent crew consists of 7 people.

from 2008: At the end of the Eiswette I class , a replacement had to be found to cover the areas near the coast with shallow water. With the optimization of the hull shape of the 19-meter class from 1969, a moderate increase in speed to 22 knots was achieved while maintaining good seaworthiness. With a draft of 1.30 meters, the units of the Eiswette II class are ideal for the Wadden and Bodden areas of the German coasts. Six boats of this type are currently in service. The vehicles are the only class not to have a classic TB with a cabin , but an open workboat.

2012: The large rescue cruiser on the Baltic Sea also had to be retired and the replacement was the one-off 36.5 meter class : the Harro Koebke . With a total of 6,500 hp, the three machines push the SRK to 25 knots. There is enough space on the navigation bridge for the entire permanent crew of five, who can control and monitor all functions from there.

2015: For the aging SRK of the Berlin class , the 28-meter class was completely redesigned and based on Harro Koebke . Equipped with two engines of almost 4,000 hp, the ships reach a speed of 24 knots. Like their predecessor class, they are driven by a four-man permanent crew. Four of these boats are currently in service and another two will follow in the next two years.

This would mean almost a complete "overhaul" of the fleet. The two oldest are currently the two 'long' Berlin-class boats that would be exchanged in the mid-2020s.

Stations of the rescue cruiser on the North and Baltic Seas

Sea rescue cruiser (Germany coast)
Heligoland Hermann Marwede
Hermann Marwede
Sassnitz Harro Koebke
Harro Koebke
Cuxhaven Anneliese Kramer
Anneliese Kramer
Laboe Berlin
Amrum Ernst Meier-Hedde
Ernst Meier-Hedde
Borkum Hamburg
Grossenbrode Bremen
Warnemünde Arkona
Hooksiel Bernhard Gruben
Bernhard Gruben
Darßer Ort Theo Fischer
Darßer Ort
Theo Fischer
Grömitz Hans Hackmack
Hans Hackmack
Bremerhaven Hermann Rudolf Meyer
Hermann Rudolf Meyer
Olpenitz Fritz Knack
Fritz Knack
Greifswalder Oie Berthold Beitz
Greifswalder Oie
Berthold Beitz
List on Sylt Pidder Lüng
List on Sylt
Pidder Lüng
Büsum Theodor Storm
Theodor Storm
Norderney Eugen
Nordstrand Eiswette
DGzRS headquarters  
DGzRS headquarters  
Reserve cruiser Vormann Jantzen
cruiser Vormann Jantzen
Stations of the rescue cruisers of the DGzRS - Stand    @ 2020

Fire.svg SRK North Sea - 46 meter class and SRK Baltic Sea - 36.5 meter class

Red pog.svg SRK in the 28 meter class SRK in the 20 meter class SRK in the 23 meter classBlue pog.svg Dot-yellow.svg


Many former units of the DGzRS are passed on to foreign rescue services, where they will continue to serve for decades and supplement the existing fleets. The Arwed Emminghaus , built in 1965, was sold to the Icelandic rescue service ICE-SAR in 1993 and used until 2006, when it was the fastest ship in the fleet. The SK Hermann Helms and Hannes Glogner , which were retired in 2017/2018, went to the Uruguay Marine Rescue Service .

Units that the DGzRS had briefly taken over from the GDR Sea Rescue Service after reunification are not listed. They were replaced relatively quickly by DGzRS-owned new buildings and relocated units.

The predecessors: motor lifeboats in Germany

The time up to the First World War

The German Society for Rescue of Shipwrecked People (DGzRS) had originally also considered putting steam-powered lifeboats into service, but ultimately did not decide because of the not predominantly positive experiences abroad.

However, due to the promising field reports from the USA and England, there was great interest in gasoline engine-powered units. In 1907, based on an application from DGzRS chief inspector Pfeifer, it was decided to initially procure the appropriate engine for a first test boat abroad. As a result, the boat called Oberinspector Pfeifer , which was commissioned in 1911, was equipped with a British petrol engine.

Since the DGzRS board had decided to give the domestic engine industry a chance, a sailing lifeboat ( Carl von Lingen ) was initially equipped with an auxiliary engine (35 hp, Körting make ). After the good practical experience with this boat, two other sailing or rowing lifeboats were fitted with this engine in 1912 and 1913, Picker and Carl Laeisz .

In the years 1911 to 1913, nine new buildings were also put into service; the predominantly eleven meter long boats were equipped with a motor directly from the shipyard. In detail, these were the boats privy councilor Schröter , Hermann Frese (length 12.50 m), privy councilor Max Frey , Dr. Alfred von Leyen , Dr. Fehrmann , privy councilor Heinrich Gerlach (length 10 m), Ferdinand Laeisz , Irene and Otto Ludewig .

A further modernization of the German rescue fleet was initially stopped by the outbreak of the First World War and the following years of inflation with an accompanying shortage of donations.

Between the world wars

For financial reasons on the one hand, but also for practical reasons on the other hand, the previous row lifeboat Oberarzt Meyer-Glückstadt was equipped with the engine of the now retired Carl Lingen . This boat equipped in this way was light enough (approx. 500 kg heavier than the rowing lifeboat version) to be transportable on unpaved sandy beaches.

But from 1926 the financial cover of the DGzRS was again strong enough - not least due to the taking out of a Reich loan - to initially procure three new large boats, now purely covered MRB, including one with a twin screw drive for the first time. These were the boats Bremen (stationed on Norderney ), Hamburg (stationed in Friedrichskoog ) and the double screwdriver Hindenburg (stationed on Borkum ). The most important innovation in these boats was for the first time compressorless (and therefore relatively light) diesel engines (make Deutz for single-screw boats and MAN for double screwdrivers).

In the next few years the diesel engines became better and more sophisticated, so that from 1928 the DGzRS decided to only install this type of engine in the boats.

In the same year, by the way , two more previous 8.5-meter rowing lifeboats, the Frauenlob and the Meta Hartmann , were motorized, now also with a diesel engine and an output of 15 hp (11 kW) , following the example of the senior doctor Meyer-Glückstadt . The DGzRS refrained from motorizing further rowing lifeboats, because as early as 1931 the Meta Hartmann showed damage to the fluted hull due to engine vibrations and had to be decommissioned.

At the II. International Lifeboat Conference in Paris in June 1928 it turned out that the German lifeboats were technically at a high level, but also that the rescue fleets abroad had a higher percentage of motorized than the German.

One problem of German sea rescue was the different nature of the German coasts. This did not allow for standardization and determination of a standardized type of ship. On the one hand, there was a need for smaller boats, which - as is customary with rowing lifeboats - could be pulled to the beach by transport cart, mostly horses, and launched there; on the other hand, there was a need for larger, ocean-going units that were in ports or could be stationed in the area of ​​estuaries.

At that time, only the six covered, former sailing lifeboats, which were now equipped with auxiliary engines, were only partially seaworthy. They were not sufficient for a modern rescue service, there were too few boats and the engines too weak.

Following on from the three new units acquired from 1926, a 11.85 meter long boat was built in 1928 ( Privy Councilor Sartori ), which was stationed in Heiligenhafen .

In practice it had been found that the vehicles would have to be larger for the high seas, so the DGzRS decided that the boats of the planned new construction program should be at least 13 meters (screw-in) or 16 meters (double screwdriver) long.

Therefore, in 1929 a single-screw boat ( August Nebelthau ) was built for the List station on Sylt and one with two diesel engines, each with around 80 HP (59 kW) power, for the Norderney station (this boat was named after the one stationed there and is now called Lübeck Bootes Bremen relocated to Travemünde ).

Other boats of this type followed, such as the 13-meter-long screwdriver Konsul John for the Rügenwaldermünde station in 1930 , and another 16-meter-long double screwdriver named Konsul Kleyenstüber for the Pillau station in 1931 . This boat was renamed Bremen in 1944 (the third boat of this name), rebuilt in the 1950s and served as a test boat for the so-called piggyback procedure , i.e. as the carrier of a dinghy called a daughter boat and is thus the forerunner and pioneer of the modern sea ​​rescue cruisers of the DGzRS , for which this daughter boat system is basically used today.

In the years 1930 and 1931 a new building program for smaller units followed, starting with four boats in the traditional open construction method, which in addition to the engine operation could also be rowed and sailed; the fluted hull of these boats was provided with additional frames and reinforcements due to the bad experience with the Meta Hartmann . In addition, the boats received a self-bailing device and a screw tunnel as standard to prevent the screw from touching the ground in shallow water. These facilities had been added to the boats that had previously been converted. These boats were now so heavy that they could only be stationed in places with a slipway or crane; a carrying of the boats by the rescue teams or horse transport, as it used to be especially common for rowing rescue boats, was no longer possible with these boats.

In 1932 the strongest and longest MRB was put into service before the Second World War , Richard C. Krogmann , a two-screwdriver with two engines with 125 HP (92 kW) each. The 17.10 meter long boat was stationed in Cuxhaven .

In 1933 more medium-sized boats had to be put into service; Now the DGzRS decided to have these units built according to the British model as so-called half-covered boats. This partial cover served on the one hand to protect the engine, and on the other hand benches for the crew and a stove were housed underneath, a first approach of comfort for the rescue men. The first MRBs of this type were the Ulrich Steffens and the Adalbert Korff , each eleven meters long, with a 40 hp diesel engine that allowed a top speed of 8.5 knots. The auxiliary sails that were still in place at the beginning were later abolished after positive experience with the motorization.

The advantages of the half-roofed construction in comparison to the open boats and the lower weight compared to fully-roofed boats motivated the DGzRS to have all open boats converted to the half-roofed version - if technically possible due to their size.

However, half-roofed new buildings were also commissioned, for example Heinrich Tiarks (steel hull, 60 hp engine, ten meters long) as a replacement for the retired Meta Hartmann in 1936 and Matthäus Möller (steel hull, 80 hp, eleven meters long) in 1938 .

Due to the nature of many German coastlines, it was necessary to procure smaller units, called beach motor lifeboats . This type was also half-covered, the resulting additional weight was compensated for by a novel lightweight construction of the mahogany hull and the use of light metal materials in the 56 HP (41 kW) engine.

However, when the first of these 9.23 m long boats was put into service in 1934, it turned out that this type with a weight of around five tons was still too heavy for the intended areas of use, despite the transport trolleys specially developed for the boats Lamellar wheels, which enlarged the contact surface in the sand, and some of the tractors used as towing vehicles. So this boat was built in 1936 under the name of herring to the equipped with a slipway station Maasholm spent to there the auszumusternde upper Inspector Pfeifer replace.

In addition to the procurement of the smaller boats for use near the coast , a larger unit, Daniel Denker , a 15-meter boat made of teak, was put into service again at the Helgoland station in 1936 .

The last large MRB before the Second World War was the 16-meter teak boat Hindenburg , built in 1937 , a screw-in machine with a 200 hp (147 kW) diesel engine. This boat is considered to be the most advanced pre-war boat, for the first time equipped with a closed wheelhouse. It replaced the predecessor boat of the same name at the Borkum station.

In the period that followed, the boats were continuously developed. Initially they were built openly, but later they were built in a covered design in order to offer the crew protection from the weather and the sea on the one hand and to offer a minimum of comfort on the other. In 1944 the Westerland station received such a boat with the Carl Behnk with a length of ten meters. In 1944, however, the Hindenburg, a covered MRB series with a length of 17.5 m and a twin screw drive with two 150 hp motors (110 kW), which is still based in Kiel today, was put into service.


  • Claußen / Kaack: German rescue cruisers around the world - licensed constructions, lifeboats, customs cruisers and unique items . Verlag Peter Kurz , Bremen 2010, ISBN 978-3-927485-95-2 (7th volume in the book series Rausfahren when others come in ).
  • Sven Claussen: Emergency cruiser BERNHARD GRUBEN - Sea rescue on Norderney . Verlag Peter Kurz , Bremen 2009, ISBN 978-3-927485-94-5 (5th volume in the book series Rausfahren when others come in ).
  • Sven Claußen: Emergency cruiser THEODOR HEUSS - A technical milestone in the history of the DGzRS . 2007, available from the Seenotretter online shop at or .
  • Claußen / Kaack: The rescue cruiser of the DGzRS. History, stories and technology. Volume 1 . Verlag Peter Kurz, Bremen 2007, ISBN 978-3-927485-90-7 (1st volume in the book series Rausfahren when others come in ).
  • Claußen / Kaack: The rescue cruiser of the DGzRS. History, stories and technology. Volume 2 . Verlag Peter Kurz, Bremen 2008, ISBN 978-3-927485-91-4 (2nd volume in the book series Rausfahren when others come in ).
  • Claußen / Kaack: The rescue cruiser of the DGzRS. History, stories and technology. Volume 3 . Verlag Peter Kurz, Bremen 2008, ISBN 978-3-927485-92-1 (3rd volume in the book series Rausfahren when others come in ).
  • Wilhelm Esmann: The lifeboats of the DGzRS from 1865-2004 ; Hauschild Verlag , Bremen 2004, ISBN 978-3-89757-233-1 .
  • Ulf Kaack : The EISWETTE sea rescue cruiser class - design and construction of the DGzRS rescue units SK 30 and SK 31 . Verlag Peter Kurz, Bremen 2009, ISBN 978-3-927485-93-8 (4th volume in the book series Rausfahren when others come in ).
  • Kaack / Lubkowitz / Reemts: HERMANN MARWEDE - The largest rescue cruiser of the DGzRS . Verlag Peter Kurz, Bremen 2003, ISBN 978-3-927485-45-7 (Volume 0 of the book series Rausfahren when others come in ).
  • Lutz Ruminski: SOS - New cruisers for sea rescuers . Black and white illustrated book, Edition 63, 2009, ISBN 978-3-00-026839-7 .

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. a b c [Hans Knarr: Typenkompass Seenotkreuzer Pietsch Verlag (2013)] ISBN 978-3-613-50743-2
  2. Guideline for the ergonomic design of ship bridges and their equipment on , accessed on March 24, 2020
  3. ^ Motor rescue boats of the DGzRS from 1940-1948. ( Memento from September 28, 2007 in the Internet Archive )