The Preussen was built in 1902 for the Reederei F. Laeisz shipping line. She was a five masted steel Bark, the third largest sailing ship in the world and the largest ship ever built without auxiliary engines. She was 408 feet long and set 43 sails for a total area of over 59,000 square feet. Despite her size she was fast and set several speed records between the English Channel and Chile, a common nitrate run.

On November 7th, 1910 she was making seventeen knots down the English Channel outbound for Chile in foggy conditions when she rammed the steamer SS. Brighton, which was making four knots and turned in front of The Preussen contrary to regulations. The Preussen's bowsprit sheared off the Steamer's funnel and broke off, and the Brighton was holed. The Preussen was heavily damaged and without her headgear was hard to maneuver.

The Preussen was taken under tow by a steam tug and attempted to anchor in the lee of Dungeness but a storm rose and her anchor chains parted. Captain J. Heinrich H. Nissen set sail and headed for Dover, where she was met by three tugs. However, her bare masts made so much force in the wind that the tow lines broke and again Nissen tried to run for it by setting sails. It was not to be and the Preussen ran aground on a reef in Crab Bay. Several attempts were made to free her but all failed and she eventually broke up.