The barquentine Mercator was designed by the Antarctic explorer Adrien de Gerlache (1866–1934) as a training ship for the Belgian merchant fleet. She was named after Gerardus Mercator (1512–1594), Flemish cartographer. She was built in Leith, Scotland and launched in 1932.
Besides being a training a ship, she was also used, mainly before World War II, for scientific observations, or as ambassador for Belgium on world fairs and in sailing events.
In 1961, she became a floating museum, first in Antwerp, and finally from 1964 in the marina of Ostend, just in front of the city hall. As of 2013, she remained there in the heart of the city, open to visitors.