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Sunday, May 4, 2014

MUFA Day#28: Great Ships of the World

The daily newsletter on the Crystal Harmony, Reflections, has featured 'Great Ships of the World," the past two days, written by Karyn Planett.  References:   Part I of this series from their 13September2012 issue and Part II on 16April2013.  Read what the schedule was on those days, and nothing much has changed today. 

Steamships began with Great Britain in the early 1800s, when people followed their dreams to the New World and the various colonies.  Wooden hulls were replaced with iron, and coal was combusted to power the craft.  The first Atlantic crossing began on May 22, 1819, from Georgia to England, which is now celebrated as National Maritime Day in the U.S.  In 1831, 61 years after Captain James Cook, it took five months for the Sophia Jane (left) to travel 11,000 miles from England to Sydney, Australia.  Cooke took 19 months, but stopped at Tahiti to observe the transit of Venus, which was his main mission, then explored New Zealand for several months.

Then along came Sam Cunard, who in 1840 built the Brittania to deliver mail to America, signifying the end of isolation in the colonies.  His ships were commissioned by the British government to become mostly troop ships during wars, and twenty two Cunard liners were sunk by the enemy.  Of course, the government did provide the loans to build Cunard's Mauretania, Lusitania (whose sinking brought the USA into the First World War), Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth.  Next year, Cunard Line, now owned by Carnival, will celebrate 175 years of cruising.

There was, of course, the RMS Titanic, a British passenger liner that sank on 15April1912 on a maiden voyage from Southampton to New York City.  More than 1500 died.

But you've all seen this movie.

From 1892 to 1924 12 million immigrants arrived from Europe on these ships.  Cruising with flair began to develop just before the stock market crash in 1929.  Then, before the industry could recover, World War II again monopolized use of these vessels for troops.  The Queen Mary transported 16,683 on one voyage in 1943

Anthony Cooke today lectured on "The Great Liners," which he identified as:

  • SS Ile de France:  was the first ship built after World War II, and was not the fastest nor biggest, but the most-beautifully decorated:
  • SS Rex was the greatest Italian ocean liner, launched in 1931, holding the Atlantic speed record from 1933-1935, with a low of 4 days and 14 hours.
  • RMS Queen Mary sailed from 1936 to 1967, and held the Atlantic speed record from 1938 to 1952.  She was retired in 1967 and became a hotel and museum at Long Beach.  Thus she only was operational for 31 years, but has served as a docked tourist attraction for 47 years.

Not sure why Cooke left out the U.S.S. United States, for she is the largest ocean liner constructed in the U.S., and is the fastest to cross the Atlantic in either direction, still retaining the record today at 3 days 12 hours and 12 minutes, even though she was retired in 1989 only after 17 years of service.  From 1969 till today, the ship has been passed on to several owners intent on resurrecting her service, including being docked in Ukraine.  In 2003, Norwegian Cruise Lines purchased the SS U.S., with the intent to restore service in Hawaii.  Unfortunately, she today sits rusting away in South Philadelphia.

These Grand Old Ladies were relatively svelte, compared to the behemoths of today:

  • Queen Mary                         81,235 gross tons     1018 feet
  • United States                       53,329 GT                 990 feet
  • Independence of the Sea   160,000 GT                1112 feet


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