High resolution picture
High resolution picture
The 1st May 1854 it was started the construction of a ship which would be the largest on the world until then. Engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel, who
had achieved prestige with the construction of the SS Great Britain one decade ago, had convinced the recently founded Eastern Steamship Navigation
Company about that a ship five times larger than other steamships would be more economical. The new ship was to be named Leviathan but finally, on
her launching in 1858, she was baptized as Great Eastern. This ship had been conceived by Brunnel as capable to cover the round trip between England
and Australia without refueling. Everything on the ship was surprisingly large; she was a ship ahead of her time.
The hull of the huge vessel was subdivided into ten watertight compartments, each of 18 meters in length. From the keel to two meters above the
waterline the hull had a double iron lining with a separation of 84 centimeters between walls. The ship was built in Millwall, a district of London.
Since in this area the Thames was too narrow for a frontal launching, the hull was laid down parallely to the river, which caused complications during
the construction and exacerbated the costs. The launching was troublesome as well: it took almost three months, from the 3rd November 1857 to the
31st January 1858. Unable to assume the huge expenses caused by the delay in the launching, the ESNC transferred the ship to the new Great Ship
The SS Great Eastern was the only ship on the world fitted with both paddle-wheel and rear propeller propulsion. The diameter of the paddle wheels
was 17 meters and that of the four-bladed rear propeller was 7.31 meters. The six masts could carry about 5400 square meters of sail and the ship could reach
speeds of up to 15 knots. There was accommodation for 800 passengers in first class, 2000 in second class and 1200 in third class, but only a small
part of the spaces was occupied during the Trans-Atlantic passenger service. It was expected that due to her large size the SS Great Eastern would
offer a quiet voyage, but the reality was that the ship had such a strong unbalance that the passengers were scared.
Besides, the machinery did not grant enough speed and it was difficult to find a berthing for such a large vessel; in the end the SS Great Eastern
was a huge economic failure. She suffered heavy damage in two occassions during her Trans-Atlantic passenger service and the GSC had to spend 13000
sterling pounds on repairs before putting the ship for sale. Three shareholders of the same company acquired the SS Great Eastern and rented her to the Telegraph
Construction Company. From this moment she started her most fortunate career: the laying of submarine communication cables. In 1865
she departed from Ireland to lay the first cable between United States and Europe; but after 1930 kilometers of laying the cable broke and the task
had to be abandoned.
The following year the ship departed again and this time completed the mission with success; later, she managed to retrieve the cable lost the former
year. Proved the great efficiency of the SS Great Eastern for these tasks, she was subsequently used for laying cables between Brest and Saint Pierre
and Miquelon, from Bombay to Aden and along the Red Sea. When her days as a cable-laying ship came to an end, the SS Great Eastern was used during
some time as a show ship for amusement and advertising purposes. Finally, she was sold for scrap in 1888; eleven years had to pass until a ship
larger than her were built.
Class: 1 unit
Type: Oceanic passenger liner
Length: 210.92 meters
Beam: 25.17 meters (35.97 meters including the paddle wheel drums)
Draught: 9.14 meters
Displacement (full load): 27400 tonnes
Tonnage (gross register): 18915 tonnes
Propulsion (paddle): 1 x shaft, 1 x 4-cylinder oscillating steam engine, 4 x rectangular boiler, 4000 horsepower
Propulsion (screw): 1 x shaft, 1 x 4-cylinder horizontal steam engine, 6 x rectangular boiler, 9600 horsepower
Speed: 15 knots (27.8 kilometers/hour)
Fuel: 12200 tonnes of coal
Cargo: 6000 tonnes