:: SS GREAT EASTERN (1858) ::

SS Great Eastern Trans-Atlantic passenger liner (1858) High resolution picture

SS Great Eastern Trans-Atlantic passenger liner (1858) 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 Company.

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)

Range: N/A

Fuel: 12200 tonnes of coal

Complement: 400

Passengers: 4000

Cargo: 6000 tonnes

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