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SS Great Eastern

SS Great Eastern

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SS Great Eastern was an iron sailing steam ship designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel
Isambard Kingdom Brunel
Isambard Kingdom Brunel, FRS , was a British civil engineer who built bridges and dockyards including the construction of the first major British railway, the Great Western Railway; a series of steamships, including the first propeller-driven transatlantic steamship; and numerous important bridges...

, and built by J. Scott Russell & Co.
Millwall Iron Works
The Millwall Iron Works, London, England, was a 19th century industrial complex and series of companies, which developed from 1824. Formed from a series of small ship building companies to address the need to build larger and larger ships, the holding company collapsed after the Panic of 1866...

 at Millwall
Millwall
Millwall is an area in London, on the western side of the Isle of Dogs, in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets. It lies to the south of the developments at West India Docks, including Canary Wharf.-History:...

 on the River Thames
River Thames
The River Thames flows through southern England. It is the longest river entirely in England and the second longest in the United Kingdom. While it is best known because its lower reaches flow through central London, the river flows alongside several other towns and cities, including Oxford,...

, London
London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

. She was by far the largest ship ever built at the time of her 1858 launch, and had the capacity to carry 4,000 passengers around the world without refuelling. Her length of 692 feet (210.9 m) was only surpassed in 1899 by the 705 feet (214.9 m) 17,274-gross-ton RMS Oceanic
RMS Oceanic (1899)
RMS Oceanic was a transatlantic ocean liner, built for the White Star Line. She sailed on her maiden voyage on 6 September 1899 and, until 1901, was the largest ship in the world...

, and her gross tonnage of 18,915 was only surpassed in 1901 by the 701 feet (213.7 m) 21,035-gross-ton RMS Celtic.

Brunel knew her affectionately as the "Great Babe". He died in 1859 shortly after her ill-fated maiden voyage, during which she was damaged by an explosion. After repairs, she plied for several years as a passenger liner between Britain and America before being converted to a cable-laying ship and laying the first lasting transatlantic telegraph cable
Transatlantic telegraph cable
The transatlantic telegraph cable was the first cable used for telegraph communications laid across the floor of the Atlantic Ocean. It crossed from , Foilhommerum Bay, Valentia Island, in western Ireland to Heart's Content in eastern Newfoundland. The transatlantic cable connected North America...

 in 1866. Finishing her life as a floating music hall
Music hall
Music Hall is a type of British theatrical entertainment which was popular between 1850 and 1960. The term can refer to:# A particular form of variety entertainment involving a mixture of popular song, comedy and speciality acts...

 (for the famous department store Lewis's
Lewis's
Lewis's was a large department store in Liverpool city centre. It was formerly the flagship of a chain of department stores under the Lewis's name, that operated from 1856 to 1991, when the company went into administration. Several stores in the chain were bought by the company Owen Owen and...

) in Liverpool, she was broken up in 1889.

Concept



After the Great Exhibition
The Great Exhibition
The Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of all Nations or The Great Exhibition, sometimes referred to as the Crystal Palace Exhibition in reference to the temporary structure in which it was held, was an international exhibition that took place in Hyde Park, London, from 1 May to 15 October...

 of 1851, which had publicized America's wealth and natural resources, waves of people were eager to emigrate from Britain to America and Brunel realised the potential of a ship purpose-built to carry emigrants there.

On 25 March 1852, Brunel had made a sketch of a steamship in his diary and wrote beneath it: "Say 600 ft x 65 ft x 30 ft" (180 m x 20 m x 9.1 m). These measurements were six times larger by volume than any ship afloat; such a large vessel would benefit from economies of scale and would be both fast and economical, requiring fewer crew than the equivalent tonnage made up of smaller ships. Brunel realised that the ship would need more than one propulsion system; since twin screws were still very much experimental, he settled on a combination of a single screw and paddle wheels, with auxiliary sail power. Using paddle wheels meant that the ship would be able to reach Calcutta, where the Hooghly River was too shallow for screws.

Brunel showed his idea to John Scott Russell
John Scott Russell
John Scott Russell was a Scottish naval engineer who built the Great Eastern in collaboration with Isambard Kingdom Brunel, and made the discovery that gave birth to the modern study of solitons.-Personal life:John Scott Russell was born John Russell on 9 May 1808 in Parkhead, Glasgow, the son of...

, an experienced naval architect and ship builder whom he had first met at the Great Exhibition. Scott Russell examined Brunel's plan and made his own calculations as to the ship's feasibility. He calculated that it would have a displacement of 20,000 tons and would require 850 hp to achieve 14 knots (27.4 km/h), but believed it was possible. At Scott Russell's suggestion, they approached the directors of the Eastern Steam Navigation Company.

Eastern Steam Navigation Company


The Eastern Company was formed in January 1851 with the plan of exploiting the increase in trade and emigration to America. To make this plan viable they needed a subsidy in the form of a mail contract from the British General Post Office, which they tendered for. However, in March 1852 the Government awarded the contracts to the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company
Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company
The Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company, which is usually known as P&O, is a British shipping and logistics company which dated from the early 19th century. Following its sale in March 2006 to Dubai Ports World for £3.9 billion, it became a subsidiary of DP World; however, the P&O...

, even though the Eastern Company's tender was lower. This left them in the position of having a company without a purpose.

Brunel's large ship promised to be able to compete with the fast clippers that currently dominated the route, as she would be able to carry sufficient coal for a non-stop passage and the company invited him to present his ideas to the board. He was unable to attend due to illness and Scott Russell took his place.

The Company then set up a committee to investigate the proposal, and they reported in favour and the scheme was adopted at a board meeting held in July 1852. Brunel was appointed Engineer to the project and he began to gather tenders to build the hull, paddle engines and screw engines. Brunel had a considerable stake in the company and when requested to appoint a resident engineer refused in no uncertain terms:
He was just as firm in the terms for the final contract where he insisted that nothing was to be undertaken without his express consent, and that procedures and requirements for the construction were specifically laid down.

Construction


Although Brunel had estimated the cost of building the ship at £500,000, Scott Russell offered a very low tender of £377,200: £275,200 for the hull, £60,000 for the screw engines and boilers, and £42,000 for the paddle engines and boilers. Scott Russell even offered to reduce the tender to £258,000 if an order for a sister ship was placed at the same time. Brunel accepted Scott Russell's tender in May 1853, without questioning it; Scott Russell was a highly skilled shipbuilder and Brunel would accept an estimate from such an esteemed colleague without question.

In the spring of 1854 work could at last begin. The first problem to arise was where the ship was to be built. Scott Russell’s contract stipulated that it was to be built in a dock, but Russell quoted a price of £8-10,000 to build the necessary dock and so this part of the scheme was abandoned, partly due to the cost and also to the difficulty of finding a suitable site for the dock. The idea of a normal stern first launch was also rejected because of the great length of the vessel, also because to provide the right launch angle the bow of the ship would have to be raised 40 feet (12.2 m) in the air. Eventually it was decided to build the ship sideways to the river and use a mechanical slip designed by Brunel for the launch. Later the mechanical design was dropped on the grounds of cost, although the sideways plan remained.

Having decided on a sideways launch, a suitable site had to be found, as Scott Russell's Millwall, London, yard was too small. The adjacent yard belonging to David Napier
David Napier (marine engineer)
This article is about the marine engineer. For other people of the same name see David Napier David Napier was a Scottish marine engineer....

 was empty, available and suitable, so it was leased and a railway line constructed between the two yards for moving materials. The site of the launch is still visible on the Isle of Dogs
Isle of Dogs
The Isle of Dogs is a former island in the East End of London that is bounded on three sides by one of the largest meanders in the River Thames.-Etymology:...

. Part of the slipway has been preserved on the waterfront, while at low tide, more of the slipway can be seen on the Thames foreshore. The remains of the slipways, and other structures associated with the launch of the SS Great Eastern, have recently been surveyed by the Thames Discovery Programme
Thames Discovery Programme
The Thames Discovery Programme is a community archaeology project, focusing on the archaeology of the River Thames on the Tideway. The Thames Discovery Programme was launched in October 2008 and the project is supported by the National Lottery and a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund...

, a community project recording the archaeology of the Thames intertidal zone in London. Brunel's achievements in London are also commemorated in Rotherhithe, at the Brunel Museum

Great Eastern's keel was laid down on 1 May 1854. The hull was an all-iron construction, a double hull of 19 mm (0.75 inch) wrought iron in 0.86 m (2 ft 10 in) plates with ribs every 1.8 m (6 ft). Internally, the hull was divided by two 107 m (350 ft) long, 18 m (60 ft) high, longitudinal bulkheads and further transverse bulkheads dividing the ship into nineteen compartments. Great Eastern was the first ship to incorporate the double-skinned hull
Double hull
A double hull is a ship hull design and construction method invented by Leonardo da Vinci where the bottom and sides of the ship have two complete layers of watertight hull surface: one outer layer forming the normal hull of the ship, and a second inner hull which is some distance inboard,...

, a feature which would not be seen again in a ship for 100 years, but which is now compulsory for reasons of safety.

She had sail, paddle and screw propulsion. The paddle-wheels were 17 m (56 ft) in diameter and the four-bladed screw-propeller was 7.3 m (24 ft) across. The power came from four steam engines for the paddles and an additional engine for the propeller
Propeller
A propeller is a type of fan that transmits power by converting rotational motion into thrust. A pressure difference is produced between the forward and rear surfaces of the airfoil-shaped blade, and a fluid is accelerated behind the blade. Propeller dynamics can be modeled by both Bernoulli's...

. Total power was estimated at 6 MW (8,000 hp
Horsepower
Horsepower is the name of several units of measurement of power. The most common definitions equal between 735.5 and 750 watts.Horsepower was originally defined to compare the output of steam engines with the power of draft horses in continuous operation. The unit was widely adopted to measure the...

).

She also had six masts (said to be named after the days of a week - Monday being the fore mast and Saturday the spanker mast
Spanker (sail)
A spanker is either of two kinds of sail.On a square rigged ship, the spanker is a gaff rigged fore-and-aft sail set from and aft of the aftmost mast. Almost all square rigs with more than one mast have one or two spankers, which evolved from the driver sail. Some also carry a topsail above the...

), providing space for 1686 square metres (18,148 sq ft) of sails (7 gaff and max. 9 (usually 4) square sails), rigged similar to a topsail schooner with a main gaff sail (fore-and-aft sail) on each mast, one "jib" on the fore mast and three square sails on masts no. 2 and no. 3 (Tuesday & Wednesday); for a time mast no. 4 was also fitted with three yards. In later years, some of the yards were removed. According to some sources she would have carried 5435 square metres (58,501.9 sq ft). This amount of canvas is obviously too much for seven fore-and-aft sails and max. 9 square sails. This (larger) figure of sail area lies only a few square metres below that the famous Flying P-Liner
Flying P-Liner
The Flying P-Liners were the sailing ships of the German shipping company F. Laeisz of Hamburg.The company was founded in 1824 by Ferdinand Laeisz as a hat manufacturing company. He was quite successful and distributed his hats even in South America...

 Preussen carried - with her five full-rigged masts of 30 square sails and a lot of stay sails. Setting sails turned out to be unusable at the same time as the paddles and screw were under steam, because the hot exhaust from the five (later four) funnels would set them on fire. Her maximum speed was 24 km/h (13 knots).

Scott Russell bankruptcy



At the beginning of February 1856 Brunel advised the Eastern Company that they should take possession of the ship to avoid it being seized by Scott Russell's creditors. This caused Scott Russell's bankers to refuse to honour his cheques and foreclose on his assets and on 4 February Scott Russell suspended all payments to his creditors and dismissed all his workmen a week later.

Russell's creditors met on 12 February and it was revealed that Russell had liabilities of £122,940 and assets of £100,353. It was decided that his existing contracts would be allowed to be completed and the business would be liquidated. He issued a statement to the Board of the Eastern Company in which he repudiated his contract and effectively handed the uncompleted ship back to them. When the situation was reviewed it was found that three quarters of the work on the hull had not been completed and that there was a deficit of 1200 tons between the amount of iron supplied and that used on the ship.

Brunel meanwhile wrote to John Yates and instructed him to negotiate with Scott Russell for the lease of his yard and equipment. Yates replied that Scott Russell had mortgaged the yard to his banker and that any negotiation would have to be with the bank, who after weeks of wrangling agreed to lease the yard and equipment until 12 August 1857.

The Eastern Company began the task of completing the ship. Work recommenced in May and took longer than expected to complete. Brunel reported in June 1857 that once the screw, screw shaft and sternpost had been installed the ship would be ready for launching. However, the launch ways and cradles would not be ready in time since the contract for their construction had only been placed in January 1857. Under pressure from all sides, the lease of the shipyard costing £1,000 a month, and against his better judgement, Brunel agreed to launch the ship on 3 November 1857 to catch the high tide.

Launch




Brunel had hoped to conduct the launch with a minimum of publicity but many thousands of spectators had heard of it and occupied vantage points all round the yard. He was also dismayed to discover that the Eastern Company's directors had sold 3,000 tickets for spectators to enter the shipyard.

As he was preparing for the launch some of the directors joined him on the rostrum with a list of names for the ship. On being asked which he preferred, Brunel replied "Call her Tom Thumb if you like". At 12:30 pm Henrietta (daughter of a major fundraiser for the ship, Henry Thomas Hope
Henry Thomas Hope
Henry Thomas Hope was a British MP and patron of the arts.-Biography:He was the eldest of Thomas Hope and Louisa de la Poer Beresford's three sons, but was estranged from his brothers when he inherited their father's art collections, wealth and property along with...

) christened the ship Leviathan much to everyone's surprise since she was commonly known as Great Eastern; her name subsequently changed back to Great Eastern in July 1858.

The launch, however, failed, as the steam winches and manual capstans used to haul the ship towards the water were not up to the job. Brunel made another attempt on the 19th and again on the 28th, this time using hydraulic rams to move the ship, but these too proved inadequate. The ship was finally launched at 1:42pm on 31 January 1858, using more powerful hydraulic rams supplied by the then-new Tangye company of Birmingham, the association with such a famous project giving a useful fillip to the fledgling company.

She was 211 m (692 ft) long, 25 m (83 ft) wide, with a draft
Draft (hull)
The draft of a ship's hull is the vertical distance between the waterline and the bottom of the hull , with the thickness of the hull included; in the case of not being included the draft outline would be obtained...

 of 6.1 m (20 ft) unloaded and 9.1 m (30 ft) fully laden, and displaced 32,000 tons fully loaded. In comparison, SS Persia, launched in 1856, was 119 m (390 ft) long with a 14 m (45 ft) beam.

Suez Canal concerns


In 1857, during the planning of the Suez Canal
Suez Canal
The Suez Canal , also known by the nickname "The Highway to India", is an artificial sea-level waterway in Egypt, connecting the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea. Opened in November 1869 after 10 years of construction work, it allows water transportation between Europe and Asia without navigation...

, it was thought that Great Eastern would not be able to traverse it, since she had a draft of 28 ft (8.5 m) and it was expected that the canal would be excavated to a depth of 26 ft (7.9 m). In the event, when the canal was opened to shipping in 1869 Great Eastern was no longer in passenger service.

Fitting out


The launch of the ship cost £170,000, a third of Brunel's estimate for the entire vessel, and it had yet to be fitted out. It was difficult to get any more money from the Eastern Company's investors as the company was close to becoming bankrupt. To prevent this from happening, a new company was formed, the "Great Ship Company", with capital of £340,000. They bought the ship for £160,000, which left enough funds for fitting her out. The Eastern Company's shareholders were given the market value of their £20 shares (£2 10s) towards payment for shares in the new company and the Eastern Steam Navigation Company entered liquidation.

Tenders were invited for fitting the ship out, and two were received - one from Wigram and Lucas for £142,000, and the other from John Scott Russell for £125,000. Brunel had taken a long holiday on medical advice and was absent when the contract was awarded to Scott Russell. The work was begun in January 1859, and was completed by August.

Maiden voyage



30 August 1859 was given as the date of the first voyage, but this was later put back to 6 September. The destination was Weymouth, from which a trial trip into the Atlantic would be made. Following this the ship would sail to Holyhead
Holyhead
Holyhead is the largest town in the county of Anglesey in the North Wales. It is also a major port adjacent to the Irish Sea serving Ireland....

, its home port for American voyages. The company had made an agreement with the Canada's Grand Trunk Railway
Grand Trunk Railway
The Grand Trunk Railway was a railway system which operated in the Canadian provinces of Quebec and Ontario, as well as the American states of Connecticut, Maine, Michigan, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Vermont. The railway was operated from headquarters in Montreal, Quebec; however, corporate...

 to use Portland, Maine
Portland, Maine
Portland is the largest city in Maine and is the county seat of Cumberland County. The 2010 city population was 66,194, growing 3 percent since the census of 2000...

 as its US destination, and the railway company had built a special jetty to accommodate the ship. William Harrison
William Harrison (merchant navy officer)
William Harrison , a British merchant navy officer, was born in Maryport, Cumberland, on October 1812. He was the son of a master in the merchant navy....

 was appointed Captain in 1856; he drowned in 1860.

On 9 September the ship had passed down the Thames, and out into the English Channel, and had just passed Hastings
Hastings
Hastings is a town and borough in the county of East Sussex on the south coast of England. The town is located east of the county town of Lewes and south east of London, and has an estimated population of 86,900....

 when there was a huge explosion, the forward deck blowing apart with enough force to throw the No. 1 funnel into the air, followed by a rush of escaping steam. Scott Russell and two engineers went below and ordered the steam to be blown off and the engine speed reduced. Five stokers died from being scalded by superheated steam, while four or five others were badly injured and one had leaped overboard and had been lost. The accident was discovered to have been caused by a feedwater heater's steam exhaust having been closed, while the explosion's power had been concentrated by the ship's extremely strong bulkheads.

First voyage to America



Her first voyage to America began on 17 June 1860, with 35 paying passengers, eight company "dead heads" (non-paying passengers), and 418 crew. Among the passengers were two journalists, Zerah Colburn
Zerah Colburn (locomotive designer)
Zerah Colburn was an American engineer specialising in steam locomotive design, technical journalist and publisher.- Career :Without any formal schooling, Colburn was a teenage prodigy...

 and Alexander Lyman Holley
Alexander Lyman Holley
Alexander Lyman Holley was a mechanical engineer and was considered the foremost steel and plant engineer and designer of his time, especially in regard to applying research to modern steel manufacturing processes...

, and three directors of the Great Ship Company.

Preparations were initially made for the ship to sail on 16 June 1860 and the passengers boarded her on the 14th. After visitors had been sent ashore the Captain announced that he would not be sailing until the 17th, as the crew were drunk. Director Daniel Gooch
Daniel Gooch
Sir Daniel Gooch, 1st Baronet was an English railway and transatlantic cable engineer and Conservative politician who sat in the House of Commons from 1865 to 1885...

, who was travelling aboard her, was not pleased. He was further displeased by the route taken by the ship which was the more southerly of the regular steamer routes as he had wanted the ship to complete the journey in nine days. In the event, the voyage took 10 days 19 hours.

1861 government charter


Upon Great Eastern's return to England, the ship was chartered by the British Government to transport troops to Quebec
Quebec
Quebec or is a province in east-central Canada. It is the only Canadian province with a predominantly French-speaking population and the only one whose sole official language is French at the provincial level....

. 2,144 officers and men, 473 women and children, and 200 horses were embarked at Liverpool along with 40 paying passengers. The ship sailed on 25 June 1861 and went at full speed throughout most of the trip arriving at her destination 8 days and 6 hours after leaving Liverpool. Great Eastern stayed for a month and returned to Britain at the beginning of July with 357 paying passengers.

Although the ship had made around £14,000 on its first Atlantic voyage, the Great Ship Company's finances were in a poor state, with their shares dropping in price. They were also threatened with a lawsuit by the Grand Trunk Railway
Grand Trunk Railway
The Grand Trunk Railway was a railway system which operated in the Canadian provinces of Quebec and Ontario, as well as the American states of Connecticut, Maine, Michigan, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Vermont. The railway was operated from headquarters in Montreal, Quebec; however, corporate...

 for not making Portland, Maine the ship's port of call as agreed. In addition, Scott Russell
John Scott Russell
John Scott Russell was a Scottish naval engineer who built the Great Eastern in collaboration with Isambard Kingdom Brunel, and made the discovery that gave birth to the modern study of solitons.-Personal life:John Scott Russell was born John Russell on 9 May 1808 in Parkhead, Glasgow, the son of...

 had been awarded the sum of £18,000 for repairs following the 1859 explosion. The Company managed to appeal against this but Scott Russell applied to the courts and the Chief Justice found in his favour. The company appealed again, and due to rumours that the ship was about to leave the country, Russell's solicitors took possession of her. The Great Ship Company lost its appeal and had to pay the sum awarded; to cover this and the expenses of a second US voyage, they raised £35,000 using debenture
Debenture
A debenture is a document that either creates a debt or acknowledges it. In corporate finance, the term is used for a medium- to long-term debt instrument used by large companies to borrow money. In some countries the term is used interchangeably with bond, loan stock or note...

s.

Second voyage to America


Only 100 passengers booked for the second voyage, which was originally scheduled to depart Milford Haven
Milford Haven
Milford Haven is a town and community in Pembrokeshire, Wales. It is situated on the north side of the Milford Haven Waterway, a natural harbour used as a port since the Middle Ages. The town was founded in 1790 on the north side of the Waterway, from which it takes its name...

 on 1 May 1861. However, the boat taking the passengers to the ship ran aground and they and their luggage had to be rescued by small boats.

The voyage took 9 days 13 hours. Great Eastern's arrival in New York was virtually unnoticed, due to the American Civil War
American Civil War
The American Civil War was a civil war fought in the United States of America. In response to the election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States, 11 southern slave states declared their secession from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America ; the other 25...

 and when it was opened to the public at 25 cents a time there was little interest. 194 passengers sailed on the return journey on 25 May and 5,000 tons of wheat was also carried.

Third voyage to America


Great Eastern sailed from Liverpool on Tuesday 10 September 1861, commanded by Captain James Walker. On her second day out the wind increased to gale
Gale
A gale is a very strong wind. There are conflicting definitions of how strong a wind must be to be considered a gale. The U.S. government's National Weather Service defines a gale as 34–47 knots of sustained surface winds. Forecasters typically issue gale warnings when winds of this strength are...

 force, causing the ship to roll heavily. The port paddle wheel was completely lost, and the starboard paddle wheel smashed to pieces when one of the lifeboats broke loose. At the same time it was discovered that the cast iron
Cast iron
Cast iron is derived from pig iron, and while it usually refers to gray iron, it also identifies a large group of ferrous alloys which solidify with a eutectic. The color of a fractured surface can be used to identify an alloy. White cast iron is named after its white surface when fractured, due...

 rudder post, which was 11 inches (279.4 mm) in diameter, had sheared off 2 ft (0.6096 m) above its collar and the rudder was swinging free and hitting the screw, which was slowly breaking it up.

Captain Walker ordered his officers to say nothing to the passengers concerning the situation, then had a trysail
Trysail
A trysail is small triangular or square fore-and-aft rigged sail hoisted in place of a larger sail when winds are very high....

 hoisted which was immediately ripped apart by the wind. He then had a four ton spar thrown overboard secured with a hawser to try to bring some control to the ship, but it only worked for a short while before being torn away.

By the end of the second day some of the passengers had an idea as to the predicament they were in and formed a committee chaired by Liverpool shipping merchant George Oakwood. The captain agreed to meet Oakwood and allowed him to inspect the ship. What he found was far worse than had been expected: none of the cargo had been stowed properly and it was all rolling loose in the holds. Hamilton E. Towle, an American civil engineer
Civil engineer
A civil engineer is a person who practices civil engineering; the application of planning, designing, constructing, maintaining, and operating infrastructures while protecting the public and environmental health, as well as improving existing infrastructures that have been neglected.Originally, a...

, who was returning to the states after completing his contract working as a supervising engineer on the Danube River dry-docks in Austria, visited the rudder room and after inspecting the damage came up with a plan to regain control of the rudder.

Towle's scheme was taken to the captain, who failed to act on it. In the evening of the third day Magnet, a brig from Nova Scotia
Nova Scotia
Nova Scotia is one of Canada's three Maritime provinces and is the most populous province in Atlantic Canada. The name of the province is Latin for "New Scotland," but "Nova Scotia" is the recognized, English-language name of the province. The provincial capital is Halifax. Nova Scotia is the...

, appeared on the scene. Captain Walker asked her Captain if he would stand by. He agreed, but it turned out there was little he could do and after several hours the brig left, later succeeding in a claim for demurrage
Demurrage
The term demurrage originated in vessel chartering and refers to the period when the charterer remains in possession of the vessel after the period normally allowed to load and unload cargo . By extension demurrage refers to the charges that the charterer pays to the shipowner for its extra use of...

 from the Great Ship Company for the delay.

Towle now presented his plan to the passengers' committee and in turn they pressured the captain into letting him try it. Towle had a 100 ft (30.5 m) chain composed of 60 lb (27.2 kg) links wound around the rudder post below the break, then secured the ends of the chain to the port and starboard frames of the ship using block and tackle. Two lighter chains were led down from the wheelhouse and attached to the heavy chain and also to the ship's frames. This allowed some limited movement of the rudder and the ship became steerable again.

On morning of Sunday 15 September the storm finally abated. Towle and the passengers committee insisted that the Captain try the repaired rudder and eventually the engines were started and at 5 pm that day after 75 hours of drifting out of control the ship answered the helm and was turned on to a course towards Ireland, 300 mi (482.8 km) away.

On arrival at Queenstown
Cobh
Cobh is a seaport town on the south coast of County Cork, Ireland. Cobh is on the south side of Great Island in Cork Harbour. Facing the town are Spike Island and Haulbowline Island...

 the harbourmaster refused to let the ship enter because she was not under full control and the injured passengers were taken off by boats. The ship had to stand off for three days until she was towed in by HMS Advice. Arrangements for temporary repairs were begun and the passengers were offered free transport to the US aboard other ships. Once the repairs were completed the ship sailed to Milford Haven
Milford Haven
Milford Haven is a town and community in Pembrokeshire, Wales. It is situated on the north side of the Milford Haven Waterway, a natural harbour used as a port since the Middle Ages. The town was founded in 1790 on the north side of the Waterway, from which it takes its name...

 where permanent repairs were to be carried out. Smaller 50 ft (15.2 m) diameter paddlewheels were fitted, and improvements were made to the steering.

Upon arriving in the US, Hamilton E. Towle filed a claim for $100,000 under the laws of salvage, claiming that his efforts had saved the ship. The case was taken to court, and Mr. Towle was awarded the sum of $15,000, which was quite a considerable sum for that period. The Scientific American
Scientific American
Scientific American is a popular science magazine. It is notable for its long history of presenting science monthly to an educated but not necessarily scientific public, through its careful attention to the clarity of its text as well as the quality of its specially commissioned color graphics...

 published an account of the incident and a description of Mr. Towle's device. It is uncertain if Mr. Towle ever actually received any of the money awarded to him by the court.

1862 voyages


Great Eastern sailed from Milford Haven
Milford Haven
Milford Haven is a town and community in Pembrokeshire, Wales. It is situated on the north side of the Milford Haven Waterway, a natural harbour used as a port since the Middle Ages. The town was founded in 1790 on the north side of the Waterway, from which it takes its name...

 on 7 May 1862 with 138 passengers, arriving in New York on 17 May. The ship was opened to visitors and around 3,000 a day took the opportunity. The return journey to Liverpool was profitable, with 389 passengers travelling along with 3,000 tons of freight. The west-to-east trip took 9 days 12 hours, a reduction of 12 hours on her previous record.

The second voyage of 1862 saw the ship arriving in New York on 11 July with 376 passengers including the President of Liberia
Liberia
Liberia , officially the Republic of Liberia, is a country in West Africa. It is bordered by Sierra Leone on the west, Guinea on the north and Côte d'Ivoire on the east. Liberia's coastline is composed of mostly mangrove forests while the more sparsely populated inland consists of forests that open...

, J. J. Roberts
Joseph Jenkins Roberts
Joseph Jenkins Roberts was the first and seventh President of Liberia. Born free in Norfolk, Virginia, USA, Roberts emigrated to Liberia in 1829 as a young man. He opened a trading store in Monrovia, and later engaged in politics...

. The return journey later that month carried 500 passengers and 8,000 tons of cargo, the ship arriving at Liverpool on 7 August.

Great Eastern Rock incident


After a quick turnround, Great Eastern left on 17 August with 1,530 passengers on board and a substantial amount of freight which increased her draught to 30 ft (9.1 m). The ship encountered a gale
Gale
A gale is a very strong wind. There are conflicting definitions of how strong a wind must be to be considered a gale. The U.S. government's National Weather Service defines a gale as 34–47 knots of sustained surface winds. Forecasters typically issue gale warnings when winds of this strength are...

 but the captain maintained full speed and the ship arrived off Montauk Point
Montauk Point State Park
Montauk Point State Park is located in the hamlet of Montauk, at the eastern tip of Long Island in the Town of East Hampton, Suffolk County, New York. Montauk Point is the easternmost extremity of the South Fork of Long Island, and thus also of New York State...

, New York at midnight on 27 August.

Not wishing to enter New York Bay
New York Bay
New York Bay is the collective term for the marine areas surrounding the entrance of the Hudson River into the Atlantic Ocean. Its two largest components are Upper New York Bay and Lower New York Bay, which are connected by The Narrows...

 over Sandy Hook
Sandy Hook
Sandy Hook is a barrier spit along the Atlantic coast of New JerseySandy Hook may also refer to:-Places:United States* Sandy Hook , a village in the town of Newtown, Connecticut* Sandy Hook, Kentucky, a city in Elliott County...

 bar with the ship's deep draught, the captain decided to steam up Long Island Sound
Long Island Sound
Long Island Sound is an estuary of the Atlantic Ocean, located in the United States between Connecticut to the north and Long Island, New York to the south. The mouth of the Connecticut River at Old Saybrook, Connecticut, empties into the sound. On its western end the sound is bounded by the Bronx...

 and moor at Flushing Bay
Flushing Bay, New York
Flushing Bay is a tidal embayment in New York City. It is located on the south side of the East River and stretches to the south near the neighborhood of Flushing, Queens. It is bordered on the west by LaGuardia Airport and the Grand Central Parkway, on the south by Northern Boulevard, and on the...

. The pilot
Maritime pilot
A pilot is a mariner who guides ships through dangerous or congested waters, such as harbours or river mouths. With the exception of the Panama Canal, the pilot is only an advisor, as the captain remains in legal, overriding command of the vessel....

 came on board at 1:30 am and the ship moved slowly ahead. At about 2:00 am 1 miles (2 km) east of Montauk
Montauk, New York
Montauk [ˈmɒntɒk] is a census-designated place that roughly corresponds to the hamlet with the same name located in the town of East Hampton in Suffolk County, New York, United States on the South Shore of Long Island. As of the United States 2000 Census, the CDP population was 3,851 as of 2000...

, Long Island
Long Island
Long Island is an island located in the southeast part of the U.S. state of New York, just east of Manhattan. Stretching northeast into the Atlantic Ocean, Long Island contains four counties, two of which are boroughs of New York City , and two of which are mainly suburban...

 a rumble was heard and the ship heeled slightly. The pilot said she had probably rubbed against the "North east Ripps" (later renamed "Great Eastern Rock"). The captain sent an officer down to check for damage and he reported no leaks. The ship however had a list to port, but she made her way into New York the next day under her own steam. Nobody was hurt, indeed the passengers never even knew what had happened.

It was discovered that the rock had opened a gash in the ship's outer hull over 9 feet (2.7 m) wide and 83 feet (25.3 m) long, perhaps 60 times the area of the RMS Titanic's damage. The enormous size of Great Eastern precluded the use of any drydock repair facility in the US, and the brothers Henry and Edward S. Renwick
Edward S. Renwick
-Early life:He lost most of his eyesight while working as a patent examiner. He worked for a time in Wilkes-Barre as an ironmaster, but failed.-Family connections:...

 devised a daring plan to build a watertight caisson
Caisson (engineering)
In geotechnical engineering, a caisson is a retaining, watertight structure used, for example, to work on the foundations of a bridge pier, for the construction of a concrete dam, or for the repair of ships. These are constructed such that the water can be pumped out, keeping the working...

 to cover the gash, held in place by chains around the ship's hull. The brothers claimed that it would take two weeks to complete the repairs and said that they would only take payment if successful. However, the demands of the American Civil War
American Civil War
The American Civil War was a civil war fought in the United States of America. In response to the election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States, 11 southern slave states declared their secession from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America ; the other 25...

 caused delays in getting the iron plates required, and instead of two weeks the repairs took three months at a cost to the company of £70,000. The ship finally sailed from New York for Liverpool on 6 January 1863.

In October 2007, the recovery of a 6500 pounds (2.9 t) anchor in 70 feet (21.3 m) of water about 4 miles (6.4 km) from the rock has stirred speculation that it may have belonged to the Great Eastern.

1863 voyages


In 1863 Great Eastern made three voyages to New York, with 2,700 passengers being carried out and 970 back to Britain along with a large tonnage of cargo. One of her paddle wheels was damaged on the last outward trip and she completed it using her screw, while on the return journey she ran down and damaged Jane, a small sailing ship. The company lost nearly £20,000 on the voyages due to a price war between the Cunard
Cunard Line
Cunard Line is a British-American owned shipping company based at Carnival House in Southampton, England and operated by Carnival UK. It has been a leading operator of passenger ships on the North Atlantic for over a century...

 and Inman
Inman Line
The Inman Line which operated from 1850 until its 1893 absorption into American Line, was one of the three largest 19th century British passenger shipping companies on the North Atlantic, along with the White Star Line and Cunard Line...

 shipping lines, and ended up with debts of over £142,000, which forced them to lay up Great Eastern.

Sale


A plan was mooted to offer the ship in a lottery, which came to nothing, and the ship was finally offered for sale on 14 January 1864 at the Liverpool Exchange, the bidding opening at £50,000. No bids were offered and the ship was withdrawn from sale, the auctioneer declaring that it would be offered for sale with no reserve in three weeks time.

Meanwhile, Daniel Gooch approached Thomas Brassey
Thomas Brassey
Thomas Brassey was an English civil engineering contractor and manufacturer of building materials who was responsible for building much of the world's railways in the 19th century. By 1847, he had built about one-third of the railways in Britain, and by time of his death in 1870 he had built one...

 and John Pender
John Pender
Sir John Pender , British Submarine communications cable pioneer, was born in the Vale of Leven, Scotland, and after attending school in Glasgow became a successful merchant in textile fabrics in that city and in Manchester; where he had a warehouse in Peter street near The Great Northern Warehouse...

 to see if they would be willing to assist in the purchase of Great Eastern. The opening bid at the auction was £20,000 and John Yates who was acting for Gooch secured the ship for a bid of £25,000, despite the ship being worth £100,000 in materials alone.

The three men set up a new company, the Great Eastern Steamship Company, and Great Eastern was chartered to the newly formed Telegraph Construction and Maintenance Company for £50,000 of shares, and would be responsible for carrying out the necessary conversion work for the ship's new role.

Cable laying


The conversion work for Great Eastern's new role consisted in the removal of funnel no. 4 and some boilers as well as great parts of the passenger rooms and saloons to give way for open top tanks for taking up the coiled cable. Under Sir James Anderson
Sir James Anderson
Sir James Anderson captained the SS Great Eastern on the laying of the Transatlantic telegraph cable in 1865 and 1866.Anderson was born in Dumfries in south west Scotland and educated at the academy there....

 she laid 4200 kilometres (2,609.8 mi) of the 1865 transatlantic telegraph cable
Transatlantic telegraph cable
The transatlantic telegraph cable was the first cable used for telegraph communications laid across the floor of the Atlantic Ocean. It crossed from , Foilhommerum Bay, Valentia Island, in western Ireland to Heart's Content in eastern Newfoundland. The transatlantic cable connected North America...

. Under Captains Anderson and then Robert Halpin
Robert Halpin
Robert Charles Halpin, Master Mariner, born 16 February 1836 at the Bridge Tavern Wicklow, Ireland – 20 January 1894 and died at Tinakilly, Wicklow. He captained the Brunel-designed leviathan SS Great Eastern which laid transoceanic telegraph cables in the late 19th century. He was, arguably, one...

, from 1866 to 1878 the ship laid over 48000 kilometres (29,825.9 mi) of submarine telegraph cable including from Brest, France
Brest, France
Brest is a city in the Finistère department in Brittany in northwestern France. Located in a sheltered position not far from the western tip of the Breton peninsula, and the western extremity of metropolitan France, Brest is an important harbour and the second French military port after Toulon...

 to Saint Pierre and Miquelon in 1869, and from Aden
Aden
Aden is a seaport city in Yemen, located by the eastern approach to the Red Sea , some 170 kilometres east of Bab-el-Mandeb. Its population is approximately 800,000. Aden's ancient, natural harbour lies in the crater of an extinct volcano which now forms a peninsula, joined to the mainland by a...

 to Bombay in 1869 and 1870.
The ship was painted white for the trip to Bombay in an effort to reflect heat.

Break up




At the end of her cable-laying career she was refitted once again as a liner but once again efforts to make her a commercial success failed. She was used as a showboat, a floating palace/concert hall and gymnasium. She acted as an advertising hoarding—sailing up and down the Mersey for Lewis's
Lewis's
Lewis's was a large department store in Liverpool city centre. It was formerly the flagship of a chain of department stores under the Lewis's name, that operated from 1856 to 1991, when the company went into administration. Several stores in the chain were bought by the company Owen Owen and...

 Department Store, who at this point were her owners, before being sold. The idea was to attract people to the store by using her as a floating visitor attraction. By the time she was sold piecemeal at auction in 1888 she had become an embarrassment.

She was broken up for scrap at Rock Ferry
Rock Ferry
Rock Ferry is an area of Birkenhead on the Wirral Peninsula, England. Administratively it is a ward of the Metropolitan Borough of Wirral. Before local government reorganisation on 1 April 1974, it was part of the county of Cheshire...

 on the River Mersey
River Mersey
The River Mersey is a river in North West England. It is around long, stretching from Stockport, Greater Manchester, and ending at Liverpool Bay, Merseyside. For centuries, it formed part of the ancient county divide between Lancashire and Cheshire....

 by Henry Bath & Son Ltd in 1889–1890 — it took 18 months to take her apart.

Whilst it is rumoured that a human skeleton was found inside Great Easterns double hull, the same thing has been said of RMS Titanic and the Hoover Dam
Hoover Dam
Hoover Dam, once known as Boulder Dam, is a concrete arch-gravity dam in the Black Canyon of the Colorado River, on the border between the US states of Arizona and Nevada. It was constructed between 1931 and 1936 during the Great Depression and was dedicated on September 30, 1935, by President...

 (among others); and inspection hatches in the inner hull would have provided an easy escape. The ship was the subject of one programme in the BBC
BBC
The British Broadcasting Corporation is a British public service broadcaster. Its headquarters is at Broadcasting House in the City of Westminster, London. It is the largest broadcaster in the world, with about 23,000 staff...

 documentary series Seven Wonders of the Industrial World
Seven Wonders of the Industrial World
Seven Wonders of the Industrial World is a 7-part British documentary/docudrama television miniseries that originally aired from to on BBC...

 which repeated the tale about two dead bodies in the hull, including a child worker, presenting it as fact (even though stating it as a rumour). An episode of Haunted History
Haunted History
Haunted History was a 1998 UFA/Cafe Productions series exploring the supernatural. Executive Producer Ed Babbage for Cafe . The American version of the show also debuted in 1998 with the same premise of exploring the world to investigate the "haunted history" of reportedly haunted...

 also implied that the find of the skeleton was indeed factual. One of the narrators of the segment read an article published from the time when Great Eastern was being dismantled. The article stated that the workers broke into a compartment in the inner shell on the port side, and did find a skeleton. The idea of one or more skeletons sealed inside the hull traces back to the construction of Great Eastern, when it was discovered that two of the riveters, a worker and his apprentice, had mysteriously vanished. It was believed that they had been sealed on the inside by accident.

At the time of her local break-up Liverpool Football Club were looking for a flagpole for their Anfield
Anfield
Anfield is an association football stadium in the district of Anfield, Liverpool, England, with a seating capacity of 45,522. It has been the home of Liverpool F.C. since their formation in 1892 and was originally the home of Everton F.C. from 1884 to 1892, before they moved to Goodison Park...

 ground and consequently purchased her top mast. It still stands there today, at the Kop end.

During 1859, when Great Eastern was off Portland conducting trials, an explosion aboard had blown off one of the funnels. The funnel was salvaged and subsequentially purchased by the water company supplying Weymouth and Melcombe Regis in Dorset UK. The fourth funnel is still used in the filtration system to filter water from the Sutton Poyntz springs before entering the Wessex Water pumping station. This has now been relocated to the Bristol Maritime Museum close to Brunel's SS Great Britain
SS Great Britain
SS Great Britain was an advanced passenger steamship designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel for the Great Western Steamship Company's transatlantic service between Bristol and New York. While other ships had previously been built of iron or equipped with a screw propeller, Great Britain was the first...

 and is displayed there along with some original furniture from the ship.

See also

  • Steering engine
    Steering engine
    A steering engine is a power steering device for ships.-History:The first steering engine with feedback was installed on Isambard Kingdom Brunel's SS Great Eastern in 1866....

     - the Great Eastern was the first ship so equipped
  • Transatlantic telegraph cable
    Transatlantic telegraph cable
    The transatlantic telegraph cable was the first cable used for telegraph communications laid across the floor of the Atlantic Ocean. It crossed from , Foilhommerum Bay, Valentia Island, in western Ireland to Heart's Content in eastern Newfoundland. The transatlantic cable connected North America...


Further reading

(account of his 1867 voyage on the Great Eastern)

External links