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The Great Eastern’s first transatlantic voyage

Posted in Anniversary, Boats, Ships, Transport on Monday, 6 June 2011

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17 June marks the anniversary of the beginning of her first transatlantic voyage for the great paddle steamer Great Eastern in 1860.

picture, SS Great Eastern, Isambard Kingdom Brunel

The SS Great Eastern had a disastrous history as a passenger carrier. Illustration by John S. Smith

SS Great Eastern was the creation of Isambard Kingdom Brunel, by far the largest ship ever built at the time she was launched in 1858. She could carry 4,000 passengers around the world without refueling.

The ship’s maiden voyage in 1859 was a disaster: a huge explosion blew one of the funnels into the air and five stokers died. Her maiden transatlantic voyage was delayed until 1860 – and delayed an extra day because the crew were drunk – when she sailed with only 35 paying passengers and, by taking a more southerly route, took ten days to reach America rather than nine.

On her second voyage west the Great Eastern carried 100 passengers and her third was in the teeth of a gale which caused great damage. She was no luckier over the next few years and was sold off in 1864 and converted for use as a cable layer.

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