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Collapsing Ceiling and the Piano

This discussion on "Collapsing Ceiling and the Piano" is in the Aquitania section; Where exactly aboard did this calamity occur? After 40 years of service, would the ship's ...

      
   
  1. #1
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    Where exactly aboard did this calamity occur? After 40 years of service, would the ship's internal steel really be that fragile? I need some embellishmentary explainations please.

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    Cody, in order to increase the chances of your getting a response, it would help if you provided some more details about the "calamity" you're referring to. As it stands now, your message provides next to nothing to go on.

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    Lol, Baber, I suppose you're right.
    The 'calamity' I'm referring is the
    collapse of a piano from one of
    the upper decks to through to the
    deck below it in the late 40's...

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    First I've heard of this one though I may have missed something along the way. As it stands, there were some fairly serious structural issues by this time. I'm not aware of anything quite as dramatic as what you noted but it would have taken a major refit to make it right. In light of the ships age and the fact that there were much newer ships available which were in better condition, it was deemed to be not cost effective.

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    oh i heard about this months ago, here's a passage from wikipedia containing that

    "After completing troopship service, she was handed back to Cunard in 1946, who used her to transport war brides and their children to Canada under charter from the Canadian government. This final service created a special fondness for Aquitania in Halifax, Nova Scotia, the port of disembarkation for these immigration voyages. On completion of that task in December 1949, she was taken out of service when her Board of Trade certificate was not renewed as the condition of the ship had reached a stage where she was too old to be economical and brought in to line with safety standards of the day. Also in 1949, a piano fell through the roof of one of the dining rooms during a corporate board meeting being held on the ship. This truly signaled the end of Aquitania's operational life. The vessel was retired and scrapped in 1950 in Scotland, thus ending an illustrious career which included steaming 3 million miles in 450 voyages. Aquitania carried 1.2 million passengers over a career that spanned nearly 36 years, making her the longest serving Express Liner of the 20th Century. She was the only major liner to serve in both World Wars, and she was scrapped as the last four funneled passenger ship."

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    I've read the same thing in many different places, and I've learned not to trust wikipedia.

    By 1949, Aquitania was shot. She survived about 10 years longer than she would have, had WW2 not broken out. The original plan was for the Queen Elizabeth to replace her when she was supposed to have originally come into service in 1940.

    Of course the war changed all that, and the big 3, Aquitania, QE, and the QM were all pressed into war service.

    My mother came to Canada in 1944 on the Aquitania, and the only thing I remember her complaining about was the lack of working running water in the bathrooms, which were down the hall. But then we never talked about the ship.

    Aquitania is my favorite ship, but even I realize that by 1950, after 36 years on the North Atlantic run, she was graciously put out of her misery.

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    A quick search of The Times and The New York Times fails to disclose any information in either paper about this incident.

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    this is what is written on TGOL
    "The Aquitania was not refitted as a luxury liner, but she was returned to a sort of passenger service. Some of her luxurious furniture that had been taken off before the war was never put back on board, but instead placed in the former White Star vessel Britannic. From now on to an uncertain future, the Aquitania shipped emigrants between Southampton and Halifax.
    She only lasted in this service for another year, when Cunard realised how old their once fabulous Aquitania had become. In late 1949, a piano almost crashed through to the deck below when a ceiling gave way. She was falling apart everywhere. Some of the bulkheads were nearly rusted through, and the funnels almost fell onto the decks, as they were thin like stamps due to heavy corrosion. The last of the mighty four stackers were sent to the scrappers in February 1950. She had served ever since 1914, carried out her duties in two major conflicts and steamed over three million miles, completing nearly 450 voyages. With the disappearance of the Aquitania, the last of the genuine ‘floating palaces’ from before World War I was gone."

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    There also seems to be no mention of this incident in Mark Chirnside's Aquitania book.

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    If anyone will know if this happened or not, it woiuld be Mark.

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    I looked through my books and I found that this story is mentioned in "Picture History of the Cunard Line" by Braynard and Miller (pg. 112), and Daniel Butler's "The Age of Cunard" (pg. 344). A variation appears in Terry Coleman's "The Liners", who mentions on pg. 179 a deck splitting open during a rainstorm, but not mentioning the piano.

    However, none of the books dedicated to her history by known reliable authors such as Mark Chirnside, Les Streater, Neil McCart, or Mark Warren, nor the Shipbuilder reprint containing details of her subsequent career, contain any mention of this story. Without any solid source, this may be just one more piece of liner folklore.

    Russell

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    I could not find any mention of this incident in the Globe and Mail, the New York Times or the Times (UK). Of course, this does not mean the incident never took place but it does not support it either.

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    I've seen it in some of the books that I own as well.
    Would all decks be steel on a ship built at that time? I'm assuming yes, but just wondering if any decks would have had wooden sections.
    I just think that a steel deck would have had to been very rusted and corroded from ten years of neglect for this to happen.

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    I just located this on page 131 of Mark Chirnside's "The Olympic Class Ships":

    "By the time she was scrapped, Aquitania's funnels were heavily corroded in places as were her bulkheads, the situation being reinforced by the fact that late in 1949 a ceiling had given way, almost causing a piano to crash onto the deck below."

    Any comments, Mark?

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    The story may be apocryphal, but if Mark's information is correct (And it usually is) then it would appear that there is at least a basis for it, albit one in which the real story improved in the telling. It's really not much of a surprise when you think about it. 35 years of service is hard on any ship, especially if it's through two wars.

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    <font face="courier new">Hi Russell,

    I'm flattered to be called 'reliable.' (Thanks, also, for your kind comments Grant.) I seem to be suffering a delayed hangover after Saturday's gala dinner at the BTS convention in Southampton. In other words, forgive me if I've missed some of the queries.

    Mark observed:
    quote:

    There also seems to be no mention of this incident in Mark Chirnside's Aquitania book.

    I did not think it merited including in the book, Mark. The key problem is that I did not have a primary source for it. Where did the tale originate? I have seen it mentioned in a number of publications, and Russell has rightly provided several citations. Unfortunately, as we know, you could also find many books which state that Lusitania was more popular with passengers than Mauretania; that Leviathan was a 'ghost ship' in the 1920s; or that Queen Mary was more popular than Queen Elizabeth. All these claims are demonstrably false, but false claims tend to gain credibility when they appear in publications. (These are merely a very few examples as they relate to the specific issue of various ships and their relative popularity. We could also look at the belief that Adriatic was ordered in December 1903; or that White Star's plans for Germanic/Homeric in 1913 envisioned her as a replacement for Titanic. Again, these are quite false. The list of false claims is endless and could make up a [s]boring[/s] interesting book of ocean liner trivia that nobody would buy.)

    The anecdote was mentioned in my earlier work, 'The "Olympic" Class Ships.' In hindsight, it was a rather pointless aside at the end of the Olympic chapter; it is on a growing list of errors and/or questionable statements that will be removed if there is a revised edition.

    The more you research a subject, I've found, then the more alarming it is that so much questionable material finds its way into print. It is possible that part of the ship's decking was corroded and gave way, but details are lacking and we don't have any evidence that this was the case. Similarly, I would have thought an incident such as this would have been mentioned in official documentation. I have seen no record of it. Older ships, in particular, are regularly examined for defects and a section of decking would not simply corrode and collapse overnight. Where defects did develop, these are fairly well documented, yet we should also bear in mind that when some of Aquitania's interiors were stripped down to be converted to trooping accommodation they were in a 'remarkable state of preservation.' (See: Aquitania: 'The Grand Old Lady' Dossier)

    If someone can shed some more light on the origins of the tale, then that would add to the discussion, but even then we're dealing with a classic 'Chinese whispers' scenario. I have not seen any reliable evidence that this incident occurred, and there is plenty to argue the contrary. I did not include it in the Aquitania book for these reasons.

    Best wishes,

    Mark.
    Mark Chirnside
    Webmaster: Mark Chirnside's Reception Room, www.markchirnside.co.uk

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    The key problem is that I did not have a primary source for it.

    Ahhh, that old bugaboo...letting a lack of evidence stand in the path of entertaining the reader. Quite restricting, no?

    ;-)

    false claims tend to gain credibility when they appear in publications.

    And this also the case---maybe even more so---with material on the web, given many webmasters' propensity to simply copy what appears on other web sites and republish it without attempting to verify its accuracy. I've come across countless examples of this, and efforts to have individual webmasters take corrective action are almost uniformly futile. Worse, there are quite a few fora where the fact that something appears on a web site is taken as meaning that it must be true and evidence to the contrary is summarily dismissed. I've just about given up, for example, trying to convince people that Nordic, shown on many/most online White Star fleet lists, never existed.

    I did not include it in the Aquitania book for these reasons.

    Thanks for the explanation, Mark. Makes a lot of sense.

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    I would think that if a piano had gone crashing through a deck that there would be some mention of the matter in an official record. It's not as if nobody would notice something like that, and this is the sort of event which attracts the attention of inspectors and investigators.

    In fairness, such records may well have been lost, but the silence is still a screamer.

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    Hi Mark,

    "The list of false claims is endless and could make up a boring interesting book of ocean liner trivia that nobody would buy."

    Oh, I don't know about that! I think that "Ocean Liner Myths Dispelled" by Mark Chirnside would be one book I would want on my shelf!

    Thanks for the feedback, Mark! BTW, I'll add my compliments to all the others for your Aquitania book. The photo collection is stunning, especially the colour photos, and I am enjoying it immensely. Well done!

    Russell

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    >>It's not as if nobody would notice something like that<<

    According to the story, it narrowly missed a group of Cunard executives when it came crashing through the ceiling. It is almost too theatrical to be real. One almost expects the Three Stooges or the Marx Brothers to come crashing through the ceiling with it.

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    >>Oh, I don't know about that! I think that "Ocean Liner Myths Dispelled" by Mark Chirnside would be one book I would want on my shelf!<<

    Mine as well. Mark has quite the talant for ferreting out that sort of thing. Most all of his books do just that as a matter of course.

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    "The photo collection is stunning, especially the colour photos..."

    Hi Russell,

    Many thanks for your kind words regarding the corrected color images. I had very low dpi/degraded scans of the original 35mm slides to work with which were very twisted in terms of color and contrast, and I do hope that my efforts brought some life to the "Grand Old Lady." Being selected to restore them was an honor (thanks Mark!), working on them was a pleasure and your compliment means a great deal to me.

    Best wishes,
    Eric

    <font color="ff6000">Farewell to the Tyne: Photographs and Memories of the Mauretania Leaving North Shields

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    Hi Eric,

    Yes, my thanks and compliments to you as well for the photo restoration job! The photos look like they could have been taken last week, and one looks at them and thinks "So that's what she really looked like!"

    While the old black and white photos are a excellent record, they really don't do the old liners justice the way photos like these do. John Blake was a man of foresight to have taken these photos with Kodachrome in the first place.

    Now if only someone could come up with a computer program that could discern the shades of gray on the black and white photos and restore them to the original colours as well!

    Best wishes!
    Russell

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    Sometimes black and white photes are better than colour ones. I remember a while ago I saw some colour photoes of the Normandie. Looking back at pictures of the same room but in black and white, the b&w looked better. Some of the colours they used were gawd-awful!

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    >>Some of the colours they used were gawd-awful!<<

    A point which Jim Kalafus has made on several occasions...and with quite a bit of justification. I've seen a few, some of which I recall Jim posted. To say that they were painful to look at is an understatement. Seeing them in black and white is a kindness!

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    Hi Mike, Grant,

    While I have a great respect for Jim and his incredible knowledge base and historical references (which seem more than enough for several people!), I will gently disagree here. Although my knowledge is fairly limited to the Mauretania, I have a fondness for many of the color combinations used in the Normandie's interiors.

    Best wishes,
    Eric

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    Eric

    I guess it's a matter of personal taste, and we can agree to disagree. I personally liked the colour combinations on the Nieuw Amsterdam better, as they were more muted tones.

    But then when I watch old black and white movies from the 1930's, they look great, but it makes you wonder what it looked like in colour.

    But hey, even I look better in black and white.

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    >>I will gently disagree here. <<

    Fair enough. Not everybody's tastes are the same. Personally, I'm more inclined to favour the decor of such as the Mauritania and the Olympics. All the heavy wood panaling would horrify a modern fire inspector but to me, it's eye candy!

    As always, your results may vary...

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    "Personally, I'm more inclined to favour the decor of such as the Mauritania..."

    Hi Mike,

    Now you know I can't disagree with that!
    The Lounge of the Mauretania was a wonder in itself. Below is a link to a rather scarce candid taken in the First Class Lounge looking aft on board the Mauretania one night in 1933, showing a "Paul Jones" mixer dance in full swing. And alongside the unpublished photograph is a section of moulding from this fabulous room. Thanks are due to leading ocean liner memorabilia dealer Brian Hawley of LuxuryLinerRow.com for placing the moulding in my collection. The text beneath gives some detailed information about this little gem - enjoy!

    Best wishes as always,
    Eric

    <font color="ff6000">R.M.S. Mauretania First Class Lounge Candid and Moulding (C) EKL 2009

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    Interesting photo. That lounge almost looks downright cozy. That wooden moulding is exactly the sort of restful colour I prefer.

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    Hi Mike,

    Yes, the Lounge was indeed cozy, especially at night. I have read accounts where repeat travelers commented that they felt as if the bays and alcoves in the Smoking Room and Lounge were actually welcoming, like seeing an old friend after many years. The moulding is among my favorite scrap items and very nice in the hand. A fully complete segment would have a richly carved acanthus section above the Egg and Dart, all finished in the gold leaf/paint. Another item I treasure is a very heavy Admiralty Brass porthole dog, unscrewed at Rosyth in Late July/early August and carefully hand engraved with the ship's name, the breakers and the date 1935. I have never seen another. And a set of bookends from her decks - just cut lengths and unchanged. The main reason I like these particular items is that they are not altered, unlike the ashtray you've seen made from her teak with an engraved insert of melted prop bronze bearing a bas-relief og the ship or the little teak treen items turned from her decks which bear those little brass plaques. The preferred items I mentioned are recognizable and very evocative parts of the ship. Glad you liked the moulding.
    Did my supposition about the graphite coating sound logical to you? I know various types of padding were employed behind the woodwork (horsehair among other things if memory serves), but this slippery graphite coating seems to have been an additional attempt to reduce any noise from movement as most of this woodwork was composed of joined sections. I don't recall reading about this coating in any texts.

    Best,
    Eric

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    >>Did my supposition about the graphite coating sound logical to you?<<

    Never really gave that a lot of thought. Considering some of the problems this ship had with vibration induced noise, I suppose anything which minimized it would have been welcome!

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    >>Considering some of the problems this ship had with vibration induced noise<<

    Ah Michael, you just had to draw attention to an OLYMPIC postcard of mine, message in part reads..."Absolutely no vibration, you could'nt even tell that we were moving". BTW, it is postmarked & cancelled a short time before the ship's collision with HAWKE.

    Michael Cundiff
    NV, USA

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    >>BTW, it is postmarked & cancelled a short time before the ship's collision with HAWKE.<<

    No vibration, just a nice big BUMP!

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    "Considering some of the problems this ship had with vibration..."

    Hi Mike, Hi Michael,


    On the first of her two informal trials, September 17-21 off St. Abbs Head on the coast of Scotland with additional maneuvers off Whitley Bay, the Mauretania managed to reach 25.73 knots on the St. Abbs Head mile, but she did indeed vibrate quite badly at speed. During one run, while working up considerable speed, an order was received in the engine room for "...a considerable and immediate reduction in revolutions." Captain Pritchard made this request because he was, in his words, "...being shaken of my bridge." She was replaced in the fitting-out-basin at Wallsend for weight redistribution and had much additional bracing added to her stern to resolve the problem as best as could be accomplished. (adapted from my article <font color="ff6000">Farewell to the Tyne: Photographs and Memories of the Mauretania Leaving North Shields which I updated last year). The strengthening of the stern, like the similar work carried out on her sister, was essentially effective but she still did vibrate to a considerable degree.
    After her introduction to North Atlantic service on November 16, 1907, the Mauretania struck a submerged object 250 miles out of Liverpool during her 7th voyage on May 2, 1908 which damaged her outer port propeller which had to be shut down. After eight voyages with three propellers she had her two outer high-pressure propellers replaced with four bladed 18 ton solid Manganese bronze single cast propellers of an improved design, leaving the two inner bolt-on three bladed propellers she had been introduced with. An additional refit was performed in the Canada Graving Dock later that year to replace the remaining three bladed propellers for her return to service in January of 1909. By September of that year the Mauretania held both the east and westbound Blue Ribband/Hales Trophy. An additional and intended benefit from these newly designed propellers, besides the increase in speed, was even further reduction of her vibration.
    From a post of mine I recently added to another thread here at ET, but of interest in this discussion I think regarding her vibration, is an on board postcard from September 26, 1909 when the Mauretania, now with four four-bladed single cast props, first attained 26 knots in service: "One [card] that comes to mind is a bas-relief color-tinted printed photo postcard from the Alliance Series (115, Newgate Street, London, E.C.) published by Taber. It reads in part "This ship is like a palace Dad, it is really wonderful. Everything is so comfortable and no motion to speak of...". It was posted at Queenstown at 1 p.m. on September 26, 1909 - the voyage where the Mauretania first attained 26 knots in service. Interestingly, I have several cards and souvenir passenger logs that describe smooth sailing in this period, although she did continue to suffer vibration until the end of her long and distinguished career.
    This additional bracing also caused some problems years later with keeping the Mauretania at even keel while she was being broken up at Rosyth - unusually done with her afloat. From experience with the strong cross winds at Rosyth it was known to be very difficult to hold a large ship secure and also allow movement under the cranes with breaking procedures in operation. The reason for this is the enormous windage potential carried by a larger liner in her superstructure. Now cut down to roughly the Main Deck and longer in Dry dock No.1 but alongside a quay, the “batten” system was used to carefully monitor her uneven weight distribution from the considerable weight of the bracing added in 1907. Wooden battens, 40 feet in length, were placed on the deck with their ends about twelve inches apart, and the opposite ends fixed firmly to the quay. Pencil marks were then drawn across the battens, which were free to move. It was observed that, as weight was taken off the ship, these pencil marks visibly moved by approximately one-quarter of an inch. The battens provided a very valuable benchmark, suggesting which sections of the ship should be removed next to maintain even distribution. An effort was made to keep the pencil marks in line to avoid placing uneven strain on the remaining structure.

    Michael, do you have any sections of wood, molding or metal fixtures from the Mauretania? You mentioned a trade - haven't heard from you yet, but those are the sort of items I'd be highly motivated to obtain. My other interests are original unpublished photographs, photocards and on board souvenirs/mail etc..

    Best wishes,
    Eric

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    Hi All,

    I am working on very little sleep here at the moment and not feeling my best, so please pardon my use of the "Hales Trophy", which of course was not introduced until 1935, and the doubled mention of the speed the Mauretania attained during her September 1909 record breaking crossing. I do hope you find the above interesting reading.

    Best wishes always,
    Eric

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    >>I do hope you find the above interesting reading.<<

    I did. Looks like they had to carry out a lot of remedial action to make the ship at least habitable but that's just one of the problems with exploring new technical ground...which both the Lusitania and Mauritania were doing.

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    Hi Mike,

    I am really glad you enjoyed reading it. I have been trying, when I can, to add varying bits of information about the Mauretania as this section of ET is so very quiet - especially for such a distinguished and accomplished liner. I feel she is often overlooked.
    I spotted another error - "Now cut down to roughly the Main Deck and longer in Dry dock No.1 but alongside a quay, the “batten” system was used..." should read "Now cut down to roughly the Main Deck and no longer in Dry dock No.1 but alongside a quay, the “batten” system was used..."
    The Buxton book about her demolition is very interesting reading and full of detail - from descriptions of the different methods used to lift decking to the dangers of lead poisoning from cutting painted plates. The funnels were particularly problematic with regard to layers of lead paint. Cross sections of the paint clearly showed her dazzle designs from during the war. Even though paint was chipped off along the intended cut lines before any torch work began, the surrounding paint would vaporize and expose the burner to lead fumes. Operators at risk were given daily servings of milk with cocoa as it was known that milk slowed down the absorption of lead in the body.
    And, of course, the book contains some very sad photographs detailing the scrap process, although the dates assigned are sometimes incorrect.

    Best wishes and thanks for reading,
    Eric


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    Eric; a very interesting post! Thank you.

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    Hi Jim,

    I am pleased you enjoyed it - I always appreciate your opinion.
    It was interesting to see the bracing from '07 still playing a role in '35. The "batten system" sounds a very practical and low-tech way to deal with the complex issue of this uneven weight distribution.

    Best,
    Eric

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    >>I feel she is often overlooked.<<

    A lot like the Olympic is and for the same reasons. It's the unfortunate sister which gets all the press. Keep up the good work in correcting this.

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    Dear Mike,

    Many thanks for the encouragement! I'll do my best

    Best wishes,
    Eric

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    Perhaps you can write what could very well be the definitive book on the ship. I can think of very few people who would have the requisite knowledge base and interest to do so. You're one of them.

    I don't know if you have the time but it's something to think about.

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    Dear Mike,

    Many, many thanks for that kind comment.
    I am very pleased to say that I have made all of my photographs and all of my research available for use in a project long in production that should result in just what you described. Will keep you posted.
    And I have plans for something very special after that as well.

    Very best,
    Eric

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    Eric

    Now you've got our interest up. Something very special? (maybe you've inherited a fortune and are going to rebuild the Maury?)

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    >>Will keep you posted.<<

    I'll be looking forward to all of that.

  47. #47
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    I am doing a book on the Mauretania for The History Press due for publication in mid-2010. I have only recently begun work on it. (And if anyone can offer assistance with info and photos, I would gladly accept it) It will be the standard THP format of 96 pages and around 150 images.

  48. #48
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    "The Buxton book about her demolition is very interesting reading and full of detail."

    Could we see some more details on this book? Title, publisher, etc?

    Thanks!

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    Hi Brent,

    it is called Metal Industries – Shipbreaking at Rosyth and Charleston by Dr. Ian Buxton (1992). I will find the publisher if you like. I don't have it handy.

    Best,
    Eric

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    Eric, is that book still in print? It sounds like something I'd be interested in having. I'll have to make some time to get Brent's book on the Leviathan as well.

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    Hi Mike, Hi Brent,

    I don't think so. More info below.

    Best,
    Eric

    BUXTON, IAN
    METAL INDUSTRIES
    SHIPBREAKING AT ROSYTH AND CHARLESTON
    Kendal, World Ship Society. 1992.
    18.5 X 24.5 Cm. 104 pp

  52. #52
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    May 2008
    Posts
    148
    http://www.amazon.co.uk/Metal-Indust.../dp/B0010ZRMUU

    thats a copy available on amazon, not sure if it's buyable though, but since it's on amazon it should be.

  53. #53
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Dec 2000
    Posts
    58,188
    Amazon indicated that it's unavailable. Looks like I may have to hit the used book networks to see if I can find a copy.

  54. #54
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Aug 2004
    Posts
    888
    Dear Brent,

    I have sent you a PM but they never seem to work for me here at ET - please write me at the address in my sig line.

    Best wishes,
    Eric

  55. #55
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Dec 2000
    Posts
    6,085
    >I will gently disagree here.

    Thank you, Eric. You are too kind! I respect your ability as a painter, and art critic, far more than I can express briefly here. However I must gently disagree with your gentle disagreement. If you were to use the...full palette...of colors used in the Normandie's famed first class processional in one of your paintings, I'd be forced to politely, but forcefully, say "Buddy, we HAVE to talk!" Adapting the 1930s vaudeville joke about "she has the perfect face for radio" to this context, "she had the perfect color scheme for black and white."

    Or, in another context, "What would Grover Whalen and his design committee say about CGT's use of color?"

    Although I am far from a fan of period architecture, the Mauretania and the Lusitania could, by no means, be called garish. The Normandie could be called nothing but.

 

 

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