Evolution of the Ocean Liner


Aug 29, 2009
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I've seen a poster which you can buy on a cruise ship website called "Evolution of the Ocean Liner". It has pictures and facts about 11 ships that were vital in the evolution of the ocean liner. The poster can be found here:

http://www.cruiseserver.net/images/other/ocean_liner_poster_1000.jpg

You can enlarge it to read the facts better.

The 11 ships that were vital to the evolution of the ocean liner listed on this poster are the:

1. Great Britain
2. Mauretania
3. Titanic
4. Ile De France
5. Normandie
6. Queen Mary
7. United States
8. Canberra
9. France
10. Queen Elizabeth 2 (QE2)
11. Queen Mary 2 (QM2)
 
Dec 2, 2000
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I'm not so sure I'd give marks to an Olympic class liner for being vital to the evolution of the ocean liner. What these ships did was move in the direction that everybody was going at the time. For the time, they weren't even the most technically advanced. They were the largest but they were already being eclipsed by the ships being built in Germany such as the Imperator.
 

Mark Baber

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1. It's certainly 20th century oriented; from that poster one would think there had been no major developments between 1843 and 1907, a period during which any number of ships represented a distinct step beyond what had gone before, both in technology and style.

2. One wonders why it shows Mauretania, and not Lusitania, the first of the duo, except the fact that Mauretania held the record for so long. But the technology was the same, the speed difference wasn't significant and Lucy was first.

3. Mike, I think Olympic (not Titanic) deserves a spot there. Yes, larger ships were in the works, but the Imperator class was Ballin's response to the Olympics. Just as the Cunarders were a significant step in terms of speed, the Olympic class set new standards for size.

3. For me, the evolution of the ocean liner probably ends with France/Norway, and certainly doesn't extend past QE2. QM2, to my thinking, may be a step in the evolution of the cruise ship, but not the evolution of the ocean liner.
 
Dec 2, 2000
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>>Mike, I think Olympic (not Titanic) deserves a spot there.<<

You may be right about that. They weren't any great technical advance but they did point the way in which ships involved in the immigrant trade were heading.
 
Dec 29, 2006
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The list should surely begin with the PS Great Western, "the first Atlantic liner", and include other vessels to fill the long gap between the Great Britain and the Mauretania - what about the Great Eastern, or the earlier Oceanic?
 

Bob Godfrey

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The Canberra is a good illustration of the new standard profile of liners with the engines and funnels located at the rear, but the pioneer of that new style was surely the beautiful Southern Cross, launched by Harland & Wolff several years earlier for the Shaw Savill Line. I daresay the poster is intended to feature ships which were well-known and representative of their time, not necessarily the most innovative.
 
Aug 29, 2009
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Thanks for the comments, guys! I really appreciate it after I posted the thread!

What are your favorite ships on the poster?
 
Dec 29, 2006
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The designers of the Canberra also initiated the positioning of lifeboats lower down the side of the ship, to prevent some of the difficulties and potential dangers that had attended the launching of the Titanic's boats.
 
Dec 2, 2000
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>>what about the Great Eastern<<

I suspect that the Great Eastern would qualify as one of those grand ideas which turned out to be a mistake of literally grand preportions. The size of the ship was dictated in no small part to the fact that it was designed for the UK to Australia run and needed to be that large to carry the coal required for the engines while still carrying enough passengers and cargo to make a profit.

She could very well have thrived in that market, but those ambitions died when the original owners were driven into bankruptcy by the project. On the Atlantic trade, the ship was simply too large and never made a profit save when she was chartered to lay the trans-Atlantic telegraph cable.
 
Dec 29, 2006
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Any meaningful discussion about the most significant ship designs in terms of the development of ocean liners should consider issues such as size, luxury, speed and propulsion systems. The Great Eastern deserves a place because her capacious hull was far larger than anything that had gone before, allowing spacious and luxurious passenger accommodation of a type that would not become common until much later in the 19th century.

Other notable vessels that might have been mentioned include the White Star liner Cufic of 1888, which was perhaps the first Atlantic liner to have triple-expansion engines, and the Oceanic of 1899, which (it could be argued) was the true progenitor of the ‘Olympic’ classic. And what about the Servia (1881) — the first Cunarder to be equipped with electric light. On a footnote, it is interesting to note that, in the early 1880s, Atlantic liners were still fitted with yards (and, presumably, sails). Did they, however, ever use their sails?
 

Mark Baber

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Any meaningful discussion ... should consider issues such as size, luxury, speed and propulsion systems.

I quite agree.

The Great Eastern deserves a place ...

That I'm not sure about, Stanley. Although a remarkable ship with a singular history, Great Eastern wasn't a step in any evolutionary process; as you note, it was decades before anything like her in any sense came along again. The evolutionary chain that includes GE pretty much ends with her, while other chains led to the other developments you mentioned.

Cufic of 1888, which was perhaps the first Atlantic liner to have triple-expansion engines...

She was certainly the first White Star triple-expansion ship, but I don't know offhand if she was THE first. I'll check and see if I can find out tonight.

Other technical advances worthy of inclusion might be iron (and later, steel) hulls and twin screws, the latter of which eliminated the need for steamers to also carry sails. (To return to White Star again, Teutonic was the line's first twin-screw ship and, not coincidentally, its first with masts not rigged for sails.)

Did they, however, ever use their sails?

In the days before twin screws appeared on the scene in the 1880's, there are numerous examples of single-screw steamers using sails because of engine failure. After that I'm only aware of one instance of a multi-screw ship becoming completely disabled because of simultaneous failure of both engines.
 
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>> Cufic of 1888, which was perhaps the first Atlantic liner to have triple-expansion engines...

She was certainly the first White Star triple-expansion ship, but I don't know offhand if she was THE first. I'll check and see if I can find out tonight. <<

According to Bonsor's "North Atlantic Seaway", pg 171, 1955 edition:

"Three further express steamers, the 5000 ton Aller, Trave and Saale, were completed [for Norddeutscher Lloyd] in 1885. ... The Aller was the first North Atlantic express liner to be fitted with triple expansion engines, which gave her a speed of nearly 18 knots."

It appears that NDL's Aller deserves a place in this list, but it also appears, as has been already pointed out, that the list includes mostly well-known 20th Century ships, whether innovative or not. I have been searching for information on the Aller for some time, as she was the ship on which my grandfather crossed to New York in 1890. Next to nothing about her is mentioned in any modern books on liners, and even the books published around the turn of the century scarcely mention her. Photos of her are next to impossible to find; I have located only one. Her sister Saale is mentioned a bit more frequently only due to her involvement in the 1900 New York Pier fire.


>> The designers of the Canberra also initiated the positioning of lifeboats lower down the side of the ship, to prevent some of the difficulties and potential dangers that had attended the launching of the Titanic's boats. <<

Actually, the HAPAG Imperator class had lifeboats positioned lower down the sides of the ships, almost 50 years prior to the Canberra. Due to the "lifeboats for all" rule that came into play after the sinking of the Titanic, there wasn't enough room on the upper deck for all the boats required, so there was no other place to put them other than the sides of the ship.
 

Mark Baber

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Hello, Russell---

According to Bonsor's "North Atlantic Seaway", pg 171, 1955 edition ..."

In the later 5 volume edition of the same work, Bonsor credits the first triple-expansion engines to the Wilson Line's Martello, a freighter with a limited number of passenger berths (1884), with Aller listed as the first passenger liner so equipped and the Beaver Line's Lake Ontario (1887) as the first British triple-expansion passenger ship. In a footnote, though, he adds that the Wilson liners Yeddo, Bassano and Rosario all preceded Martello, but were not built for the North Atlantic trade.

Finally (at least for tonight), The Times reported on 4 November 1884 that Shaw Savill & Albion's Arawa, which was to leave on her MV to New Zealand the next day, was powered by triple-expansion engines.
 
Dec 2, 2000
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>>After that I'm only aware of one instance of a multi-screw ship becoming completely disabled because of simultaneous failure of both engines.<<

Would that be the City of Paris MAB? If so, it was more then just a failure. One engine literally came apart in a freak accident and the flying debris was enough to take out the other engine.

As to the Great Eastern, I think the ship ultimately became an object lesson in what not to do if you wanted a ship that would give a return on the investment put into her. Aside from the propulsion system being a clumsy hybrid of screw and paddlewheels, she was simply too large for the Atlantic trade in the 1860's.
 

Mark Baber

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Would that be the City of Paris MAB?

Yep. Quite an incident, described on GreatShips; I'm not aware of anything comparable happening to any other ship, ever.
 

Mark Baber

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Interestingly enough, several articles in The Times about the City of New York incident, including a letter to the editor by Samuel Plimsoll, extoll the ship's bulkhead arrangement as having made her "practically unsinkable."

Hmmm...where have I heard THAT before (or in this case, should it be "after")?
 

Jim Kalafus

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Could also mention the original Collins Line vessels, which originated the floating hotel concept, and eliminated bowsprits. Normandie can be replaced by l'Atlantique, which was essentially the same ship but 5 years earlier. Monarch and Queen of Bermuda were revolutionary in that they were the first liners in which every cabin was outside and had its own bathroom... literally every liner and cruise ship currently afloat owes them a debt of gratitude. Nieuw Amsterdam deserves a nod, for introducing a system by which private bathrooms were alloted by deck and not by class (making it possible to rent third class cabins as first class on one class only cruises) prefiguring the post-1965 layouts of all crossers and cruisers.

Rafaello and Michelangelo deserve SOME mention, for managing to be the ships of 2000 and 1900 simultaneously. Quite a feat in 1965. My god, those ships had beautiful public rooms in all three classes... bright, cheerful, open, and friendly but elegantly formal at the same time. In that sense, they could re-enter service today and require very little reworking.

HOWEVER, and this is a big however, only a select number of first class cabins had windows. The hull was utterly unbroken, so in cabin and tourist class even outside cabins were inside. Tourist class was a warren, and I'm not sure if all cabins there had private facilities. In that sense, the ships were similar to, and WORSE, than a run of the mill vessel of 1900.
 

Grant Carman

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Jim

I seem to remember reading somewhere that the make up of the tourist class rooms were one of the main reasons why Arison didn't purchase them when he started Carnival, and went with the old CP liners instead.

How truthful is that?
 

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