Launch of OlympicClass Liners


Jeremy Lee

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Jun 12, 2003
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I have always wondered why the Olympic was launched in white but subsequently her sisters the Titanic and Britannic were launched in their normal passenger service colours. Can anyone explain? Thanks!
 

Dave Gittins

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Apr 11, 2001
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It was apparently done for the benefit of photographers. Notice how the name on the stern of Olympic is visible. Remember that until Titanic sank, Olympic was the star of the show. There are few photos of Titanic in which the name can be seen. When it is, it's often because it was drawn on the negative, as in the well-known photo of Titanic under the gantry.
 
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Brian R Peterson

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It is of my opinion that the Olympic was painted white not only for the benefit of photographers, but also because it made the ship look so much larger than she actually was.

You must remember that the Olympic was White Star's reply to Cunard's Lusitania & Mauretania and was built mainly for the purpose of one upmanship - having built the largest liner in the world at the time, White Star was showing her off as best they could.

There are a few un-doctored photos in which you can see the "TITANIC" on the bow, but you have to magnify the image for this. There is also one photo I have seen of the Titanic in which her stern name and home port are visible as ghostly outlines, I think it is a photo of her going to trials.

Best Regards,

Brian
 

Jeremy Lee

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So the Olympic was White Star's "demonstrator" of their new Olympic-Class ships and wanted it to look as BIG as possible, but the later Titanic and Britannic were already not so 'hot' when they were launched, as the world had already seen the size of the Olympic and would know what to expect of her sisters, so they just painted it in black and red. Right?
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Dec 2, 2000
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Demonstrator? Well...maybe.

More like the Olympic was the lead ship of the class and got all the attention because of that. You can see the same thing happening with both merchent vessels and warships as well. Just about anyone knows what a Nimitz class aircraft carrier is, but beyond the Nimitz herself, how may people can name every single ship in the class?

Just about everyone in sight has heard of the Queen Mary, but I suspect you might have a hard time finding anyone outside of liner enthusiasts and historians who would remember the name of her half sister, the Queen Elizabeth I.
 

Bob Godfrey

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Michael, I don't know about the rest of the world, but over here in the (currently rain-sodden) UK when I was a kid in the '50s the two Queens were equally venerated in the Media with, if anything, the Queen Elizabeth coming out on top as the biggest and best. It's only the subsequent fates of these two liners that have brought the Queen Mary well to the fore. Ask anybody here of my age what was the greatest liner of the postwar era and they will probably name the Queen Elizabeth.
 

Jeremy Lee

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Oh yes, and I remember reading one of Enid Blyton's books titled The Queen Elizabeth Family.
Now if the Queen Elizabeth was not popular, Enid Blyton would have used the Queen Mary instead of the Queen Elizabeth for her story.
 
Dec 2, 2000
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Bob, I'm glad to see that people on your side of the pond have a better grasp on history. The picture on my side isn't as rosy. Both of our nations have a long maritime tradition and owe much of what they have accomplished to seafaring. Yet you would be stunned at the blank looks I recieve when I even attempt to discuss the subject.

Ironically, while the trans-Atlantic liner trade of the 19th to early 20th century brought over much of the musclepower and brain power that built my country, the knowladge, understanding, and appriciation of that fact over here seems to be abysmally poor among the huddled masses.

Jeremy, you'll note that I didn't say that the quuen Elizabeth was not popular. What I said was
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Just about everyone in sight has heard of the Queen Mary, but I suspect you might have a hard time finding anyone outside of liner enthusiasts and historians who would remember the name of her half sister, the Queen Elizabeth I.
There's a difference. One that you noted yourself. The example you mentioned being the Olympic which was indeed a very successful and popular ship, yet one which is largely forgotten today.​
 

Dan Cherry

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Mar 3, 2000
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Brian,
there is indeed one photo of the Titanic still on the stocks where her stern name and port of registry is visible on the fantail. The only other picture I can think of that shows the name on the stern (and quite clearly at that) - the photo of Titanic off Queenstown as the tender approaches. Two outfitting pictures, and several Southampton photographs show the ship's name with varying clarity....
 

Jeremy Lee

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In the monochrome pictures, the Titanic's name on her bow and stern were seen as white where they were actually golden. What would be the colour of the Olympic's nameplate when she was in white? Golden also? Because it seems black on white paint.
Another question: When was the Olympic painted from white to black?
Painting a liner over again just to show off her size is a pretty expensive thing to do......
 
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Brian R Peterson

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Hi Dan!

Thanks for clearing that up, I knew I had seen these photos I just couldnt recall where the ship was at the time.

Hi Jeremy!

When the Olympic was painted white the name on the bow and stern was painted black so that the name would be as visible as possible.

Shortly after the Olympic was launched when she was taken to her dry dock she was painted black and red, and while it might not have been cost effective to paint the ship twice, it accomplished its goal of getting the world's attention on the ship so it justified the costs in the long run.

Best Regards,

Brian
 

Jeremy Lee

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Too bad she was overtaken by the German Imperator just a year later.
By the way, what colour was the Olympic's anti-fouling paint when she was painted white? Red also?
 
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Matt Endacott

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Jeremy,
I'd have to sadly agree Olympic is the forgotten ship
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There endless titles of books on Titanic here in Australia and surprisingly, most good bookstores (Angus & Roberston or Dymocks) all stock plenty of copies of the few books related to the Britannic. I think people are most interested in the lost ships of the early 20th Century. The details of these enormous liners, blazing with light tilting to the bow have captivated thousands, possibly millions. It's an event un-commen today, the loss of such beauty and pride in the middle of the ocean, full of heartbreak & terror, compared to the horror of an plane crash or train wreck. It seems just because there was no death or disaster connected with the Olympic, she is over-looked!
 

Jeremy Lee

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Congratulations Matt,
In Australia, you at least have "endless titles of books on Titanic" but unfortunately, even our biggest bookstore in Singapore (Borders or Kinokuniya) have very little books on Titanic and Lusitania and none on the Olympic, Britannic or any other ocean liners of the past!
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Brian R Peterson

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Since the Olympic has long since faded into obscurity, assuming that the Titanic survived and was retired and scrapped along with Olympic in 1935, would she too fade away into oblivion?

Interesting idea....

Best Regards,

Brian
 

Jeremy Lee

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Yes. if the Titanic had not sunk, even less of her will exist today.... We still have her decks and hull due to the fact that she sunk and was not scrapped.
 
Dec 2, 2000
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Very probably, the Olympic would be the one everybody who takes an interest even remembers at all. First of the class, technical marvel of the age, popular boat and all that. The Titanic, being the second sister, would have been a footnote. Sinking's a helluva way to be remembered, but it seems to work. (Sometimes!)
 
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Brian R Peterson

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I think had the Titanic survived it would be remarkable to have her interiors as well documented in text and film as those of the Olympic, I think she would have surprised us with quite a few secrets.

Best Regards,

Brian