News from 1901 Launch and Maiden Voyage of Celtic II

Mark Baber

Dec 29, 2000
On 4 August 1901, Celtic II made her maiden arrival at New York. This article appeared the following day.

The New York Times, 5 August 1901

Harbor Craft Extend a Noisy Greeting to the Celtic
New White Star Liner is 700 Feet Long, Has Nine Decks, and Dwarfs the Biggest Battleship
The White Star Line's new steamship, the Celtic--the largest vessel ever constructed --arrived in port yesterday morning at the end of her initial passage of the Atlantic. As the leviathan proceeded up the bay en route to her pier in North River, she received a vociferous welcome from the few harbor craft that were about. Off the Battery the limited number of loungers in the park rubbed their eyes and wondered what it was, and whence had come the strange giant ship.

When she arrived off her pier the dock officials and longshoremen soon gathered and made fast the lines, and with the assistance of the crew had the great vessel docked in a remarkably short time, one of the onlookers expressing the general opinion of those present when he remarked that she "slid into her berth like a ferry-boat going into a slip." As the 345 persons who had crossed in the cabins of the Celtic came down the gangplank and greeted waiting friends, they assured them that the voyage from shore to shore had been the pleasantest of experiences, while as for the behavior of the liner, they said that she was as steady as the Rock of Gibraltar.

Everybody, from Capt. Lindsay to the humblest immigrant in the steerage, seemed to feel a sort of personal pride in the immense liner. One had only to mention the word Celtic and immediately he was compelled to listen to an extended eulogy of the qualities possessed by the ship. She had not been pushed for speed, and made the trip from Liverpool in a leisurely fashion, and, although she expected eventually to cross the ocean in seven days, she required a little more than eight days to make her maiden voyage.

When berthed the Celtic rose so far out of the water that her steerage deck was above the entrances to the pier, and to land her passengers it was necessary to open the iron doors aft of the cabins and allow them to make their exit that way.

The vessel's dimensions are: Length, 700 feet; breadth, 75 feet, and depth, 49 feet. Her registered tonnage is 20,880. To get a fair idea of her immensity, however, one has to stand on the sun deck. It is then that her capacity for carrying humanity and freight can be appreciated. Looking aft are seen the two big funnels, which seem a little too small, and likewise a little too close together, for a ship the size of the Celtic. It has been estimated that 40,000 men, placed in lines of 800 each, standing shoulder to shoulder, could stand on one deck. She has nine decks. The largest battleships are about 300 feet shorter in length than she is, while in the matter of flotation, she could transport any two of them and still have some room to spare for other cargo. The Great Eastern, the marine wonder and failure of her day, displaced 10,300 [sic; should be "1,300"]tons less than the Celtic; the Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse displaces only a little more than half as much, while the Oceanic, the White Star's greatest liner in point of speed and luxuriousness, which up to the advent of the Celtic was the largest oceangoing vessel in existence, is in tonnage 3,000 less than the new leviathan.

Interiorly the Celtic, while not as elegant or luxurious as the Oceanic, the Deutschland, or the St. Paul, is nevertheless furnished in a manner calculated to please even the fastidious. She is not intended for fast time, and her builders did not have in contemplation the breaking of transatlantic records when they constructed her. She is built for comfort and pleasant seagoing. Her accommodations are for 2,859 passengers. She carries a crew of 335 officers and men.

On the voyage that ended yesterday, the Celtic averaged a speed of 14.95 knots. She is capable, though, of going over 16 knots, and is expected to speed across at that rate as soon as she gets tuned down. The official log shows that the liner made the passage in eight days and forty-six minutes. Her highest day's run was on the first day out, when she logged 407 knots, the next highest being on Thursday, when she made 388. Capt. H. St. G. Lindsay, her commander, formerly commanded the Cymric. The purser is H. B. Palmer, formerly of the Germanic.


Mark Baber

Dec 29, 2000
The first sentence of the second paragraph is kind of interesting, isn't it?

The New York Times, 5 April 1901

White Star Liner Celtic Launched at Belfast---She Is Not Designed for Speed
BELFAST, April 4---The new White Star Line steamer Celtic, the largest vessel ever built, was successfully launched here this morning in the presence of a large and representative gathering.

The christening was performed by the Marchioness of Dufferin. Among the prominent persons who participated in the ceremony were the Countess of Cadogan, wife of the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland; the Marquis of Dufferin, the Marquis and Marchioness of Londonderry, and the Earl and Countess of Shaftesbury.

The arrangements for the launching were similar to those when the Oceanic was launched, and the new vessel glided from the ways and was pulled up within her own length by dropping three pairs of anchors. The launching took place amid enthusiastic cheers and the blowing of sirens and fog horns.
The Celtic's dimensions are as follows: Length, 680-9 feet; beam, 75 feet; depth, 44.1 feet. Her gross tonnage is 20,880, and net tonnage 13,650. She will have a displacement of 33,000 tons. She is not intended for speed, but is designed as an emigrant carrier, and will comfortably carry 1,700 emigrant passengers.

The Celtic has nine decks and capacity for 2,859 passengers. She will carry a crew of 335. Her tonnage is 3,600 greater than that of the Oceanic. Her displacement is 10,300 tons over that of the Great Eastern.


Mark Baber

Dec 29, 2000
The Times, 5 April 1901



In reference to the launch of the Kron Prinz [sic] Wilhelm, the latest
new boat of the North-German Lloyd, at Stettin last Saturday, the
Cologne Gazette remarked that British shipbuilders have apparently
ceased to compete with their German rivals for the attainment of the
maximum in size and speed of ocean liners. So far as size is concerned,
the observation is singularly ill-timed. The ship which called it forth
has a gross register tonnage of 15,000; the Deutschland, belonging to
the Hamburg-American Company, is 16,500; and the Kaiser Wilhelm der
Zweite, now being built for the North-German Lloyd, is understood to be
19,500. But the first two of these, which are the largest vessels of
which Germany can at present boast, are beaten, and well beaten, by the
British Oceanic with her 17,274 tons; and the new White Star boat
Celtic, launched to-day from Messrs. Harland and Wolff's yard here, can
give the last of them about 1,400 tons. German jubilation as to size is
therefore not justified. With regard to speed, however, this country
must be admitted to be behind; and so it will remain until, but only
until, British steamship owners are convinced that more money is to be
made by vessels carrying a mere handful of cargo, and depending on very
high fares which only a limited number of persons are willing to pay,
than by steamers which, like the Celtic, can convey a huge amount of
cargo together with a thousand passengers or so at rates that are within
the means of the ordinary traveller.

The Celtic has not been designed with any view of attaining high speeds;
her claim to distinction lies rather in the fact that she is the biggest
boat that ever has been built or is now in process of construction. The
only vessel in the past that approached her was the Great Eastern, which
had a gross tonnage of 18,915 compared with her 20,880. Gross tonnage,
however, is not always conclusive as to the comparative size of ships;
the mysteries of "tonnage dodging" may sometimes come into play, and it
is even possible to design a powerful tug-boat, which, so to speak, is
all engines, in such a way that its gross tonnage works out at zero. But
if we take displacement tonnage---the weight of the water displaced by
the ship fully loaded down to her full draught with coal stores, cargo,
&c.---the results are unequivocal. This is the method of measurement
always adopted with warships; and when these are considered on this
basis relatively to monsters of the mercantile marine, such as the
Celtic, they are far from presenting the preponderance in size which
they are sometimes imagined to possess. The Formidable, for example, one
of the heaviest class of warships afloat, has a displacement at full
draught of 15,000 tons; the Celtic at 36ft. 6in. draught will displace
36,700 tons, and cost about half as much. To compare the new White Star
boat with the Great Eastern in this respect is not so easy, because
there seems to be no general accord with regard to the figures of the
latter. The highest displacement attributed to her is 30,000 to 32,000
tons---at what draught is not stated---which is very decidedly below
that of the Celtic; while if we take one definite statement, that the
Great Eastern in 1860, when being employed as a cable ship, had a
displacement of 25,000 tons at a mean draught of 32ft., the advantage of
the new boat just launched at Queen's Island is still more marked. Of
course much of that advantage is gained from her larger draught, and,
indeed, there would be no difficulty in building vessels much bigger
still if only the docks and waterways of the different ports of the
world were deep enough and large enough to accommodate them. Even as it
is there will probably be one or two occasions in the year when the
Celtic will not be able to come up to Liverpool until she has been
lightened of a few thousand tons of cargo. At New York, however, she
need not fear this inconvenience, for within 18 months the Harbour Board
there has undertaken to have a channel 40ft. deep.

The length of the Celtic is given as 700ft. over all; she is, therefore,
a few feet shorter than the Oceanic, though still ahead of the Great
Eastern. In breadth she is 75ft.---7ft. more than the Oceanic, but about
the same amount less than the Great Eastern. It is this breadth of beam
that makes her so much bigger than the Oceanic, while she surpasses the
Great Eastern because a section of her amidships would be approximately
a square, whereas in Brunel's boat it was approximately a triangle. One
realized this squareness of build in the Celtic most vividly when
walking under her before she had left the slips, for over a considerable
portion of her length her bottom-plates stretched overhead like an
almost flat ceiling of steel. Her depth, again, is given as 49ft.---only
a few inches more than the Great Eastern's---but that is a technical
measurement which indicates the distance between her "structure-deck"
and keel, but affords little idea of the distance which separates her
keel from the highest point that will be used by her officers in the
ordinary course of directing her navigation. A better notion may be
gained from the fact that above that "structure-deck" there are several
other decks---indeed, a very great part of her passenger
accommodation---while the huge gantry, by the aid of which both she and
the Oceanic were built, though it towers something like a hundred feet
above the ground, was not far above the point to which her construction
had been carried even in the uncompleted condition in which she left the
stocks. To stand upon her fore-peak, indeed, was like being on a high
hill---all Belfast lay below in a widespread panorama.

The details of her structure are almost identical with those of the
Oceanic, which were fully described in The Times of January 14, 1899.
The same cellular double-bottom extends throughout her length, with the
same inner vertical keel and other arrangements to secure the necessary
quality of rigidity. The shell plates, which average 30ft. by 5ft., and
are 1 1/4in. thick, number nearly 1,400, and were put together by
thousands of rivets closed by hydraulic power; of rivets of all sizes
the ship will contain over two millions. There are in all nine decks,
their names, counted from the highest, being sun, boat, upper bridge,
bridge, upper middle, lower, orlop, and lower orlop; and, as the lower
of these are plated decks of full length, they of themselves are an
element of strength. The propeller shafts are entirely inboard and the
arrangement of their bearings also contributes to strength; they are,
as it were, a fold in the skin of the ship, the frames and skin-plates
being bossed out in the form of a pair of spectacles. The advantages of
this construction are now widely recognized in comparison with the
supporting brackets afforded by the diamond-shaped forgings frequently
employed in twin-screw vessels.

The propellers themselves each have three blades of manganese bronze,
and they turn outwards. They are driven by two sets of quadruple
expansion engines, which are now finished. The moving parts are
balanced on the Yarrow, Schlick, and Tweedy system to diminish
vibration, the arrangement of the four cylinders in each being, from the
fore end, high-pressure, second intermediate, low-pressure, and first
intermediate. The cranks of the high-pressure and first intermediate
have counterbalancing weights, and work nearly, though not exactly,
opposite the second intermediate and low-pressure respectively. In all
piston-valves are fitted, except in the low-pressure, which has
double-ported valves with a balanced piston; the arrangement of valves
is the usual one except that the high-pressure valve is not at the fore
end, but between the high-pressure and the second intermediate. The
valves are worked by the usual double eccentric link motion, the stroke
is 5ft. 3in., and the diameters of the cylinders are, beginning with the
high-pressure, 33in., 47 1/2in., 68 1/2in., and 98in. The working parts
are of forged steel, the crank shafts being 19 1/2in. in diameter, bored
with a 2in. hole. These engines develop 14,000-horse power, and are
expected to drive the vessel at 16 to 17 knots. Steam is supplied at
2101b. to the square inch, by eight double-ended boilers, each 15ft.
9in. by 19ft. 6in., with natural draught. The distance from the furnaces
to the top of the funnels is 120ft. The boilers are arranged in two
thwart-ship compartments, there being coal-bunkers along each side, and
a longitudinal bulkhead divides the machinery spaces. It is needless to
add that for working pumps, dynamos, &c., numberless auxiliary engines
are provided. Steering is effected by a machine of Messrs. Harland and
Wolff's design, in which by means of two spiral springs the steering
gear is saved from shock should a heavy sea strike the rudder. The
anchor gear, by Messrs. Napier Brothers, of Glasgow, also deserves
mention on account of its size, for it is designed to operate a chain
the links of which are of metal 3 1/2in. in diameter; there is also a
special brake gear designed to hold the ship up to her anchor.

The population---this seems the only suitable word---which can live in
the Celtic consists of over 3,000, about a tenth of whom are members of
the crew. But, that she may have a trip satisfactory to her owners, it
is by no means necessary that she should have that number on board; for
a certain elasticity is perhaps the most important feature of boats of
her class, so that a large portion of her space may be used either for
passengers or for cargo as circumstances require. The number of
first-class passengers for which provision is made is 347. Their
accommodation will be on the upper, the bridge, the upper bridge, and
the boat decks, their dining saloon on the upper deck stretching the
whole width of the ship, and one innovation that is sure to find favour
is a number of single-berth state rooms. The fittings of the rooms and
saloon may not vie in luxury with those of the fastest Atlantic
boats---that is one reason why the Celtic cost very much less than the
Oceanic, though it is the larger vessel; but the owners intend that
passengers shall be thoroughly comfortable. The quarters for 160
second-class passengers are on the upper and bridge decks, the dining
saloon being also on the former deck. Third-class passengers to the
number of 2,352 can be taken on the upper, middle, and lower decks, some
in state rooms and some in open berths. Married couples and single women
will be accommodated in the after end, and single men in the forward
end; all, with the amenities of a smoking-room and a comfortable general
room, will be treated in a way which will be in striking contrast to
that which prevailed only a very few years ago. The deck crew numbers
64, the engine-room and stokehold staff 92, and the stewards 179.

The vessel was successfully launched this morning from the same slips as
the Oceanic. From 6 o'clock workmen were busy knocking away the shores,
&c., which retained her in place, and by 10 o'clock only the bilge
blocks remained. In a few minutes more these too were removed, and the
ship was kept back only by steel triggers controlled by hydraulic
pressure. At the moment of launching the pressure on these was 445 tons.
Meanwhile the signal-guns were being fired warning the traffic on the
river to keep clear and the staff and tugs to take up their allotted
stations, while below the ship herself painters were hurrying about
putting the last touches of paint on the bottom plates on which the
shoring timbers had rested and which, therefore, could not be got at
sooner. Almost punctually at the appointed hour of 10 15 the third gun
sounded, and Mr. A. M. Carlisle, the manager of Messrs. Harland and
Wolff's yard, opened the valve of the hydraulic cylinder. The water
rushed out, the triggers fell back, and, relieved from restraining
pressure, the huge mass within a few seconds began to slide down the
ways, which had previously been lubricated with some 9 tons of tallow
and black soap. At first the motion was almost imperceptible, but the
velocity quickly increased, so that in about 54 seconds the ship had
travelled her own length to the end of the slips and was tearing through
the water, which she took at a speed of 12 knots. She was brought up in
345ft., almost exactly half her own length, by means of four anchors,
the chains of one pair running through the bow hawse-holes, while those
of the other pair were caught up in festoons by means of strong ropes,
the successive snapping of which took up the momentum of the ship and
gradually checked her progress. Her stern, which of course entered the
water first, dipped 35ft. in, and her draught when she was brought up
was 15ft. 4in. forward and 17ft. 2in. aft, the mean being 16ft. 3in.
From these figures it follows that the weight of the vessel as she lay
upon the stocks must have been 14,257 tons, some 3,000 tons more than
the Oceanic. It may be mentioned that before the day was out
preparations had already been begun for building another ship on the
same slips.

The launch, which took place in bright sunshine, was watched by
thousands of people stationed on the wharves and points of vantage
round; and it is said that all who witnessed the event had contributed,
or had had contributed for them, 1s. each, the sum thus collected being
handed over to the fund for erecting a memorial statue to Queen Victoria
in Belfast. Within the ship-building yard two stands had been
erected---one immediately in front of the bow of the ship, and the other
about 200ft. down the port side just above the hydraulic machinery
already mentioned. In these were accommodated the guests of the owners
and the builders. Among them were Countess Cadogan, with her two sons,
who travelled over from London via Stranraer specially last night, the
Marquis and Marchioness of Londonderry and Lady Helen Stewart, the
Marquis and Marchioness of Dufferin and Ava, the Earl and Countess of
Shaftesbury, the Marquis of Hertford, the Countess of Antrim, Viscount
Dunluce, Viscount Charlemont, the Lord Mayor of Belfast and the Lady
Mayoress, President Hamilton, of Queen's College, the Hon. George
Allsopp, the Hon. C. H. Wynn, Sir James Musgrave, Sir Robert McConnell,
Sir James and Lady Henderson, and Sir Otto Jaffe and other members of
the Harbour Board. The guests were received by the Right Hon. W. J.
Pirrie, chairman of Messrs. Harland and Wolff (Limited), Mr. G. W.
Wolff, M.P., and Mr. W. H. Wilson; and among those connected with the
ownership of the new vessel who were present were Mr. James Ismay and
Lady Margaret Ismay, Mr. W. S. Graves, Captain Leslie, Mr. S. G.
Horsburgh, Mr. E. L. Fletcher, Mr. H. Concanon, Mr. A. B. Canty, [sic;
should be "Cauty"] and Mr. S. Gowan. Telegrams of congratulation on the
successful launching were also received from the Lord Lieutenant, Mrs.
Ismay, and Mr. Bruce Ismay.


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