scrap metal - the worlds last great ocean liners

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Fastest speed (from the 'net)

The Blue Riband of the North Atlantic is the most prestigious steaming record in the world and 1998 marks the 160th anniversary of the 8.03 knot, 18 days, 14 hours, 22 minute record set by SIRIUS in April 1838. This crossing, together with the successful record breaking arrival in New York one day later by GREAT WESTERN (8.66 knots), created great public interest in shipping and a quest, by operators, for transatlantic supremacy. By gentleman's agreement, a number of shipping magnates decided that the passenger vessel logging the fastest transatlantic crossing would be honored with the privilege of flying a blue ribbon from her mast.

Over the next 100 years numerous attempts were made to gain the honor of being the holder of the Blue Riband. To encourage innovation in passenger transport and formalize Blue Riband arrangements, English Parliamentarian, Harold Hales, commissioned and donated a four foot high priceless trophy, known as the Hales Trophy, in 1934. The Trophy is presented to the "Ship which shall for the time being have crossed the Atlantic Ocean at the highest average speed".


Great liners such as REX, NORMANDIE, QUEEN MARY and SS UNITED STATES have all held the Hales Trophy since its inception. The SS UNITED STATES won the Blue Riband on its maiden voyage in 1952, averaging 35.59 knots. That record was broken in 1990 by the Incat Australia built HOVERSPEED GREAT BRITAIN, establishing the record at 36.65 knots.

They forget to mention that Mauretania held the Blue Riband for an unparalelled 22 years! (I don't know much about liners after 1940 or so...) Fastest liner on the ocean from 1907/1909 to 1929 (depending which record - east or west bound). That is an astonishing achievement. Despite more than twenty years service on the North Atlantic, she was still a very ship even into the 1930's. She left Havana for New York on July 19th, 1933, averaging 27.78 knots the first day out. The next day, on the 112-mile stretch between Carysfort Reef Lighthouse and Juniper Inlet Lighthouse (and with a bit of help from the Gulf Stream), she averaged an astounding 32 knots! She was designed for 25. This year marks the 70th anniversary of her demolition at Rosyth - the last section was hauled ashore in August 1936. And yes, she was coal fueled until her conversion to oil before returning to service in 1922. And Mary Ellen - thanks for nice comments about my photographs - yep, Titanic was triple screw - but Maretania (built several years earlier) was actually quadruple screw with 4 bladed props which rendered her much, much faster than either Titanic or Olympic could ever have been - Mauretania and sister Lusitania were designed for possible war service and had a very narrow beam.



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I believe the post-coal steam turbine liners ran on "bunker oil", a cruder form of diesel.

OT, in 1950, my parents on their honeymoon to Europe, went via Queen Mary over, Queen Elizabeth back.

Yep, everyone is gaga over the Titanic tragedy, but they forget the three greatest semi-civilian naval tragedies in history. All in the same year, and the same sea.


Can you name them?

Great question, and I would love the answer. A few wrecks come to mind... Empress of Ireland, Lusitania, The Republic, and then there was an excursion steamer out of NYC about 100 years ago... but I don't know the answer.

Here are some more of my scans, SS America circa 1955, sister ship to the United States. A real classy ship who some believe was scuttled on purpose for insurance money. Compare my photos with the photos of the ship today at this site: <a href="" target="_blank"></a>

Click on "Australis Today" on the left side of the page. YOU WON'T BELIEVE YOUR EYES!!!

Billy, your collection is awesome. I was on the QE2 in '99 and made friends with the social director of the ship who was also a ship enthusiast. We spent much of the cruise talking ships, and I asked her if she could sail on any one ship, which would it be? Her answer was Mauretania.

Here are some more scans from my collection, The Queen Elizabeth leaving NYC for Europe, 1964...

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They forget to mention that Mauretania held the Blue Riband for an unparalelled 22 years!

#2 longest span, behind only United States 38 years ('52 to '90).

Although some people would argue that U.S.'s record time span should be only 34 years.

Richard Branson tried for the record in 1985 in Challenger, but his ship sank just 138 miles from the British coast!

He tried again the following year (1986) in Challenger II, an apparently successful effort. But when he applied for the trophy the Hales' trustees refused to award it to him because his boat did not have a commercial maritime purpose and he had stopped to refuel three times.

It would seem that the 'commercial maritime purpose' argument might have merit since the original charter stated something about 'passenger service'.

But I'm told that refueling isn't mentioned anywhere in the original prize charter, and it was 'invented' by the trustees AFTER the Branson run, just to spite him. One would think that the time penalty to stop or slow to refuel would be enough of a consideration all by itself and you wouldn't need to bother to have it as a prize rule.

Anyway, Branson was so pissed that he abandoned nautical-speed record chasing completely and moved on to long-distance record-chasing for balloon flight.

By the way, since United States was laid up for much of the time it was the 'holder' of the trophy, one might wonder where the trophy was displayed (many of the previous trophy holders displayed it on board the ship).

It was displayed at the U.S. Maritime Museum in Long Island from 1979 until 1990, when they had to surrender it to the proud new record holder Hoverspeed Great Britain. The museum's foundation and the maritime trade protested the claim on the grounds that the ferry was not a trans-Atlantic liner, as it did not have overnight accommodations for passengers. In the end, however, to avoid a costly legal battle, the museum relinquished the trophy.

There is conflicting information about a record & prize associated with a voyage by Gentry Eagle in 1989. It was a high speed motor yacht which beat the fastest time & speed recorded, and apparently did so without refueling. But there is no way that it could be considered a 'passenger service' vessel.

Some accounts say that Mr. Gentry was handed the Blue Riband trophy in a ceremony by none other than Richard Branson himself (which seems an unlikely scenario!!), while many other Blue Riband winner lists don't even show Gentry Eagle at all.

Want to buy it? It's only 4 million smackeroonies, and I'll bet they take PayPal!

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"Empress of Ireland, Lusitania, The Republic, and then there was an excursion steamer out of NYC about 100 years ago..."

Empress of Ireland 1914, Lusitania 1915, Republic 1909, General Slocum 1904... he said "semi-civialian" - I am going to guess the three German vessels in the Baltic in 1945 - the Wilhelm Gustloff (5,700 to 7,000 dead), the General Steuben (3,500 dead) and the Goya (7,000).


PS - your'e right of course Randy re Riband - as I said, my interest in liners in limited to the two Cunarders and drops off rapidly after 1940 or so. I much prefer the "Old Lady of the Atlantic".

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I have to admit that although United States held the record for almost 40 years, it wasn't because it was that much ahead of its time, it was because the transatlantic 'competition' for the honor ended, and shipping lines didn't care to pursue it any more. Undoubtedly the technology existed for a shipbuilder to produce a vessel in the late 50's or early 60's which could have seriously threatened the record, but the economics were no longer there to justify building such a ship.

So record longevity comparisons between Mauritania and United States aren't really a fair comparison. Mauritania managed to hold onto the record for a long time even while many rivals were trying very hard to beat it.

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Hi Randy,

That is true. Once the competition "ended" or frayed, helped by the airlines of course, my interest just drops off rapidly. I prefer the old 4 stackers and the stories they tell. And you are also correct re Mauretania and the speed of her contemporary rivals - when the record was finally wrested from her by the Bremen it was by a very slim margin - perhaps 30 minutes! She made a single attempt to regain it and although she did not she broke every speed record she had previously set! Of course, she had undergone rather extensive refitting to meet this challenge in 1928 when her HP was raised from 70,000 to 90,000. After one considers the advances in design from 1902-04 when Mauretania was conceived and construction began to the late 1920's when Bremen was built her accomplishments really show.



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Here is my contribution- a newly scanned slide from Sept 1964.

The Cunard pier, with Bill's office building on the right. The ship (which looks a bit long in the tooth with those crows nests) is blowing steam out one of the stacks, so I guess it either just arrived, or is getting ready to depart.


closeup- can't quite make out the name on the stern, but it appears to end in 'nia' (that sure helps, huh!- )


Let's see....Cunard's fleet of ships in 1964 seems to have been:

Alaunia III

Andania III


Arabia II

Ausonia II

Carinthia III

Carmania II

Caronia II

Franconia III

Ivernia II

Ivernia III


Mauretania II


Parthia II

Parthia III

Prinses Irene

Queen Elizabeth

Queen Mary

Saxonia II

Scythia III


Sylvania II

That's a heck of a lot of ships with names ending in 'nia' !

Cunard didn't have many two-stackers in 1964. I vote for Mauretania (II), whose hull had been painted the pail green color in 1962 and was employed in 1964 mostly for New York - Caribbean cruises. It only had a year left in its service life.



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Right you are, Billy.

"Wilhelm Gustloff" - 9300~

"Goya" - 7000~

"Steuben" - 4500~

All KDF liners involved in the largest planned seaborne evacuation in history, from East Prussia to Germany.

Two million made it.

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Cunard's Piers, 92 & 94. Furness Lines Pier 95 visible far left.

Wonderful photos, fellas!

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Its funny how many of our photos look similar to one anothers.... Here is United States at dawn, January 1962 as seen at start of family trip on Home Line's Italia to Nassau. Also pix of Italia, (ex Kungsholm, built 1928, scrapped 1965).

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The United States Line ship in the dawn picture is America- not United States, whose stern is considerably different (see Bill's picture earlier in this topic).


SS America

Would you believe that the front half of the wreck of America still exists, where it was abandoned in the Canary Islands?

1994, soon after it grounded

a few months ago

sad, but perhaps a bit more artistic than the salvage torch

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The future of commercial liners?

<a href="" target="_blank">American Flagship</a>

The president of the company was John Rogers, the man who brought the Carousel to Carousel Park.

Unfortunately I found this:

JOHN ROGERS DEAD. The charismatic Chairman of World City Corporation, John Rogers, has died in New York of myeloma. After a distinguished career as a maritime lawyer - I worked with him on a project in Saudi Arabia in the mid-70s - John spent the past 20 years single-mindedly trying to build a 250,000-GT US-flag cruise ship *** convention center. The design was wonderful, the build strategy was unconventional but practicable and he assembled an astonishing team of high-caliber investors and participants. But the financing always remained just out of reach. Sad. October 9, 2005.


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Some more liner shots. Just got this one in last night. It's the famed ILE DE FRANCE, which was the first major liner built after World War I. This shot was taken in August 1958. In November 1958 the liner sailed on it's last cruise.


Before the ship was scrapped it starred in a disaster move, "The Last Voyage". That film will air on Turner Classic Movies on Feb 11, so liner fans should circle their calendars. More on the ship and a link to a clip from the film can be found here:

I thought folks might like to see how travel across the Atlantic could look:



Anyone like to guess what ship this was?

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I had a jet airplane trip not long ago that wasn't much better than that.

By the way, that's the perfect time to play a little deck shuffleboard. If you time it right, you can deliver some wicked hook shots.

Let's see, red funnel with a hint that there's a black band just above the red. That could be a Cunard Line funnel. If so, I'll bet the last two letters of the ship's name are "ia". Do I win a cruise or something?

Actually, the letters attached to the ship's railing are the giveaway- French Line. I'll go with Liberté.

NOW sign me up for the cruise.

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ANY ENGINEERS OUT THERE?? Please help me identify these pix my grandfather took on Italia in January '62. They are remarkable because only a nut would be on a cruise wandering through the engine room snapping photos. Not really the biggest tourist draw. Also, since the ship was built in 1928, and scrapped in 1965, there is probably not machinery like this in existance anywhere anymore. Even the Queen Mary was stripped of mechanicals.

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Things like gear reduction units and propeller shaft tunnels and bearings and hydraulic rudder linkages would probably be identifiable to somebody who knows what they're looking at, regardless of 1928 technology versus current technology. Okay grease monkeys- have at it!

By the way, the Queen Mary still has a lot of the mechanical stuff down in their engine room tour.

Your Picture #2 looks very similar to some machinery I saw on the Queen Mary.

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That's all valve gear. Rocker arms a thousand times bigger than in your car!

Best movie ever to show the workings of a marine steam engine was "The Sand Pebbles" (1966).

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Here's a trivia question for you---

What kind of gas mileage did the Queen Mary get?

Answer: 13 feet to the gallon.

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Of course when you're moving a couple of thousand people, maybe that's not so bad.

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Gallons per person to go 20 miles:

A family of four going on vacation in a car that gets 20 mpg= 0.25 gallons/person

Queen Mary going 20 miles with 3131 crew and passengers= 2.5 gallons/person

5280/13=406 then 406x20/3131=2.5

Tenfold difference. just a couple going on vacation halves that. Not as bad as I thought.

I am nuts.

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There were two newsworthy items in this morning's papers, related to this topic:

The first has to do with that Indian scrapyard which started this topic.....

L.A. Times 1/30/06

A Heap of Problems

A French carrier destined for the scrap yard finds itself the target of a battle over how and where it will be disposed of.

By Martin Arnold, Fiona Harvey and Jo Johnson, Financial Times

The Clemenceau saw action as the pride of the French fleet during fighting in Bosnia, the Gulf War and the conflict in Lebanon. But its toughest battle is being fought at the end of its life.

The shell of the aircraft carrier — now on its way via the Suez Canal to be scrapped in India — has triggered a heated debate between environmental groups and the French government.

"Le Clem" has become an affair of state. French President Jacques Chirac recently received a delegation from Greenpeace. It is still uncertain whether the floating heap of steel and carcinogenic asbestos will be allowed to continue its "final" voyage or be forced to return to its home port of Toulon on France's Mediterranean coast.

As well as denting French pride, the vessel's fate has come to symbolize the predicament facing many Western governments and companies as they search for a responsible and economically viable way to dispose of old ships.


The carrier, which is being pulled along at three to four knots by a Russian tugboat toward the Alang shipwrecking yard in Gujarat, will not be allowed within 220 nautical miles of the Indian coast until further orders from India's Supreme Court, which will hear the matter Feb. 13.

"The Clemenceau is nothing but a consignment of hazardous and toxic waste being dumped onto Indian soil," said Ramapati Kumar, a campaigner for Greenpeace, which has urged India's environment minister to refuse entry to the "27,000-ton weapon of mass destruction" until it has been decontaminated.

Singer Rabbi Shergill has lent his street credibility to the group's "Say No to Clemenceau" postcard campaign, aiming to gather thousands of signatures against the "death ship."

France was forced to retake possession of the warship in November 2003 after a Spanish company breached its contract by trying to take the vessel to Turkey before removing toxic material in Spain.

When the job of scrapping the Clemenceau was then put out to tender, a bid by its maker, DCN, France's state-owned naval shipyard, was rejected as too expensive. After most of the carrier's asbestos was removed at Toulon, the Defense Ministry said it was impossible to dispose of the remaining asbestos, estimated to be up to 45 tons, without the vessel's sinking.

France said it had taken every precaution, from training the Indian engineers at a French college to supplying protective clothing and materials to dispose of the asbestos safely. "It is the first time we have done this, so it is a learning process," said an official. If it works, France plans to send dozens more ships for disposal in India.

The bulk of the material used in ship-making is steel, which provides the most profit for dismantlers when resold as scrap. But many older ships were built with large quantities of asbestos, which, though illegal in many countries, is often recycled in India.

Many of the 45-year-old ship's problems stem from vast gray areas in ship-scrapping law. There are many official guidelines, but they are voluntary.

"It is a jungle, a free-for-all," said Paul Bailey, a ship-scrapping specialist at the International Labor Organization, who called for a treaty setting minimum standards.

The main gray area is whether the ship constitutes hazardous waste — as claimed by Greenpeace — and therefore not allowed to be transported abroad under the Basel Convention, or property of a sovereign state — as France argues — and therefore exempt from the charter.

Other countries facing similar disposal problems include the U.S., which has more than 100 old warships, and Germany, which last sent a warship to be scrapped in India in 1983, after removing all toxic substances.

Europe lost its edge in ship-scrapping, as in much shipbuilding, in the 1970s, as the trade moved to Asian countries with lower labor costs. Alang claims to be the largest ship-scrapping yard in the world, with slots for 173 vessels and 30,000 workers, according to the Gujarat Maritime Board. Environmental groups say migrant workers, often paid as little as $1.50 a day and using only torch cutters and their bare hands, lack protection from toxic substances, explosions and falling steel.

Jacob Hartmann, a ship-breaking campaigner at Greenpeace, says: "In all my years as an environmentalist I have never seen such an example of environmental injustice. It's terrible."

Long Beach Press-Telegram 1/30/06

The Queen Mary II will pass by the original Queen Mary in Long Beach twice on Feb. 22 as it sails in and out of San Pedro. The QM2, which is 113 feet longer and nearly twice the gross tonnage of the original, will signal the Long Beach-based vessel, and vice-versa, with their historic whistles at about 7a.m., officials for both ships have said.

The QM2 is scheduled to leave later in the day for a three-day voyage to Ensenada, Mexico, when it will again pass the city's Queen Mary icon.

Both times it passes the Queen Mary, the QM2 will sound a special greeting- a salutation that uses one of her namesake's original whistles, a deep bass A note that can be heard up to 10 miles away.

Another section of the original whistling system will be played aboard the Queen Mary.

I recall from the guided Queen Mary tour that although they 'blow the ship's whistle' (or 'horn') to demonstrate it during the guided tour, warning tourists to cover or plug up their ears, it's nowhere near as loud as it once was. That's because it was originally vented directly off the ship's steam engine system, while today that's impossible since the boilers have been removed, so it's instead ported off an electric powered compressor which is comparitively wimpy (but still impressive). I don't think I had heard the news that they had taken one of the original whistles and mounted it on the QM2. A nice nostalgic touch.

And it sounds like a great 'photo op' on Feb. 22nd- the kind of thing that might make a nice page 1 color spread in the morning papers.

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Spanish Liner Cabo San Vicente arrives New York Harbor and is welcomed by members of Spanish Pavilion and NY Fireboat.


In some more related information about NYC and the Cruise ship industry. I worked at the Passenger Ship Terminal for 18 years, from February 1983 until October 2001. The ship terminals include Piers 86,88,90,92 and 94, which I have seen in many of the previous posts throughout this topic. I was the Electrical and Carpenter formen for all of the Trade Shows at the facility. The piers are used for Cruise ships exclusively during the summer months and slightly overlap the spring and fall. During the winter months the Crusie ships all leave from Miami, so the facility is used as Trade Show Halls. During my employment down there each year there were more shows and less ships. When I left there were Trade shows there all year long and ships were only given priority not exclusive any more. It's my opinion that the Port Authority which operated the terminals wanted to get out of it and let the place fall apart and booked less ships. It was only when the PA finally left and a new Operation Company took over that the place, that it is once again full of ships every weekend in the summer. These are the last piers in NYC where a big liner can physicaly dock at. The piers require some major dredging work every spring time to get rid of all the sludge buildup on each berth. Out of the 5 piers that I worked at, each one could take 2 ships at a time only 3 of the piers are even dredged anymore Pier 88, 90 and 92. Pier 92 only has one berth dredged so only one ship can dock there. Pier 86 is the permanent Intrepid Museum and Pier 94 is used exclusively for Trade Shows. While I was there I heard the PA at one time was thinking about mothballing one of the 3 last piers.

Here is an old Longshoremans formula for finding the location of a pier in NYC: Take the Pier number and subtract 40 from it and that gives the street number. Pier 90 (90-40=50) is at 50th street.


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Is it safe to assume that cruise ships arriving (or departing) in New York Harbor are no longer greeted by fireboats putting on a big spray display?

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Thanks for the info, John. I have been to the PST several times. By the way, my brother Gerry is a carpenter working on trade shows over at the Javits. I didn't realize you guys were in competition for trade shows - I had thought the terminal was for shipping only.

Randy, I'll bet it has been a long time since a regular cruise got a fireboat salute. Maybe something like the QM2 coming to town would get one, but I doubt the regular comings and goings get much notice.

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