Liners of Legend

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The turn of the Century and the Industrial Revolution caused the immense change in ship design that moved so rapidly from wooden-built packets to iron hull clipper ships with subsequent steam being combined with sail and then steam replacing sail completely with the Paddle wheelers. Phew! That all happened in a few short decades!

And then at the beginning of the Century marine technology had grown at such an incredible pace, that huge leviathans were being constructed of steel ships of several thousand tons and hundreds of feet in length.

The speed at which such technology and development grew, was largely due to the evolution of the Steam Engine and the screw propeller –combined with the vast numbers of diverse immigrants from such countries as Great Britain, Italy, Ireland, Germany, Scandinavia, France, Hungary, the Balkans and France and Russia –all seeking a new life in the New World across the Atlantic.

Naturally, the ‘only way across’ was by ship and thus the shipping lines found a ‘bonanza’ with one million immigrants crossing to the New World in 1907 alone!

With such a lucrative ‘cargo’ the shipping lines became very competitive to attract customers and, so two main factors prevailed –speed – and luxury. Speed was also a very major force in the shipping business as ‘swiftness’ also earned government sanctions such as financial subsidy as well as the privilege of carrying the mail. Hence the ROYAL MAIL SHIP – R.M.S.

Legendary names such as CUNARD, WHITE STAR, HAMBURG-AMERICAN, NORTH GERMAN LLOYD, RED STAR, AMERICAN, LEYLAND and HOLLAND-AMERICA to name a few- built ships that were incredible floating palaces –ships such as the Imperator, Olympic –the ill fated Titanic, the Aquitania, France and Rotterdam.

Class distinction was very notable on board these ships and had various changes over the years, with the elite traveling in the most luxurious conditions possible –with maids and valets (and special cabins for them) –the middle class had a comfortable hotel type accommodation, and below decks –sometimes even below the waterline, the third class, or steerage class as it was once called, lived in hostelry type accommodation that was very cramped.

Ships have been called ladies since time immemorial –and their stature and elegance has given many of the famous ones a Regal title –with several having the names of reigning monarchs and princesses and duchesses who in fact had the honor of christening these floating creations of steel sheets –held together with millions of rivers, and fitted out with untold finishes of teak and brass fittings.

Each ‘liner’ had its own specific character and was staffed with many, many seamen, stewards, engineers, and highly disciplined professional officers.

Each liner was representative of its country of origin and was the embodiment of that country’s culture and technological expertise

And so, as with most things, that mankind sets his mind to, ‘competition’ was rewarded with the well known and very coveted large silver cup called the BLUE RIBAND. (Not the Blue Ribband or the Blue Ribbon as we have seen and heard). This award was presented to the fastest liner to cross the Atlantic.

It changed hands several times –particularly between the British and the German liners, and ships became larger and faster –with lengths of over 1000 feet and speeds of nearly 30 knots!! –and tonnage reaching sometimes in the vicinity of 80,000!

The Grand Old Lady – Mauretania held the Blue Riband the longest in history –for over twenty years! –until she eventually lost it in 1929.

And so, the prestigious race lasted for many exciting and romantic years, with names such as Normandie, Europa, and Queen Mary becoming synonymous with the Blue Riband.

Subsequent to the end of the Great Depression and then World War II the passenger profile altered, and in the fifties a new breed of passenger began a new era of a mixed group of passengers from various walks of life –a new chapter in the history of the liners, just prior to the sad demise of these magnificent man made behemoths –that seemed to have a ‘soul’- when in the 60’s the advent of the AIRLINERS spelt the end to the GOLDEN ERA of sailing the seas with the saying of ‘getting there is half the fun’!