John Speller's Web Pages S.S. Great Britain

John Speller's Web Pages - Brunel's Steamships

S.S. Great Britain
The second of Brunel's great steamships for the Great Western Steamship Company, the S.S. "Great Britain" was built in the Great Western Dry Dock in Bristol and launched (or rather floated out) in the presence of the Prince Consort (Prince Albert) on 19 July 1843. It was the first large steamship built with an iron hull and fitted with a screw propeller. Brunel's double-hulled construction with watertight compartments was a triumph of marine engineering and became standard practice in designing passenger ships ever thereafter. It was the misfortune of the S.S. Titanic that its watertight compartments did not extend above the waterline; if they had (as those on the Great Britain did) the ship would not have sunk. The ship made its maiden voyage to New York on 26 July 1845. The ship drew 3,675 tons, making it more than twice the size of of the S.S. Great Western. It unfortunately ran aground off Ireland in 1846, forcing its owners out of business, after which it was sold for scrap. It was eventually refloated and repaired, however, and continued in passenger service until 1876. Then its engines were removed and it began a new career as a cargo ship. It was abandoned in 1884 in the Falkland Islands following storm damage, and becoming too frail for this was scuttled in 1933. This was not the end of the story, however, since more than 80 years later it was re-floated and towed back to Britain. In 1970, on the 127th. anniversary of its launching, and once again in the presence of the Prince Consort (Prince Philip), it was floated back into the Great Western Dry dock in Bristol, where it has been restored and preserved. A documentary about the S. S. Great Britain may be seen here.
Photograph by Henry Fox Talbot of the S.S. Great Britain being fitted out in the Cumberland Basin in Bristol in April 1844. This is the oldest known photograph of a ship. Image courtesy of Wikipedia Commons
Launch of the S.S. Great Britain, 19 July 1843
The S.S. Great Britain aground in Dundrum Bay, Ireland, 1846. Image courtesy of Wikipedia Commons
The S.S. Great Britain preserved at the Great Western Dry Dock in Bristol, 18 July 2005. Image courtesy of Wikipedia Commons
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