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PICTURE HISTORY OF THE Queen Mary AND THE Queen Elizabeth
By WILLIAM H. MILLER JR.
Dover Publications, Inc.Copyright © 2004 William H. Miller, Jr.
All rights reserved.
The history of the Cunard Line, or the Cunard Steam-Ship Company, Limited, as it was once more formally known, is practically the history of the old North Atlantic passenger service itself. Cunard dominated, competed, innovated, and certainly built some of the most significant passenger ships of all time. They began with a 200-foot-long paddle steamer in the nineteenth century, and now own the 1,132-foot-long Queen Mary 2, the largest ocean liner of all time.
Celebrating their 165th anniversary in 2005, Cunard was started in 1839 by a Nova Scotian shipowner, Samuel Cunard. Together with three partners, he luckily obtained the prized mail contract to America from the British Admiralty. The stage was set: he ordered no less than four new packet steamers, and the first of these, the 1,100-ton Britannia, sailed from Liverpool to Boston in July 1840. The crossing took fourteen days. The Cunard Line was in business.
By 1900, Cunard transatlantic service, sailing to New York, Boston, and Eastern Canada, were both popular and profitable. Cunard ships were known for their reliability, punctuality, and splendid service. Also, Cunarders (as they were called), seemed always to be in the news as the recipients of acclaim and notation. It was aboard the Lucania in 1901, for example, that Marconi carried out his first practical experiments with wireless telegraphy. Two years later, the same ship published the first onboard passenger newspaper carrying daily wireless reports. Another Cunarder, the Carpathia, achieved something close to maritime immortality as the principal rescue ship for the passengers of the Titanic in April 1912.
In 1905, Cunard introduced two of the biggest and grandest liners then afloat: the 20,000-ton sisters Carmania and Caronia. Soon afterward, in 1907, Cunard's built two of the world's most spectacular superliners, the 32,000-ton Mauretania and Lusitania. 1913 welcomed a bigger and more luxurious ship in the form of the 48,000-ton Aquitania.
It was in the 1930s, however, that Cunard produced two of its most extraordinary vessels, the incomparable 81,000-ton Queen Mary and then the 83,000-ton Queen Elizabeth. They ran the world's first weekly, two-ship service across the Atlantic and proved to be, at least for most of their careers, the most successful pair of liners yet built. Their successor, the 65,000-ton Queen Elizabeth 2, was added in 1969, and then, biggest of all, the 150,000-ton Queen Mary 2 had her debut in 2004.
Cruising has also been an important part of Cunard, including the first, complete around-the-world cruise in 1922 onboard the Laconia. Later, in 1948, Cunard built the very first big liner for full-time luxury cruising, the 34,000-ton "second" Caronia. Owned by Miami-headquartered Carnival Cruise Lines since 1998, Cunard has been revitalized with the likes of the Queen Mary 2 and the addition of the 85,000-ton Queen Victoria in 2007. That distinguished corporate name continues as proudly as ever.
In the mid-1930s, Cunard merged with its long-standing rival, the White Star Line, and prepared for the delivery of the record-breaking Queen Mary. While the numbers of passengers on the Atlantic had certainly declined in those otherwise lean Depression years, Cunard was running six of the world's most prestigious, largest, and assuredly most luxurious ocean liners: Mauretania, Aquitania, and Berengaria, along with the Majestic, Olympic, and Homeric. No other company could quite compare with Cunard. But though they were large, well decorated, and had their loyal passengers, those six big liners under the new Cunard–White Star house flag were aging and dated. They were becoming less competition to the likes of the French and the Germans, all of whom had or were planning far newer ships. The Mauretania, for example, dated from 1907, and had reached old age for an ocean liner by the mid-1930s. Consequently, plans were in place by the late 1920s for the new Queen Mary, which was hoped to reestablish Cunard's prominent position on the lucrative but fiercely competitive North Atlantic run. The prestige of the company, as well as of Britain herself, rested in the balance.
CARMANIA. By the turn of the century, competition on the North Atlantic was intensifying at a furious pace. Cunard was not only struggling to compete with the new luxury ships of Britain's White Star Line, but also across the North Sea with the Germans, namely the Hamburg America Line and the North German Lloyd. In response, Cunard laid plans for bigger, better, more notable ships. While designing a particularly handsome pair of twin-stackers–ships that in fact would be nicknamed "the Pretty Sisters"–Cunard engineers became intrigued with the new concept of steam turbine drive. It was said to be an improvement over the steam reciprocating system, which was not only less efficient, but often dirty as well. And so, the company opted to experiment by outfitting the Carmania with the steam turbine system and the Caronia with the standard reciprocating steam engines. In comparison tests, the Carmania proved faster, smoother riding, and far more economical, and so opened a whole new era in ocean liner propulsion. Thereafter, almost all other passenger ships were constructed according to the Carmania's innovation. In the lean years of the early Depression, the twins were used as cruise ships for $50 weeklong trips between New York and Havana, but their long, hardworking careers finally ended in 1932. The Carmania, seen here (opposite, top), on November 20, 1932, is being stripped of her art treasures and other passenger finery at the Tilbury Docks in London before proceeding to the ship breakers in Scotland. The Caronia's final voyage brought her to Japan, where she was demolished. [Built by John Brown & Company Limited, Clydebank, Scotland, 1905. 19,524 gross tons; 675 feet long; 72 feet wide. Steam turbines, triple screw. Service speed 18 knots. 2,650 passengers as built (300 first-class, 350 second- class, 900 third-class, 1,100 steerage).]
LUSITANIA. The Carmania and Caronia were, in ways, preludes to bigger, faster, more lavish Cunarders–superliners that could surpass the big German passenger ships. The British government was happy to assist with construction subsidies and operating contracts, especially for mail to and from America, especially after White Star was bought out by J. P. Morgan, the New York-based financier. London ministers wanted British- owned liners to carry the nation's colors, enhance national prestige, and, in case of war, be available for military purposes. The Lusitania (above), her profile dominated by four tall smokestacks, arrived first in September 1907. She made news rather expectedly on both sides of the Atlantic and was an instant success. The interested public was informed, for example, that she was more than three New York City blocks in length, had three million turbine plates, 192 furnaces, and consumed a thousand tons of coal per day. She could reach as much as 25 knots for her six-day passages between New York and Liverpool. Inside, she was every inch one of the world's "floating palaces," with gleaming marble and polished woods, stained glass skylights, and potted palm verandas. Unfortunately, she came to a tragic end on May 7, 1915. While steaming for Liverpool, she was torpedoed by a German U-boat off southwestern Ireland. Onboard, 1,198 perished out of a total of 1,959 passengers and crew. Considered the worst ocean liner tragedy of the First World War, her sinking, along with other events, gradually drew neutral America into the conflict against the German Kaiser's forces. [Built by John Brown & Company Limited, Clydebank, Scotland, 1907. 31,550 gross tons; 787 feet long; 87 feet wide. Steam turbines, quadruple screw. Service speed 25 knots. 2,165 passengers (563 first-class, 464 second-class, 1,138 third-class).]
MAURETANIA. The Mauretania was commissioned two months after its cousin, the Lusitania, in November 1907. She took the Blue Riband for the speediest transatlantic crossing, earning her the distinction of the world's fastest liner until 1929, with the arrival of Germany's brand new Bremen. The Mauretania was not only always more prestigious than the Lusitania, but more popular and beloved. She endeared herself to the traveling public, as well as to onlookers, harbor crews, and steamer enthusiasts. Her luxurious appointments had a more "Continental" tone, which included Italian Renaissance and French influences. For her first-class library alone, 300 wood-carvers were brought from Palestine to create the wood paneling and carving. Unlike the Lusitania, the Mauretania also had a long, largely successful career. After serving as a valiant troopship in the First World War, she resumed Atlantic liner service, teamed with the Aquitania and the newly acquired Berengaria as part of Cunard's "Big Three." The Mauretania is seen here on October 27, 1932 (opposite, bottom), docking at the so-called New Docks at Southampton, a brand new facility at the port of Southampton. The Mauretania was the first liner to use the berths for a winter overhaul. [Built by Swan, Hunter & Wigham Richardson Limited, Newcastle, England, 1907. 31,938 gross tons; 790 feet long; 88 feet wide. Steam turbines, quadruple screw. 2,335 passengers as built (560 first-class, 475 second-class, 1,300 third-class).]
Even though Cunard was planning a new superliner in 1929 ("a ship exceeding 60,000 tons," as they reported), the Atlantic passenger trade soon faced lean times. Following the Wall Street crash of October 1929, travel began to slump badly. One million voyagers sailed to Europe in 1930, but the number had dropped to 500,000 by 1935. Even Cunarders were sailing at less than capacity. Sailings to and from British ports were reduced, but to avoid lay-up for their liners, some were pressed into still-affordable, short-cruise service. Beginning in 1930, the venerable Mauretania (above) began spending more and more time on short trips to Bermuda, Nassau, Havana, and even on long weekends up to Halifax, Nova Scotia. A five-day summer trip to Bermuda was priced from $45, but far less costly and therefore more popular were overnight "cruises to nowhere," which had rates beginning at $10 per person. Still caught in Prohibition, the bars on ships such as the British-registered Mauretania could be legally opened once at sea, and so thirsty Americans were free to once again enjoy their libations. Dubbed "booze cruises," these voyages were immensely popular and actually saved ships such as the Mauretania from premature sailings to the scrappers. To enhance her all-cruising role, the veteran four-stacker was repainted white in 1932. It not only made her seem more tropical, but actually kept her interior as much as ten degrees cooler.
AQUITANIA. Following the enormous success of the Lusitania and the Mauretania since 1907, Cunard had but a few years before they had to compete with bigger, faster, and certainly more luxurious liners. White Star Line, for example, added no less than three large liners: the 46,000-ton Olympic in 1911, Titanic a year later, and–bigger still–the 48,000-ton Gigantic (later renamed Britannic) in 1914. But the Germans, namely the mighty Hamburg America Line, had even more ambitious plans: the 52,000-ton Imperator for 1913, the 54,000-ton Vaterland for the following year, and then, capping off the trio, the 56,000-ton Bismarck in 1914. Cunard, already needing a third big liner to cover a weekly service route between Liverpool and New York, had to respond and reaffirm its position. The result was the 45,000-ton Aquitania, which, while not the fastest or even the largest, was acclaimed for her beauty, both inside and out. Soon after her completion in the spring of 1914, she was fondly dubbed "the Ship Beautiful." She, too, did heroic duty in World War I, then returned to Cunard's express service, which had been changed from Liverpool to Southampton by 1920. An enduring ship, also known as the "Grand Old Aquitania" in her later years, she was scheduled for well-deserved retirement in 1940, just as the new Queen Elizabeth was to join the Queen Mary. But when World War II started in September 1939, those plans were shelved as the Aquitania was sent to serve as trooper in another war. She even returned to Cunard passenger service before going to the scrappers in 1950. By then, she was the last of the Edwardian "floating palaces," and the last of the great four-stackers. She is seen here (below) in the early evening of August 30, 1939, leaving New York's Pier 90 for what would be her final eastbound sailing before the war in Europe officially started on September 3. [Built by John Brown & Company Limited, Clydebank, Scotland, 1914. 45,647 gross tons; 901 feet long; 97 feet wide. Steam turbines, quadruple screw. Service speed 23 knots. 3,230 passengers as built (618 first-class, 614 second-class, 1,998 third-class).]
Considered by many to be one of the most splendid of all Atlantic liners, the Aquitania indeed had many beautiful features. Here we see some of her more palatial spaces: the first-class smoking room (above), Garden Lounge (opposite, top), the main staircase and foyer (opposite, middle), and swimming pool with adjoining gymnasium (opposite, bottom).
SAMARIA. Following World War I and considerable losses to its fleet, strategizing at Cunard's Liverpool headquarters became more conservative. Ideas of building big, fast liners were pushed aside, at least for the next ten years or so. Among other reasons, it was widely believed that the postwar Atlantic passenger trade would be more moderate. In fact, the immigrant trade would dwindle substantially following the installation of American immigration quotas of 1924. The old third-class and steerage quarters, for example, had to be refitted and restyled as a less spartan, very affordable tourist class. Among the new Cunarders of the early 1920s were the Samaria (opposite, top) and her two sisters, Scythia and Laconia. Weighing a moderate 20,000 tons and with a comparatively slow speed of 16 knots, she had modest interiors and a simple, single-stack exterior. [Built by Cammel, Laird & Company Limited, Birkenhead, England, 1921. 19,602 gross tons; 624 feet long; 73 feet wide. Steam turbines, twin screw. Service speed 16 knots. 2,190 passengers (350 first-class, 340 second-class, 1,500 third-class).]
AURANIA. Cunard built an even more moderate series of six sister ships (Antonia, Andania, Ausonia, Aurania (opposite, bottom), Alaunia, and Ascania) primarily for their alternate Canadian services to Quebec City and Montreal, or to Halifax in the winter when the ice-clogged St. Lawrence was closed. In many ways, these ships were offshoots of the larger, grander Aquitania. [Built by Swan, Hunter & Wigham Richardson Shipbuilders Limited, Newcastle, England, 1924. 13,984 gross tons; 538 feet long; 65 feet wide. Steam turbines, twin screw. Service speed 15 knots. 1,688 passengers (510 cabin-class, 1,178 third-class).]
LANCASTRIA. Seen here off Liverpool on November 7, 1938 (above), the Lancastria belonged to the Glasgow-based Anchor Line and was initially named Tyrrhenia. She was bought bv Cunard before completion, and retained her original name for almost two years before it changed to Lancastria during a winter refit in 1924. She had no identical or even similar sisters within the Cunard fleet, but nevertheless was a popular Atlantic liner as well as one-class cruise ship. She sailed from New York, Southampton, and Liverpool in the 1930s. [Built by William Beardmore & Company, Glasgow, Scotland, 1922. 16,243 gross tons; 578 feet long; 70 feet wide; 30-foot draft. Steam turbines, twin screw. Service speed 16.5 knots. 1,846 passengers (235 first-class, 355 second-class, 1,256 third-class).]
Excerpted from PICTURE HISTORY OF THE Queen Mary AND THE Queen Elizabeth by WILLIAM H. MILLER JR.. Copyright © 2004 William H. Miller, Jr.. Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
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