Copenhagen Nov. 2012
As a sincere aficiado of ocean liners I am deeply impressed by Michael Anton`s marvellous lecture on some of the greatest liners in history, and I thank for the special and devoted treatment, he has given the russian naval architec, Vladimir Yourkevicth and his achievement withthe wonder-liner NORMANDIE. Last year my son invited me for a trip on RMS Queen Mary 2 from Southampton to New York, so I am looking forward to learn more about this miracle of a modern ocean liner and her deigner, the fabulous mr. Stephen Payne.
Thank you again, Michael Anton, and welcome a lecolutboard - in the society of aficionados,
ours Christian F. Wammen
I have just found this article ,which is superb!
I am a UK volunteer transport history lecturer onboard cruiseships and will crossing the Atlantic at the end of September to New York onboard P&O's 'Arcadia'. This is the first time I have arrived in wonderful New York by ship and I can't wait!
Congratulations to City Journal and Michael Anton.
A rich history of maritime glory, intellectual prowess and subsequent productive value from within the mind of man. This incited a feverish sense of honor to the liners of past. Fascinating article.
I had the opportunity to sail on the SS United States in 1960 - from Southhampton to NYC. I was 7. We sailed in the less-than luxurious Cabin Class. For me, it was an exciting adventure - but it was a rough, albeit fast, ride. The swimming pool was below-decks - and the deep end changed every time the boat swayed - 5 to 10 feet of water would move from one end to the other. I went wandering and got lost in First Class - it took me hours and a crew member to find my way back to my family!
Ugh, I meant so say MORE than 800 feet.
You are entirely correct. I've been reading every ocean liner book I can find since I was eleven years old and I definitely know the Olympic's length. In addition, Aquitania (901), Imperator (906), Vaterland (950) and Bismark (956) were all built before 1915 and were less than 800 feet. I have no idea how I committed that embarassing error!
Roger Godement: I agree, "Riband" is a strange spelling, but if you look at old publications, that's the way it was nearly always spelled.
Very nice article--I first saw the Queen Mary on Oct. 31, 1990 and have been in love with her and other big old boats ever since. Congrats on a well-written, evocative piece.
--Janice Convery, Albuqueruqe, NM
Mr. Anton is entirely incorrect when stating in 1915 "..the biggest ship in the world was less than 800 feet long".
Very poor research to say the least. Permit me to remind him White Star Line's Olympic Class ships that entered service in 1911 (including one he may be familiar with called Titanic) were 882 feet long.
Excellent article about ocean liners. Lots of new information for me. Enjoyed the adventure of the big ships and their designers. Good nautical details. Nice use of positive nostalgia. Thanks to Michael Anton for his passion that resulted in this fascinating story.
Having toured U.S. Aircraft carriers, I don't think the scale is what awes when it come to the Queen. Spend a weekend climbing around the Queen Mary, stay aboard and you will start to wish you could still travel like that. It is the Elegance and the part where you feel out of place unless dressed properly that will bring back what it was like to travel with a Queen.
I was a passenger on the Queen Mary crossing from Southampton to New York in August of 1949. I had spent the war years in Scotland and was now returning the the U.S. I lived in Dumbarton on the river Clyde and my grandfather worked in Denny's shipyard. I watched as the big ships were launched. A suspenseful moment.
Fascinating article. Well done.
As a child, my family walked the one city block to Shore Road facing the Narrows. That evening, the United States was all lit up, one could hear the music across the water celebrating its record breaking crossing of the Atlantic. Fast foward to 1979, at Norfolk to pick up a purchase from Malaysia and I cast my eyes on a paint faded United States, domant at a pier. I came close to crying for such a fate for such a beatiful and powerful ship! Great Story
What a terrific read. When I got to the part where Percy Bates of Cunard dropped dead only hours before he was to sail on the Queen Elizabeth's postwar "maiden" voyage, I literally gasped, startling my husband in the adjoining room, who called out to me to see if I was OK. That's great storytelling! Thank you, Mr. Anton.
Mr. Anton's love of these masterpieces and their history cannot help but leap from each of the exceptionally well crafted prose and incites, at the very minimum, a spark of that passion in this reader.
A wonderful history lesson for a 58 year old resident of lower Manhattan who can remember with childhood awe the old docks of New York and the beehive of activity they were beneath the elevated West Side Highway - alongside the Hudson River on 12th Avenue.
Thank you sir!
I was born in Le Havre in 1921, lived 10 km away until I was 19, my father was working on the harbour and when I went there to see it I always managed to have a look at the "transatlantiques" anchored near by, one of my uncles wwas a cook aboard those ships between WW I and II, and of course I had several opportunities of visiting those sea monsters (and even to travel abord one of the Queens in 1950), etc.
What the author calls the "Blue Riband" is, presumably, what we called in Frence the "Ruban Bleu". While translating "bleu" as "blue" is 150% correct, I submit that "ruban" should be translated as "ribbon", not as "riband", a word that my English Oxford Dictionary for Advanced learners does not know.
R. Godement, Paris
My mother sailed on the beautiful Normandie on her way to school in Switzerland and returned on it at the start of the Great Depression. As a younster I was enthralled by the stories of that great ship and loved pictures of it. While its ending was a tragedy due to incompetence and arrogance of officialdom, its genius and artistry remain in human history.
Loved the article. I was recently involved in researching the history of an experimental farm in rural New South Wales in Australia. It had been converted to a prisoner of war camp during WW11, housing Italian POWS (none of whom tried to escape to go back to a war zone - they much preferred working on the farm!)They had been captured in North Africa and transported to Australia - on the Queen Mary! Their accommodation in the bowels of the ship was in a series of cage-like structures, some of which are believed to still be there.
My father worked on building both Queens in Clydebank Scotland where I was born. During the time work was suspended on the 'Mary' resulting in much unemployment in the town the story goes that an American news reporter came into Clydebank and as he looked at the great hulk of the ship sitting idle in the stalks he said, " Gee look at all that rust on the ship!" .My dad replied with the usual degree of Scottish humor in difficult times, " That's nothing you ought to see my frying pan!" The Queen Mary sailed away from Clydebank in May 1936 a few weeks after my birth and I never got to see it until I visited Long Beach in 1994. By enormous and uncanny circumstance the tour bus that took me from my hotel in Anaheim to Long Beach had the number 534 the same number given to the ship during construction. I told the driver and he was delighted as it gave him an added 'nugget' to tell his clients on the tour. Sam 'proud yet grateful Scot'.
My journey to Australia on an ocean liner when I was five years old (55 years ago now)is etched in my memory. My Australian war-bride mother, an avid traveler always up for an adventure, blithely packed up her two young daughters to visit our grandparents and assorted family in Melbourne(leaving our Air Force officer father to attend to his duties at his base here in the U.S.) I remember looking up in awe at the immense ship as we waited to embark, the excitement as the engines throbbed and we put out to sea. The journey itself was constant adventure and enchantment, with everyone fussing over two little girls dressed carefully by our mother in traveling costumes, hats and gloves included. The romance of that journey remains with me as the gold standard, not even matched by later cruise ship trips. And it always comes to mind when I'm faced with the drudgery and tedium of modern air travel.
Wonderful, simply wonderful.
Ah – the blessed names, the blessed ships! But let’s not forget that it was the blessed times too: no TSA to spoil the pleasure of boarding a ship! Rostislav (I never touched decks of these famous liners but, having behind me lots of Arctic miles on cargo ships, I cherish each line of this excellent article!), Saint-Petersburg, Russia
I sailed on the United States when I was just a child. On the same voyage, Rita Hayworth and her family---my mother never got over being on the same trip as such a celebrity. Thanks for this wonderful article.
I almost passed by this article, simply as a matter of time management. I'm glad I didn't. What a great reminder of the power of vision and persistence!
I wonder . . . how would men like Yourkevitch, who faced so many setbacks and obstacles, and worked at a job he could have easily considered "beneath" him, view the members of the Occupy "movement"?
I read every word; a great article about great men, Yourkevitch, Gibbs, and Bates. They have met the fate of so many creators and entrepreneurs. Their inventions are remembered and they are not.
Great story well told! I hope those who read it understand just how important it is to preserve the Big U.