Friday, 11 October 2013

SS Great Britain - Sepia Saturday

When launched by Prince Albert at Bristol on 19th July 1843 Isambard Kingdom Brunel's revolutionary ship became the world's first great ocean liner.

Launch of SS Great Britain, Bristol 1843
(Painting - Lordprice collection - CC BY-SA 2.5)
In 1845 New York was to greet the SS Great Britain when she completed her first Atlantic crossing, having left Liverpool 14 days and 21 hours earlier.

Disaster struck in 1846 when Captain James Hosken ran the ship aground in Dundrum Bay, Northern Ireland.

Stranded in Dundrum Bay, County Down
(Science & Society Picture Library - Author unknown)
The great ship was not rescued for nearly a year and in 1850 the Great Western Steamship Company sold her to Gibbs, Bright & Company. Two years later she started her life as an emigrant steam clipper carrying people to a new life in Australia.

SS Great Britain, 1853
(Source Arthur J Maginnis (1900) - The Atlantic Ferry Men)
In the years between 1852 and 1875 the SS Great Britain carried around 14000 people to Australia, besides acting as a troop ship for the Crimea War (1856) and carrying troops needed in response to the Indian Mutiny.(1857). On a lighter note she carried the first English cricket team to Australia.

He role changed again in 1882 when her engine and funnel were removed and she was converted to carry cargo. She carried Welsh coal to San Francisco. She suffered bad storm damage off Cape Horn in 1886 and limped into the Falkland Islands. Bought by the Falkland Islands Company, she remained economic to run until 1933. By then she had become unsafe to even be used as a floating warehouse for coal and wool. In 1937 she was scuttled in Sparrow Cove, a remote shallow bay.

SS Great Britain at Sparrow Cove. 1968
Her masts were removed and on 19 July 1970, 127 years to the day after her launch the SS Great Britain returned home to Bristol. 

Restored to all her glory she was relaunched on her 162nd birthday in 2005. Today she can be seen in her original dock on Bristol's Historic Quayside.

SS Great Britain
This is a Sepia Saturday post inspired by another later launching.


I wonder whether any of our Australian Sepians can trace their roots back to Brunel's great ship.

For other flotations sail over to Sepia-Saturday-198.



21 comments:

Marc Latham said...

Thanks Bob. Saw it in Bristol; in 2006 I think. Nice to see its stamps and learn a little of its history.

L. D. said...

It has had such a diverse history. It is amazing that it is still being used today. It was a beautiful ship at the beginning.

whowerethey said...

I do enjoy the romance of a sailing ship and this one is a beautiful ship. So glad to see it had a "happily ever after" instead of meeting Davy Jones.

Kristin said...

That ship is lucky she was scuttled in stead of burned and scrapped. There is no coming back from that end. I never knew ships were so interesting until I started looking in to the ship my grandfather was on and then this prompt.

Carole Anne Carr said...

Yes, agree with Mark, good to learn her history.

cmoneyspinner said...

Found this post via Authentic Blogger on Facebook. Nice read!

Little Nell said...

We visited her and saw her as she is today, but it's so nice to see some of her history again.

ScotSue said...

I have long enjoyed reading about the history of sailing ships and you have given us a fascinating background with lovely illustrations.

Wendy said...

I had no idea a ship could remain in service that long. The restoration is magnificent, giving us a good idea of how grand she must have been in 1843.

boundforoz said...

"A bed of kelp at her bow" . Beautifully expressed.

Gail Perlee said...

In researching American ships during the Civil War here, I was struck by how often ships were changed from this sort to that sort and so on until they were simply beyond being changed to anything else. In more modern times it seems ships become obsolete much sooner and wind up on the 'scrap heap'. Seems such a shame, but the faster technology improves things, the faster things become obsolete. Enjoyed the pictures you posted. She was certainly a beautiful ship in the beginning!

Mike Brubaker said...

A perfect story to tell this weekend, Bob. A full turn-around like this for an early sail/steam ship must be rare. This ship probably called into nearly every port in the British Empire.

Jo Featherston said...

An amazing story of ship recovery and restoration. One set of my ancestors arrived in NZ aboard the New Great Britain in 1863, but I haven't been able to discover much about that particular ship.

Alan Burnett said...

It's a fine story. I wait in vain for someone to restore me to my former glory whether or not they display me in Bristol Docks.

Postcardy said...

I would love to see that ship.

Nancy said...

As I was reading your post and looking at the paintings I was thinking how different the ship looked in each illustration. I'm glad you included a photo of the restored ship. She is beautiful and you wrote a great history for her. Very interesting, Bob.

Alex Daw said...

Well now this is kind of annoying because I want to say "Yes" one of my ancestors came out on the SS Great Britain but now I can't remember which one!!! Sigh. I'm going to have to get more organised I can tell. I've got lots of documents about the SS Great Britain but no notes about who it was that came out...great! I think she looks fabulous by the way. What a great restoration.

Hazel Ceej said...

She's like a whale stranded in shallow waters. I'll check her out if I'm in Bristol.

Jackie van Bergen said...

Great post - and I can say that at least three of my ancestors came to Port Phillip, Australia on the Great Britain - in 1862, 1863 and 1866!
Frustrating because we passed near Bristol last year on holiday but didn't know about this and didn't get there. Oh well, an excuse for a return visit to the UK.

Boobook said...

We visited Bristol several years ago because one of my husband's ancestors migrated from there to Tasmania. We stopped to pay homage to Brunel's wonderful swing bridge there (it's scary watching it move under the traffic) but didn't know about the ship at the time unfortunately.

TICKLEBEAR said...

Fascinating post!
Its history is quite something,
being stranded so soon, then converted for emigrant, than cargo, than scuttled...
I thought it would end there, but no!!
Great restoration!!
Didn't know it could happen after it's been scuttled.
:)~
HUGZ