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Great Eastern

Definition: SS Great Eastern was an iron sailing steam ship designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel, and built by J. Scott Russell & Co. at Millwall on the River Thames, London. She was by far the largest ship ever built at the time of her 1858 launch, and had the capacity to carry 4,000 passengers around the world without refueling.

 

Built in 1857, The Great Eastern was 6 times larger than any other ship built up to that time. It boasted a double hull that was unique, but hard to build. It required small men and young boys to squeeze into the narrow space between the two hulls.

When the ship was set to be launched January 30, 1858, it was so heavy that it jammed the launch mechanism and stopped. It was afloat, but unfinished as the money needed had run out. Eventually it was purchased by the Great Ship Company, finished, and sent out to sea.

During its sea trials, a ventilator explosion killed at least one man and scalded several others. One month later its builder Isambard Kingdom Brunel died of a stroke. The ship, though large, never carried a full complement of passengers, not even on its maiden voyage. On the 4th voyage it became badly damaged in a storm and required costly repairs. In 1862 while carrying its record number of passengers (1,500), it tore open its bottom but was saved from sinking by it's double hull.

On several occasions, a strange hammering noise could be heard below decks. The crew claimed it could be heard even above the gale of a storm and often woke the crew from their sleep.

The Great Eastern continued losing money and was eventually docked where it stayed for 12 years rusting away before being sold for scrap. While taking apart the ship, skeletons were found between the layers of the double hull. Perhaps this was the source of the ships misfortune, and the strange hammering noise.

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Resources:

  external linkThe Great Eastern
  external linkWikipedia Entry

 

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