Words of Advice:

"If Something Seems To Be Too Good To Be True, It's Best To Shoot It, Just In Case." -- Fiona Glenanne

Flying the Airplane is More Important than Radioing Your Plight to a Person on the Ground Who is Incapable of Understanding or Doing Anything About It." -- Unknown

"There seems to be almost no problem that Congress cannot, by diligent efforts and careful legislative drafting, make ten times worse." -- Me

"What the hell is an `Aluminum Falcon'?" -- Emperor Palpatine

"Eck!" -- George the Cat

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Britannia Ruled the Waves

She did, in 1840. RMS Britannia was the first true ocean liner, the first in reliable service between England and North America.

As Peter mentioned, the commercial importance of reliable ocean transport would be difficult to overstate. If you've read any books about life on sailing ships, such as Two Years Before the Mast, two things stand out: First off, sailing ships typically didn't sail until they had a full load of cargo. Second, even if they wanted to sail, unfavorable winds could keep sailing ships in port for days or longer. The two factors probably ran together, because since a ship couldn't count on sailing at a certain date or time, there was no reason to sail until the ship was fully loaded.

The Britannia changed all that. While no ship is immune from weather, steamships were able to sail if the winds were not favorable. Schedules could be made and kept. Businessmen could make appointments from the other side of the world and keep them. Companies could compete for business with a reliable way to get their products to another continent.

Mariners are conservative, for good reason. It was another ninety years before commercial sailing vessels disappeared, which likely had something to do with the adoption of oil as a maritime fuel. But it all began, 175 years ago this month.


Ole Phat Stu said...

RMS Britannia (NOT Briannia) was also mostly used as a slaver ship.
She is docked in Bristol harbour, UK, where she is open to public inspection. Somewhere I have a photo of me at the helm ;-)
The poor slaves were packed like sardines :-(
The steam engine, btw, was a huge V2, bore and stroke each a couple of YARDS!
Enough to earn respect from any Harley rider ;-)

Comrade Misfit said...

Are you sure that's the same ship? The Cunard liner was built in 1840, sold to the German Confederation after nine years of service in the North Atlantic trade and, after decades as a barracks ship was sunk as a target. Britain outlawed the slave trade in 1807.

CenterPuke88 said...

SS Great Britain is in Bristol harbor as an attraction. Never hauled slaves, but close, Australian immigrants. Had a V-2.

Ole Phat Stu said...

Oops, my bad. I was referring to the SS Great Britain, harboured in Bristol UK.