17 May 2012

Still Tops In Speed

On this day in 1946:


The Mauretania, one of Britain's newest transatlantic liners, recently broke a world record. She completed the 4,000 mile run from Fremantle (Western Australia) to Durban (South Africa), in eight days. The previous record was nine and three quarter days, set up in 1939 by another British liner, the Dominion Monarch. The Mauretania, a Cunard White Star vessel, was built in 1938. When, in 1939, she made her maiden voyage from London to New York, she was acclaimed one of the finest liners afloat. But her present reputation rests mainly on her war performance. Since the outbreak of war, like other Cunarders she has been carrying allied troops to fighting fronts all over the world. So far she has transported 335,000. This compares well with the performance of the Queen Mary and the Queen Elizabeth (both Cunard ships) which, apart from other duties, have transported more than one million United States troops across the Atlantic, one of the free services rendered by Britain under Reverse Lend-Lease.

Although she has a tonnage of close on 36,000, the Mauretania is small compared with the Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth which are 81,000 and 85,000 tons respectively, but she is still one of the word's largest passenger liners. There are only five liners in the world held by non-British owners with greater tonnage. These are all European vessels averaging 45,000 tons. One of these, incidentally, is the German liner Europa, of 49,000 tons and built in 1928.

The Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth, with Mauretania, will continue their wartime jobs until all United States and other Allied forces have been taken home. But immediately this work is done, the United Kingdom shipyards will get on to the task of converting them back to liners for the Transatlantic service in which Britain has so long held supremacy. Additions will also be made to the present great strength--it was recently reported that a sister ship of the Mauretania is to be built.

What will be the fares for these luxury Transatlantic runs? The Cunard line is not yet prepared to say anything definite, but it is interesting that recently an unofficial report stated that fares would be about 20 per cent lower than pre war. If this proves to be the case, the cabin fare from Britain to the United States will range from £50 to £60 according to season, and third class from £21 to £25.

It is also clear that Cunarders, once they have reverted to peacetime work will retain speed supremacy. The Mauretania's latest record has established what she can do, and it is interesting, too, that this liner, built for 3,000 mile voyages, was able to break a record on a 4,000 miles run. Again during the war, Queen Elizabeth for example, averaged only four-and-a-half days on each Atlantic crossing in spite of a zig-zag course to avoid enemy submarines. This is a remarkable performance in view of the fact that even before the war the Transatlantic record--held by the Queen Mary--was three days twenty hours.

Britain's shipping lines are not thinking solely of a rapid restoration of the Atlantic service. Work on reconditioning some of the United Kingdom's biggest passenger liners for normal service on other routes has  already begun. To-day four passenger liners, totalling 100,000 tons, which have been on war service are in the Mersey shipyards. They are Empress of Scotland, the Duchess of Bedford, the Winchester Castle and the Alcantara. Their reconversion is now being pushed ahead to prepare them for re-entry on four of the world's main ocean passenger routes, to Australia, to Canada, to South Africa and to South America. Reconversion will take about six months and will be followed by other units.

As in the case in so many branches of British industry, shipping will benefit enormously from wartime developments. Authorities in the United Kingdom are pointing [illegible] inventions and advances in this field have a [illegible] peacetime application since a majority related less to actual [illegible] than to the efficiency and safety of the vessels.                                                   - Northern Times, Carnarvon, WA

Photo credit: World Ship Society

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