This is another German marvel from the North German Lloyd, SS Kaiser Wilhelm II. She was launched August 12, 1902, at the Vulcan Company in Bredow near Stettin. She was a great leap forward in liner design for her time. She was the largest liner in the world at the time of her introduction. She was also one of the ‘safest’ ships afloat. Her capacity was 775 first class passengers in 290 rooms, 343 second class in 107 rooms, and 770 third class. In addition to being large, she was also built to be fast. She won the Blue Riband for the fastest eastbound crossing in 1904. This ship was not the first to be named Kaiser Wilhelm II. There was another built in 1889
Kaiser Wilhelm II saw regular service on the Atlantic run. Her popularity with the immigrant trade had much to do with her appearance. Her paired four funnels towered overhead. Her speed made her even more attractive. Her accommodations in each class were impressive for her time. Her massive first class dining room was three decks high with a stained glass rectangular dome allowing sunlight through.
The first World War broke out and the Kaiser was steaming west. Every effort was made to keep her from encountering British cruisers and she arrived late in New York two days later. In 1917, she found herself in New York again as the United States entered the war. She was seized. Just before the Americans came aboard, the German crew sabotaged her engines.
The United States worked to repair the damage and began converting the Kaiser to a troop transport. During this refit, she housed American troops. The Kaiser Wilhelm II was renamed Agamemnon and she began carrying men destined for war. Speeding back and forth across the Atlantic, she often encountered German u-boats. There was also a severe outbreak of the flu aboard.
After the war ended, Agamemnon transported soldiers back to their homeland. Nearly 42,000 soldiers were ferried home between her decks. Quite a bit more than she took to the front lines. The United States decommissioned her late 1919 and the War Department took control of her to continue her transport mission.
In the 1920s, the Agamemnon was removed from service as a transport and renamed Monticello. This ship would never sail again. She sat for decades and was considered too old to be useful in a new World War. She was scrapped in 1940.
After moving two more times, I think I am finally settled for a while. In a new/old town with a new job, I hope to be adding more ships to this blog. There has been some exciting hints into happenings with the SS United States, and some sad news for the venerable Delta Queen.
The happenings with the SS United States have been quite secretive due to agreements with donors and project coordinators. Every so often there is an email or a post in social media about things moving forward. I’m excited to finally see this speed queen be towed to her new home. I sincerely hope it is to her home port of New York.
The Delta Queen had been serving as a boutique hotel in beautiful Chattanooga, TN since 2009. The harsh winter of 2013-14 with its single digit temperatures (thanks to a phenomenon called ‘polar vortex’) water pipes aboard froze and burst, just as her congressional exemption to the SOLAS laws were approved. Instead of returning to service, she must be repaired. Since moving from Chattanooga, I’ve been attempting to find out what has happened to her since that awful winter.
So many people in this world are familiar with the date of April 15. What does April 15th mean to you? Not only is it American ‘tax day,’ but it marks the anniversary of the most famous world changing maritime disaster in all of history. This was the “Night to Remember.” Hollywood has made many films about this night. There have been countless books published and music albums, television parodies and even a Broadway musical released about this night. In the year 1912, April 15 became a date that would change the world. Nightmares were born this night, as approximately 1,500 came face-t0-face with their own mortality, amongst the ice fields and frigid temperatures of the North Atlantic Ocean.
By now, you realize the identity of this event. However, that is probably due to a Hollywood production directed by James Cameron. While I laud this film because of set decoration and design, special effects, core love story, and a renewed spark in the interest of this historic night, it is far from truth. There are details to the story of the wreck of the RMS Titanic that weren’t even touched in this film. In fact, it nearly angers me that most of my friends think that EVERY four funneled ocean liner they see a photograph of is RMS Titanic.
With this said, I’d like to ask a few questions. Can anyone name the very first four stacker in history? Can you name the last four stacker in history? Do you know why the Olympic class liners were built? Can you name RMS Titanic’s two sisters? (Titanic was a ‘middle child.’)
This is the introduction to a series of informational blogs that will highlight the careers of each of the only fourteen four funneled ocean liners in maritime history. Never forget the lesson we learned due to the disaster of RMS Titanic, or the ships that led to and followed her concept. Never cease to learn about immigration history, world history, and maritime history. Ships are celebrated because of their personalities and the connections they have with millions of American immigrants who came to the United States aboard these very vessels. Some have broken speed records. Some have been admired for interior design. All should be celebrated as amazing pieces of technology. Come take a look at the histories of the very ships that shaped our perceptions of the classic ocean liner. What ship first captured your attention?
This past year has been an roller coaster ride for the ocean liner enthusiast. The SS United States was put up for sale and we feared the worst. The SS Independence was involved in scrappers controversy which ended very badly for a beautiful liner from the ’50s. The SS United States was granted a ’20 month stay of execution’ thanks to a very generous multi-million dollar donation by Philadelphia philanthropist ‘Gerry’ Lenfest. (Save the SS United States! Donate, donate, donate, spread awareness and donate some more! SOS!) And finally, Her Majesty the Queen officially named Cunard’s newest addition to their luxury fleet. Her name is Queen Elizabeth! This name is significant in Cunard history. The story begins in the year 1940.
The legacy of ships named Queen Elizabeth begins in Clydebank, Scotland at the shipbuilders John Brown & Company. In 1940, the world is at war. The largest passenger liner ever built up to the time is the new RMS Queen Elizabeth. She is 83,673 tons of luxury that is about to begin her maiden voyage in secret. She is painted wartime gray and Winston Churchill orders the new pride of the British Merchant Marine to New York Harbor to keep her safe from air attack by the Germans. On March 7, 1940, the RMS Queen Elizabeth arrives in New York surprising the world. She is quickly converted to a troop transport and joined her sister RMS Queen Mary in trooping duty. After a wildly successful tour of duty during the War, RMS Queen Elizabeth returns to passenger service in 1946 as a fitting running mate to her very speedy, yet slightly smaller sister Mary. During the 1960’s, the popularization of airline travel nearly ruined the ocean liner industry and RMS Queen Elizabeth was laid up in 1968 in Port Everglades, Florida with the intention of turning her into an east coast floating hotel like her sister RMS Queen Mary in Long Beach, California. These plans never came to be and she sat until late 1970, neglected and rusting. She was finally bought by a Taiwanese shipping billionaire and renamed Seawise University. She was to be turned into a combination cruise ship and floating college. While she was being refit into her new career, she caught fire and burned to death in Hong Kong. Her burned out hulk appeared in the James Bond film “The Man With the Golden Gun” as the headquarters of MI6. She was finally broken up and removed from the harbor the following year. You may read more about the original RMS Queen Elizabeth…HERE.
Just before the company realized the era of the ocean liner had come to an end, Cunard ordered the construction of a new superliner to compete with Italy’s duo Michaelangelo and Rafaello, and the SS France from her namesake nation. Her keel was laid in 1965 under the name “Q4” and was intended to represent the new image of Great Britain. She arrived in New York for the first time in May 1969 with the name RMS Queen Elizabeth 2. Cunard took quite a gamble with this new ship and for a while she was believed to be a bust. 95% of the transatlantic passenger service had been taken over by the airlines by this point. Fortunately, Cunard had decided to make her easily converted into a cruise ship for part of the year, while still making the traditional transatlantic voyages ocean liners were famous for. Her popularity grew and she became lovingly known by the nickname QE2. Queen Elizabeth 2 no longer sails for Cunard. She was retired in November 2008 and is now in the hands of Nakheel (Dubai World) and her future is uncertain. Hopefully, her life does not end at the scrappers. You can read more about the career of QE2…HERE.
The naming ceremony for this newest addition to the Cunard cruise fleet took place on October 11, 2010. The new Queen Elizabeth is a Vista class cruise liner just like her running-mate Queen Victoria. MS Queen Elizabeth is the third and probably final ship to join the Cunard fleet which also includes the last of the purpose built ocean liners, the fabulous Queen Mary 2.
Queen Elizabeth sailed on her maiden voyage from Southampton, UK on Tuesday October 12th 2010. Her maiden voyage will include the Spanish port of Vigo, Lisbon, Cadiz, Gran Canaria, Tnerife, La Palma and Madeira. Queen Elizabeth is scheduled to arrive in the port of New York, USA on September 11, 2011. During this time there will be an exciting and historical meeting of all three of Cunard’s Queens. Oh to be able to attend! Perhaps one day I will be able to afford to take part in a real transatlantic crossing and follow the course of the great liners of that bygone age.
Here is to a very long and successful career for the newest passenger ship to carry the name Queen Elizabeth. Long Live the Queen!
If you are interested in learning more about the new Queen Elizabeth I would highly recommend Cunard’s website. For some fantastic photos, Peter Knego’s website Maritime Matters has some great ones! (His website is one of my favorite sites out there!)