Great Eastern, Great Western, SS Great Britain
The First Atlantic Liner
Brunel’s Great Western Steamship
by Helen Doe
The Great Western is the least known of Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s three ships, being overshadowed by the later careers of the Great Britain and the Great Eastern. However, the Great Western was the first great success, confounding the critics to be the fastest ship to steam continuously across the Atlantic. By 1826, steam ships were crossing the English Channel, operating on lakes, rivers and along coasts, but long-distance continuous steam travel was an unrealised ambition, experts said a ship simply couldn’t carry the necessary fuel to complete such a long journey. Brunel was convinced otherwise, and as his Great Western Railway continued to be built from London to Bristol, he saw it as the next stage in a steam journey that linked London and New York. This book examines the businessmen, the shipbuilders and Brunel and looks at life on board, the crew and the passengers. The ship’s first voyage made headline news in both capitals particularly as it was involved in a race with an American-owned steam ship, Sirius. The maiden voyage was a triumph heralded by all spectators and its success in providing a regular steam passage across the Atlantic made it the Concorde of its day by attracting rich passengers who wished to travel in style and marked the beginning of the great era in Atlantic liners. A great read that tells the human story behind this great ship.
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