SS Great Britain, Bristol, England

SS Great Britain was the first ocean-going ship to have an iron hull and a screw propeller and, when launched in 1843, was the largest vessel afloat. She originally carried 120 first-class passengers (26 of whom were in single cabins), 132 second-class passengers and 130 officers and crew but, when an extra deck was added, it increased the number of passengers to 730.

The SS Great Britain was designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel, Thomas Guppy, Christopher Claxton and William Patterson for the Great Western Steamship Company and built in a specially adapted dry dock at Bristol.

The size of the new lock at the Floating Harbour caused problems when she was launched. She was being towed away from her builders to have her engines and interior fitted out on the River Thames but unfortunately was fractionally too big to go through. The ship was moored in the Floating Harbour for a year or more before proceeding into Cumberland Basin, with coping stones and lock gate platforms removed from the Junction Lock.[1]

At the time of her launch in 1843 she was by far the largest ship in the world, over 100 feet longer than her rivals, and the first screw-propelled, ocean-going, wrought iron ship. On 26 July 1845, the ship undertook her maiden voyage to New York, a journey completed in 14 days.[2]

In November 1846, within a few short years of being launched, the ship went aground on the sands of Dundrum Bay, Ireland and there was serious doubt as to whether she could be refloated. Brunel himself advised that if anyone could rescue the ship then the man to do it was the naval engineer James Bremner of Wick. Bremner was engaged and the Great Britain was refloated in August 1847. However, the cost of the salvage bankrupted the Great Western Steamship Company, and the SS Great Britain was sold and turned into an emigration ship.

Originally intended as an Atlantic steamer, she made most of her working voyages from the United Kingdom to Australia. In 1852, she made her first voyage to Melbourne, Australia, carrying 630 emigrants. She excited great interest in Melbourne, with 4,000 people paying a shilling each to see over her. During her time, she was considered the most reliable of the emigrant ships between Britain and Australia.

Between 1855 and 1858, she was also used as a troop ship, during the Crimean War and the Indian Mutiny. In 1882, she was turned into a sailing ship, to transport bulk coal but, after a fire on board, in 1886, she was found on arrival at the Falkland Islands to be damaged beyond repair. She was sold to the Falkland Islands Company and used there as a storage hulk until the 1930s, when she was scuttled and abandoned.

[Source and more info: Wikipedia]

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