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The Merchant Service
FROM the early experiments of Watt, Fitch, Miller, Symmington, Bell and Fulton, the development of the steamship was but gradual, and the first attempts at navigating anything but inland waters were not at all successful.
Not until 1819 was the trans-Atlantic steam voyage accomplished, and that by the paddle-steamer Savannah, which sailed from Savannah (Georgia) for St. Petersburg via Great Britain. This was the first true ocean steamship. She was of 350 tons burthen, and was built, sparred and fitted with steam machinery at Corlear's Hook, New York. Hence under Captain Moses Rogers she sailed to Savannah, making the voyage in seven days.
The ship was full rigged, and not necessarily dependent upon her wrought iron paddles, which could be taken aboard at will. Her engine, direct acting, low pressure, had a forty-inch cylinder and a six-foot stroke of piston. Her fuel was pine wood, which, of course, could only be replenished as convenience served. When she sailed for Liverpool thousands waved her God-speed with the deepest misgivings as to the result of this novel marriage of sail and steam.
Steaming and sailing, the Savannah made port in twenty-five days, having had recourse to the use of her canvas, exclusively, for more than a third of the time. From Liverpool her prow was turned toward the Baltic, and touching at Stockholm, Copenhagen and other ports, she ended her voyage at St. Petersburg, afterwards returning to America, where her engines and boilers were taken out, and she was converted into a sailing packet.
The experiment was again followed on a large scale in 1825 by the fitting out in America of the Enterprise, for a voyage to India. By sailing or steaming alternately, as the weather and her fuel permitted, she arrived in the Hoogley in forty-seven days.
Although the Savannah and the Enterprise succeeded through favourable circumstances in making long voyages, they were essentially sailing ships, and their steam power was merely an accessory. The Great Western and the Sirius in the year 1838 first really demonstrated that it was practical to navigate a steamship without the unfurling of a yard of canvas; and the importance of the traffic which was thus inaugurated on the Atlantic was a vital and immediate factor in fostering its further development.
The Sirius, 178 feet in length by 251 feet beam and 18f feet in depth, was dispatched from Queenstown for New York by the British and American Steam Navigation Company on April 5, 1838, and arrived in New York on April 21, having been something over sixteen days upon the passage, during which she maintained an average speed of 81 knots per hour, on a consumption of 24 tons of coal per day.
A few hours after the arrival of the Sirius in New York Harbour there also arrived the Great Western, which left the Bristol Channel three days later than the Sirius.
The arrival of these two boats set the City of New York ablaze with excitement, some idea of which can be gained from the account printed by the Evening Post (N.Y.) on the following day.
"The arrival yesterday of the steam-packets Sirius and Great Western caused in this city that stir of eager curiosity and speculation which every new enterprise of any magnitude awakens in this excitable community. The Battery was thronged yesterday morning with thousands of persons of both sexes to look on the Sirius, which had crossed the Atlantic by the power of steam, as she lay anchored near at hand, gracefully shaped, painted black all over, the water around her covered with boats filled with people passing and repassing, some conveying and some bringing back those who desired to go aboard.
"When the Great Western at a later hour was seen ploughing her way through the waters towards the city the crowd became more numerous, and the whole bay to a great distance was dotted with boats, as if everything that could be manned by oars had left its place at the wharves. It would seem, in fact, a kind of triumphal entry.
"The practicability of establishing a regular intercourse between Europe and America is considered to be solved by the arrivals of these vessels, notwithstanding the calculations of certain ingenious men, at the head of whom is a Dr. Lardner, who have proved by figures that the thing is impossible, and declared that ships would perforce be obliged to replenish their bunkers at either the Azores or Newfoundland in order to be able to complete the voyage; stating further that 'the whole project was chimerical in the extreme, and that one might as well talk of making a voyage to the moon.' The only question which now remains is whether the greater regularity and speed with which the passage is effected in steam vessels will compensate for the additional cost, or whether, in fact, on balancing all considerations, any additional cost will be incurred."
The Great Western continued in the trans-Atlantic trade for about six years, during which time she made 70 voyages across the ocean, averaging 15½ days westward and 131 days eastward. The quickest passage to New York was made in 12 days and 19 hours, and the quickest passage to Liverpool in 12 days and 7 hours.
From this date and from these beginnings were developed the trans-Atlantic steamship lines of the present day.
Among other earlier ships engaged in this trade were the Royal William, the British Queen, the President, the Liverpool and the Great Britain.
The Cunard Line was established in 1840 with a fleet of four ships, the Britannia, the Acadia, the Columbia and Caledonia, each with an average horse-power of 440.
William Fairbairn, of Manchester, England, built three small iron steamers in 1831, and afterwards became associated with the Lairds, of Birkenhead, when the latter went largely into this construction. Up to 1848 they had built more than 100 iron vessels.
But not till 1855 was a great ocean steamship, the Cunarder Persia, built of this material on well-formulated and scientific principles. In France and the United States iron had only been used for the structural framework.
The Persia was the turning point in a new movement. She was 360 feet long, 45 feet in breadth and 35 feet in depth, with a capacity of 1,200 tons greater than the largest of her sisters. In addition to this great increase of strength, ships wholly constructed of iron or steel are lighter than those of the same tonnage made of wood, and can carry larger freights. As they can be enlarged beyond the dimensions that limit wooden ships, they profit by the law that the larger the capacity, the less proportionate space need be devoted to the stowage of fuel, their cargo room being thus increased. This substitution of steel for iron was almost as great an advance as that of iron for oak.
A still more important invention was at this time fast establishing its supremacy. It had long been seen that the paddle-wheel even at its best did not by any means fulfil all requirements, and even during its best days the screw propeller had come into partial use as an auxiliary. It had been observed, for instance, that as the latter's blades work in the current following the ship, the tendency of its action was to restore its static condition to the agitated fluid, taking up and restoring usefully a large part of the energy which would, by reason of friction, otherwise have been lost. The screw, too, through its complete submersion, is more continuously efficient than the paddle-wheel, which is only partially submerged at any time, and for some periods (as in a rolling sea) perhaps not at all. The rapid and smooth rotation of the screw permits the use of light, fast-running, quick-acting engines, economizes weight and space, and increases cargo room. The economy of steam in a quick-running engine, especially in one of the compound type, also means less expense of fuel, and a saving in stowage and carriage.
The history of the adoption of the screw propeller is full of romantic interest. The honours already won by the Cunard were challenged about ten years later by an American Company, the Collins' Line, which, however, unfortunately came to grief in the course of a few years. The first really dangerous competitors of the Cunard were the vessels of the Inman Line, a company which had experimentally adopted the principle of the screw propeller, which was destined eventually to supersede the paddle-wheel principle, upon which the Cunard Company had up to that time relied. In fact, for some years later the Cunard Company still continued to construct paddle-steamers, the Scotia, which was one of the last and finest vessels of this class, reaching a capacity of 3,870 tons. Not long after the building of the Scotia, however, the Cunard Company, spurred probably by the competition of the Inman Line, wrung from the Government of the day permission to fit their steamers with screw propellers for the carriage of the mails. The first Cunarder of this new type was called the China, and it was her success, with that of her sister boats, that finally established the superiority of the screw.
The victory of this principle (of the screw propeller) was one of the great turning-points in the history of steam navigation, and from the day of its adoption by the Cunard the progressive development of the steamship on modern lines may be dated. Following the example of these two famous pioneer lines came the establishment of the "P. & O." Company (at first known as the Peninsular Company), in 1837; the Royal Mail, in 1839; the Pacific Steam Navigation Company, in 1847; the "B. I.," in 1855; the Anchor Line, in 1856; the German Nord Deutscher Lloyd, in 1858; the French Compagnie Transatlantique, in 1861; the building of the Britannic and the Germanic (of the "White Star" line), in 1874; the establishment of the Orient Line (to Australia), in 1877; and the first direct steamship service to New Zealand, in 1883.
The year 1888 and the next following decade saw the introduction of the "twin-screw" principle in the construction of the famous City of New York and City of Paris (Inman Line); the Majestic and the Teutonic (White Star Line); the Lucania and Campania (Cunard); and the Celtic (White Star), the last-mentioned in 1903. The most recent development of steam navigation has been the introduction of engines on the turbine principle, but this new principle at the time of writing (January, 1903) can hardly be said to be yet established, as it is only within the present year that turbine steamers have been introduced (into the cross-channel service).
It is impossible (even in the merest sketch of steamboat development) to conclude without making some reference to what is generally known as the "American Shipping Combine," or "Trust," of 1902 — a gigantic enterprise, the ultimate effect of which upon the shipping trade generally cannot at present be foreseen. The facts, however, are that this new "mammoth" Company has started with a gross capital of £24,000,000, and has bought up the "White Star," the Leyland, tho Dominion and the British and North Atlantic Companies; and that the British Government, in return, has subsidised the Cunard.
Briefly summarising various stages in the evolution of the ocean liner since the days of the Savannah, we find that the factors of its progress have been developed in the following order: —
(1) Substitution of the steam-engine for canvas, as the main motive-power.
(2) The substitution of iron for wood in the construction of the hull, and later that of steel for iron, and the consequent development, to the best advantage, of the long, sharp, yacht-like lines which have given increased room, size and speed.
(3) The adoption of the screw propeller as a means of propulsion in place of the less effective and more cumbersome paddle-wheel.
(4) The adoption of the compound triple and quadruple engine, with surface condenser, which makes it possible to utilise the steam more than once before its final discharge into the condenser, an enormous economy of fuel and a greater speed and space for the accommodation of passengers and freight being thus secured.
It has hitherto been found that each decade has been distinguished by some radical improvement in steamer construction from the decade which preceded it. The accompanying table shows this progress (approximately), and at the same time exhibits the most important approximate rises in boiler pressure, and the approximate improvement in engine power.
It is interesting to note the vast stores of food that are used on an Atlantic liner. During a single trans-Atlantic trip on an average liner there were used — Fresh beef, 15,000 lbs.; fresh mutton, 2,500 lbs.; fowls, 650 head; game, 350 head; cabbages, 250 head; turnips, 160 bunches; leeks, 60 bunches; onions, 4,480 lbs.; potatoes, 17,920 lbs.; parsley, 50 bushels; tomatoes, 200 lbs.; rhubarb, 130 bunches; asparagus, 30 tins; green corn, 80 tins; peas, 140 tins; tomatoes, 70 tins; canned meats, 60 tins; flour, 30 barrels; sugar, 1,600 lbs.; coffee, 350 lbs.; tea, 136 lbs.; as well as 16 tons of ice, 5,000 eggs, 2,000 lbs. of butter, 400 quarts of ice cream, 20 barrels of oysters in the shell, 700 gallons of milk, 5,000 lbs. of fish, a large quantity of fruit, and many other things. Of the wines, liquors, etc. — champagne, 200 pints; claret, 220 pints; whiskey, 170 bottles; liquors, 14 bottles; beer and porter, 240 dozen bottles; mineral waters, 350 dozen bottles; cigars, 1,100; cigarettes, 160 packages; tobacco, 100 lbs.; water, 140 tons.
In the refrigerating rooms are stored several hundred tons of ice, all of it in such a way that it may be obtained at a moment's notice, and yet so closely packed that there is no space lost.
There is seldom a scarcity of drinking-water on board passenger steamships. There are large tanks of a capacity of five hundred or six hundred tons on nearly all the large steamships, and all carry a condenser, which makes it possible to have fresh water directly from the ocean. Salt water, however, is only used for the baths as a rule.
The amount of food that can be cooked in the various galleys is enormous, the cooks, of whom there is a host, often preparing three or more meals a day for 1,000 to 2,000 people, on the largest of the passenger ships.
[*By kind permission, from Lloyd's Calendar.]
* Since writing the above a yet more gigantic cargo steamer has been built in America, viz. the S.S. Minnesota, whose carrying capacity is just about double even that of the Cedric and the Celtic.
AMERICA. — Halifax, Montreal and Quebec, via Liverpool; 8 to 10 days; £10 upwards.
New York. — Via Liverpool; 7 to 10 days; via White Star and Cunard Lines; £12 upwards.
Via Southampton; Nord Deutscher Lloyd, Hamburg-American and American Lines; £12 upwards; 7 to 10 days.
Via the Thames; Atlantic Transport Line; 8 to 10 days; £10 upwards.
Boston. — Via Liverpool; Cunard and Dominion Lines; 8 to 10 days; £10 upwards.
San Francisco and Vancouver. — Via Montreal, New York and Boston, thence overland; 12 to 15 days; £26 upwards.
Philadelphia. — From Liverpool, via Queenstown; 12 days; £7 7s.
New Orleans. — Via Liverpool; 16 to 18 days; £16.
West Indies. — Via Southampton or Bristol; 12 to 15 days; about £25.
Brazil and River Plate. — Via Southampton; £22 to £35.
AUSTRALASIA. — Melbourne, Sydney, Auckland — London or Southampton, via Suez Canal; about 6 weeks; £70.
From Liverpool, via Cape, from £14 upwards.
BELGIUM. — Ostend, from London direct; G.S.N. Co., 10 hours; 7s. 6d.
Antwerp. — Via Hull or Harwich; 12 to 15 hours; £1 upwards.
Via Ostend; 8f hours; £1 18s.
CHINA. — Shanghai, via Colombo, Straits and Hong Kong; about 6 weeks from Liverpool or London; £70 upwards.
EGYPT. — Cairo, via Alexandria or Port Said, from Liverpool or London; 8 to 12 days; £20 to £28.
FRANCE. — Bordeaux, from Liverpool or London; 3 to 4 days; about £5.
Havre, via Southampton, 9 hours.
Cherbourg, via Southampton, 10 hours.
St. Malo, via Southampton, 10 hours.
Dieppe, via Newhaven, 3¼ hours.
Boulogne, via Folkestone, 1½ to 1¾ hour.
— from London direct; 10 hours; 10s.; Bennett SS. Co.
Calais, via Dover, 1 to 4 hour.
Marseilles, via Liverpool or London, 5 to 7 days; £10 upwards.
GERMANY. — Hamburg, via Harwich, £1 17s. 6d. Bremen, from London; £1 15s.
GREECE. — Athens, via Brindisi (Italy) or Marseilles; fares from London, £15 upwards.
HOLLAND. — Amsterdam and Rotterdam, via Hook of Holland, from Harwich; 11 hours; £1 9s. upwards.
Via Flushing; 13 hours; £1 10s. upwards.
INDIA. — Bombay, Calcutta and Colombo, from London or Liverpool; about 3 weeks; £50 upwards.
ITALY. — Genoa, from Southampton; 5 to 7 days; £10 upwards.
Naples; 6 to 7 days; £12 upwards.
JAPAN. — From London or Liverpool; 6 to 7 weeks; £60.
PALESTINE. — Jerusalem, via Alexandria; 9 to 10 days; about £25.
RUSSIA. — Odessa, steamer from Hull; about 14 days; about £12.
St. Petersburg, via Hull; about 7 days; £5 5s.
SCANDINAVIA. — Bergen, Christiania, Copenhagen, from Newcastle, London or Hull; l½ to 3 days; £3 to £6.
Gothenburg, Stockholm, from London, Leith and Hull; £3 upwards.
SPAIN. — Gibraltar, via London or Liverpool; 4 to 6 days; £8 to £10.
TURKEY. — Constantinople, from Liverpool; 10 to 12 days.
Via Marseilles, 6 to 7 days.
Note. — These and the subsequent lists of "Ocean Records" are reprinted from the "Daily Mail Year Book" by kind permission.
Southampton to New York.
Other Records (continued)
* Average knots throughout voyage.