Great Eastern

The Great Eastern was the largest steamship in the world in the second half of the 19th century. Launched in 1858, the Great Eastern was unsurpassed in length until White Star's Oceanic II in 1899 and not in displacement until Cunard's Lusitania in 1906.

The ship was designed by the British engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel and constructed for the Eastern Steam Navigation Company.

The ship took five years to build, had a displacement of 22,500 tons, a length of 211 meters (693 ft), a width of 37 meters (120 ft), and a depth of hull of 18 meters (58 ft).

The iron hull had both screw and paddle wheel propulsion, with auxiliary power from 5435 square m (6500 square yd) of sail on six masts. The masts were named after the days of the week (Monday, Tuesday.....)

The ship had five funnels, each 100 feet high and 6 feet in diameter. The two paddle wheels were 58 feet in diameter, and the propeller 24 feet.

The Eastern Steam Navigation Company was a British corporation formed in 1852 to maintain an ocean steam route from Great Britain to Australia around the Cape of Good Hope. In 1853 the directors concluded that, because of the cost of maintaining coaling stations on the way, such a route would not pay unless the carrier could carry enough coal for the voyage out and home, besides a large number of passengers and a sizable cargo. The result was the Great Eastern.

Despite the elaborate planning for the Great Eastern and the renown it gained because of its size, the vessel did not make a financial success as a passenger vessel. It is best remembered as the ship that laid the first successful Atlantic cable and several other cables. The ship was dismantled in 1889.

With the help of your imagination we hope to give you a glimpse of 1858, the year the great Eastern was completed.

Brunel built the ship for a side launch. Due to a number of factors, the difficulty of getting the ship from the building ways and into the water became an immense undertaking. The Great Eastern was initially called the "Leviathan". The following hyperlink is an excerpt from a London based publication of the time called "Mechanic's Magazine".



Our special thanks to Fred Schoonbeck for his kind assistance and for sharing his love of the Great Eastern with us. Please check out his web site at The Great Eastern Salvage Co.
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