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Friday, March 26, 2010

The Ship Beautiful

While researching a reference question a few weeks ago, I stumbled upon some information about an old transatlantic liner called Aquitania. Nick-named “The Ship Beautiful”, I’d never heard of the Aquitania, but it caught my eye because I’m fascinated by old ships. The R.M.S. Aquitania, which was retired and scrapped in 1950 after 35 years of service, was the last four-funneled ship to cross the Atlantic in regular passenger service. The Titanic comes to mind for a lot of people when they think about old-school transatlantic travel. The Titanic was only one ship in a rich history of transatlantic steamer travel, something I’m learning more and more as I branch out from my obsession with the Titanic to other ships. Here are a few more facts about the Aquitania:

  • She was launched by Britain’s Cunard Line in 1914. This is the same company that owned the Lusitania. Unfortunately, her maiden voyage in May 1914 was overshadowed by tragedy. On May 29th, the R.M.S. Empress of Ireland sank with a loss of over 1,000 people. As if that weren’t enough, the next month, Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria was assassinated, and World War I began.

  • After the Titanic disaster, the Aquitania became one of the first ships to carry lifeboats for all passengers and crew.

  • The Aquitania was 1 ½ times the size of her sister ships, the Lusitania and the Mauretania, which were among the fastest ships on the Atlantic at the time.

  • 901 feet long, she was about 20 feet longer than the Titanic but weighed about 7,000 tons less.

  • She was the only Pre-1914 ship to serve as a troop ship for the entire duration of World War II.

  • Some considered the Aquitania the most popular ship on the transatlantic run, which must be true to some degree if she was able to hang on until 1950. By then, commercial air travel had supplanted steamers as the preferred method of crossing the Atlantic.
If you want to learn more about “The Ship Beautiful” or other ocean liners, Credo Reference, one of our MAGNOLIA databases, is a great place to start. It features full access to a number of reference resources, including the Ships of the Line encyclopedia, which is where I learned about the Aquitania. Credo is fun to poke around with when you’re bored, and it’s a great place to find resources more research. Go check it out!

Source: Credo Reference, Ships of the Line encyclopedia

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