Sea History 064 - Winter 1992-1993

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John Stobart shows us the ultimate post-Civil War river steamboat-a boat that carries tons of cargo in water as shallow as 2 to 3 feet , ejfec1ively opening the vast interior of the United States,from Pennsylvania to the fa r west, and as far north as the Canadian border. "Night Run to Friar's Point," by John Stobart, oil on canvas 16" by 26".

screw propeller, Brunel gave his ship beautiful fine lines which anticipated the American clipper-the ultimate fast-sailing ship which was to burst on the ocean scene a couple of years later with the famous Rainbow and Sea Witch. When the New York Herald reported on the lovely Sea Witch lying in South Street, the paper noted that she " much resembles the model of the steamer Great Britain, only on a smaller scale. " But large scale (as well as sharp lines) was vital to Brunel's conception. He had noted: "The resistance of vessels in the water does not increase in direct proportion to the tonnage. The tonnage increases with the cubes of their dimensions, while the resistance increases at about their square, so that a vessel of double the tonnage of another, capable of containing an engine of twice that power, does not meet with twice the resistance. Speed, therefore, would be greater with the larger vessel." There was also the matter of coal. The engines of the day could only be called coal monsters, and this was the main limitation on the utility of the steamship. The Great Britain made hermaiden crossing in 1845 at an average 9.4 knots-the tough headwind passage being accomplished in just over two weeks, cutting the fastes t sailing ship times in half. However, most of the weight she carried was coal. When she ran hard aground on her fifth outward passage, in September 1846, her strong iron hull saved her, but her owners went broke. She was then rerigged as a sailing ship with auxiliary engine for the long run out to Australia by way of the Cape of Good Hope, home SEA HISTORY 64, WINTER 1992-93

via Cape Hom , thus rounding the world. In this serv ice she prospered , making thirty-two trips between 1852 and 1876, when she was laid up . In 1882 her replacement power plant, outmoded in its tum, was removed, her hull strengthened with wooden cladding to carry cargo, and she put to sea again as a pure sailing ship. ln 1886, beaten up and partly di smasted battling her way east to west around Cape Horn , she put back to the Falkl ands in distress and became a storage ship. Richard Goold-Adams, a student of Victorian engineering, then organized the remarkable campaign that brought her back to her builder's dock in I 970. She returned to the clatter of photographer 's helicopters and the blare of automobile horns, in a world utterly transformed from that which she had left a century and a quarter before when wooden- walled, tall-masted sailing ships ruled the world 's oceans. Many earl y steamers went through the Great Britain 's transformation, ending the ir days as pure sailing ships when they could no longer compete as steamers. What was happening was that the accelerating pace of technological advance was shoving aside successive generations of steamers, even as it drove the sailing ship progressively from the trade routes of the ocean world. Triumphant on All Oceans Returning to the story of ocean trade, we find the British were reasserting their traditional maritime dominance through the development of the ocean-going steamship in the 1840s-particularly in the open ing of the four-s hip service of

the Cunard Line in 1840, and the launch of the supership Great Britain in 1843. From then on, the North Atlantic run , accounting for the largest share of British trade, and indeed the leading artery of world trade, steadily went over to British steamers. The enterprising New Yorker E. K. Collins, who had run a highly successful line of sai ling packets from New York to Li ve rpool , built four big woode n paddlewheelers in 1849-50 to challenge the British dominance of this route. Fast and luxuriously outfitted, these glorious anachroni stic vessel s were intended to "drive the Cunarders off the sea." The Collin s Liners c ut a day off th e Cunarders' crossin g times and were widely admired. Despite thi s, the line Jost money. Then in 1854 the Arctic sank after a colli sion in the fog, with a loss of 318 lives including Collins ' wife and two children. In 1856 the Pacific went mi ssing. Following thi s, the government subsidy of the line was withdrawn, which put an end to this venture. The American bent fo r big wooden paddlewheelers died hard. Driven off the Atlantic run, ships of this type firs t mastered the run down to Panama, and up from Panama on the Pacific to San Francisco, providing a convenient alternative to the long, arduo us passage by sai 1ing ship down around South America by way of Cape Hom. The completion of the transcontinental rail way in 1869 cut into this traffic, but by that time Pacific Mail was operating behemoths like the ill-fated Japan across the Pacific. The Japan , 360feet long and astartling4,352 17