Friday, December 31, 2010
Thursday, December 30, 2010
Not a penny had been spared in her building; to Britons, still struggling under Sir Stafford Cripps's austerity régime, she was magnificent. Some of the younger members of my crew, all of whom were hand-picked, had never seen anything like it. There were six 45-foot motor-launches for cruising and two outside swimming pools. She had ten decks with thirteen public rooms and two restaurants, a cinema with seats for three hundred and a first-rate gymnasium with a qualified instructor. There was also a laundry large enough to cope with all passengers' washing, and the white uniforms of the crew which needed changing at least once, or sometimes twice and even three times a day in very hot weather.
There was only one refinement I didn't appreciate. Cunard had done me a special favour. Mine was the only bathroom on the ship to be fitted with fresh water. And I was probably the only person on
the ship who preferred salt-water baths!
Wednesday, December 29, 2010
It was during my search for the Queen Mary's propellers that I was able to take these photos. The Poseidon is a scale model of Long Beach's most famous ship (a quarter inch on the model equals one foot on Mary), weighing close to 2,000 pounds and measuring 21.5 feet long. A team of 15 modelers constructed it from the Queen Mary's original plans in about 3 months, and included battery-operated propellers, working funnels and interior lights. It was loaned the museum by 20th Century Fox and resides there to this day.
Monday, December 27, 2010
I settled down to my career in a Cunard fleet that was being continually annihilated by the faster and cheaper giant jets. I did one spell on the Queen Mary in 1965 and wrote to Joan from New York, 'It's like working in a ghost ship.' On that voyage there were fewer than 200 passengers in a first-class section designed to take 750 in sumptuous comfort across the Atlantic. I walked along the companionways where, a few years earlier, people would have been bumping into each other as they hurried from one party to another. Now I met only memories. 'You know, sir,' I said to Captain Treasure-Jones, 'she's not sailing across the Atlantic, she's rattling across it like a great empty coffin.' Sadly, the skipper agreed.
The Queen Mary would operate for another 2 years before the City of Long Beach purchased her for use as a museum and tourist attraction. She was one of the very lucky few to survive; most of her contemporaries were broken up and sold for scrap as the tides shifted against those grand old ships.
References: Captain Robert Harry Arnott, Captain of the Queen: The autobiography of the most famous sea captain of them all. (London: Quadrant Books, 1982), 138-139.
Friday, December 24, 2010
Wednesday, December 22, 2010
[He] cared as little for the rank-and-file as he did for shipowners, managers and passengers. Pickets with sticks at Southampton determined once to prevent Berengaria from sailing because of a strike. Irvine drove to the dock gates in a taxi which was immediately surrounded by a milling crowd of men, their eyes full of menace. The captain alighted and surveyed the jostling throne with something like contempt. 'Stand back,' he shouted suddenly. 'You don't seem to realize that I am the captain of the Berengaria.' I doubt whether such tactics would be successful to-day but they were then. The pickets fell back and Haughty Bill was able to board his ship unmolested.
Passengers, too, sometimes caught of whiff of his contempt for the world at large. A short-sighted American woman passenger saw the erect uniformed figure of Haughty Bill on the promenade and unpardonably imagining him to be a steward ordered him to take her tea tray away. He was a man of the quickest possible reactions. He took the tray and dropped it deliberately a yard away from the passenger. 'They always said I would never make a steward,' he remarked as he strode away.
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
Monday, December 20, 2010
Yes, she was a good ship, the Georgic, sturdy and reliable, with a whistle that cut the air like a razor if you needed it. It was...making for Liverpool, that I ran into fog off Anglesey, but not until the small hours of the morning did the officer of the watch send word that a vessel grouped around by smaller vessels had been plotted close ahead on the radar screen. So I ran topside to the bridge, reducing speed and altering course, blowing our whistle but getting no reply. Suddenly, at 2:30 A.M., the craft I had sought loomed out of the fog, close to our bow, silent as a ghost ship but with all her deck lights burning. By heaven, I thought, I'll teach them not to use their whistle when there's fog around, and for two unbroken minutes I made the night hideous with the ear-splitting scream of the Georgic's whistle.Captain Grattidge would then write that his entire life had been full of mistakes like this one. But there is certainly no doubt that both parties learned a lesson from the entire experience.
Next morning, in Liverpool, Cunard's shore staff came aboard to ask searching questions. Had I run into anything unusual during the night? I gave the facts, but ended triumphantly: "If they threw a scare on me, I certainly threw a worse one on them. I blew the whistle so loudly that everyone asleep on that ship must have jumped clean from their bunks.
They seemed to know all about that. "The ship," explained one of them kindly, "was H.M.S. Dido.They were relying on radar, not blowing their whistle, so as to give their passengers a good night's rest."
Passengers on a destroyer? I said I could scarcely credit it. But no one had warned me, after all, that King George VI and Queen Elizabeth were crossing on an official visit to the Isle of Man.
References: Captain Harry Grattidge, Captain of the Queens: The Autobiography of Captain Harry Grattidge, Former Commodore of the Cunard Line as told to Richard Collier (New York: E.P. Dutton & Co., Inc., 1956), 12-13.
Saturday, December 18, 2010
The real William Murdoch, however, was quite a different figure.
He hailed from the little Scottish town of Dalbeattie, where a memorial stands in honor of his courage and sacrifice. Historians have written how, as the Titanic foundered, First Officer Murdoch did what he could to save lives - in sharp contrast to the film's portrayel. Colonel Archibald Gracie, who had survived the sinking, later wrote of the First Officer's last moments:
He was a brave and efficient officer and no motive for self-destruction can be advanced. He performed his full duty under difficult circumstances, and was entitled to praise and honor. During the last fifteen minutes before the ship sank, I was located at that quarter forward on the Boat Deck, starboard side, where Murdoch was in command and where the crew under him were engaged in the vain attempt of launching the Engelhardt boat. The report of a pistol shot during this interval ringing in my ears within a few feet of me would certainly have attracted my attention, and later, when I moved astern, the distance between us was not so great as to prevent my hearing it. The "big wave" or "giant wave," described by Harold Bride, swept away Murdoch and the crew from the Boat Deck first before it struck me, and when I rose with it to the roof of the officers' house, Bride's reported testimony fits in with mine so far as relates to time, place, and [circumstances.]
Colonel Gracie's testimony clearly disproves what James Cameron would have audiences believe as fact. For the sake of a good story, his 1997 blockbuster portrays a heroic man in an unjustly negative light. The vice-president of 20th Century Fox (which produced the film) flew to Dalbeattie the following year and personally apologized to First Officer Murdoch's 80-year old nephew, Scott. He was "reasonably happy" with the apology, but also noted that in "three or four years people will have forgotten about [the] ceremony but the film and video will still portray my uncle as a murderer when he was a hero and helped save many passengers."
"Titanic makers say sorry," BBC News, April 15, 1998, under "UK," http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/78839.stm (accessed December 18, 2010).
Friday, December 17, 2010
[He] was a great talker, words tumbling from his lips at an amazing rate, and his gift for rhetoric was superbly demonstrated in his lecture presentation on the sinking of the Bismarck. Geoffrey had served in the Royal Navy Reserve on one of the ships that sent the German battleship to the bottom on 27 May 1941, so his graphic descriptions were wholly authentic.
Yet I remember him not so much for his oratory as for a remarkable piece of navigation that brought Carinthia safely to the Pier Head in Liverpool when the Mersey was cloaked completely in blinding black fog. We were anchored in the river waiting for the solid blanket to lift; even the ferry boats across the Mersey were unable to move. Suddenly Geoffrey's fine voice called: 'We're going in.' He talked our tugs to us over the VHF radio and, with visibility down to zero, took the huge 22,000-ton liner cleanly into the landing stage. Passengers, already resigned to another night at sea, cheered in relief and delight, and the crew, anxious to get home to loved ones, were equally elated. It was a magnificent achievement by the Captain, considering the quite elementary navigational aids of 1960 in comparison to today's sophistication.
It's a matter of record that some Captains have a sixth sense in fog; they can 'see' things quite invisible to the eyes of ordinary humans, and have often made apparently inexplicable decisions which, within seconds, have saved ships and lives.
In any case, Captains generally won't discuss the matter, and that includes the normally prolific talker, Commodore Geoffrey Marr.
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
No, it's not a mortuary (despite the fact it looks just like one). It's a CapitalSource Bank that happens to have some very sacred maritime items on display. The anchor that you see in the photo came from the famous Cunarder RMS Queen Elizabeth. After the liner's fiery 1972 demise in Hong Kong Harbor, it was salvaged (along with some other objects) and sent back to California to create a monument at Mr. C.Y. Tung's offices there. Although he no longer has any claim to the property, the memorial still stands.
I first learned of its existence several years ago through an acquaintance, but was unable to visit at the time for a variety of (uninteresting) reasons. On the heels of my Queen Mary propeller hunt this summer, however, I decided to finally pay it a visit. After getting slightly lost on the freeway and parking (somewhat illegally) at a nearby center, I made my way over to the Lizzie's remnants. Awe and reverence swept over me like a rogue wave as I snapped this photo:
The R.M.S. "Queen Elizabeth", 83,673 gross tons, was the biggest and fastest passenger liner ever built. She contributed valuable service as a troop carrier during World War II. In peace, she served as a blue-ribboned* passenger ship for two decades. C.Y. Tung of Seawise Foundation acquired her and renamed her "Seawise University", but she was destroyed by fire in Hongkong harbor on January 9, 1972 just as her renovation and conversion work was about to be completed. Her projected work as a floating university has been taken up by the S.S. "Universe Campus" based in Los Angeles. Her bow initials "Q" and "E" and her anchor are placed her in Los Angeles County appropriately as a memento of her service and contribution unrivaled in shipping history.
* = The Queen Elizabeth never held the Blue Riband.
Monday, December 13, 2010
Six days a week, Captain Thompson appeared an easy-going sort of fellow who loved a pint and a joke as much as any of his crew, but Saturdays it was different. Then, the Captain's mood depended
essentially on the success or failure of the Liverpool football club. He must have been one of their longest-standing members, and was certainly one of their most avid supporters. Towards tea-time on a Saturday, when the famous Merseyside club had no doubt just walked off the field after the final whistle, Captain Thompson invariably ordered: 'Go and find out how they've gone on.' Off I would troop to the radio room and wait until the British football results came over the air; the Master, meanwhile, paced the bridge in dire suspense. If the radio message was that Liverpool had won, I would hurry back at once to tell him the good news; if they had lost, I couldn't help but dawdle back to the bridge, for I knew that the normally genial face would turn a rich shade of purple at the sad tidings. 'What, what, Arnott, what's that you're saying?' was his immediate irascible reaction. And if the radio reported that the Captain's club had been really well beaten, it was a wise and immediate strategy to keep out of his way for a few hours, for by the next day, the thrill of anticipation over Liverpool's next game would have taken over, and our much-respected Commodore would again become an approachable human being.
It should be mentioned that Commodore Thompson was a Liverpudlian, which may help explain his devotion to that particular football club.
References: Captain Robert Harry Arnott, Captain of the Queen: The autobiography of the most famous sea captain of them all. (London: Quadrant Books, 1982), 95-96.
Friday, December 10, 2010
Peter Shanks, the president of Cunard, said the following on this historic appointment:
While we are far from being the first shipping company to have a female captain, it is nonetheless noteworthy when such a long-established British institution as Cunard makes a break with its captaincy tradition. But as Mark Twain drily observed, "the folks at Cunard wouldn't appoint Noah himself as captain until he had worked his way up through the ranks." Inge has certainly done that...and we are delighted to welcome her as our first woman driver.
Captain Olsen was raised on the Faroe Islands, which are situated about halfway between Great Britain and Iceland. She joined the Cunard Line in 1997 as First Officer aboard the Caronia before transferring to Seabourn in 2001. Olsen served aboard Seabourn Sun and Seabourn Spirit before being promoted to Staff Captain on the Seabourn Pride in 2003. August 2010 saw her return to Cunard as Deputy Captain of the Queen Victoria.
This is a truly historic event for the old shipping line. Although Captain Olsen is scheduled to leave the Queen Victoria on February 13, 2011, her appointment as master has helped to pave the way for future generations of female seafarers.
References: "History is Made As Cunard Appoints the Line’s First Female Captain," Cunard, December 9, 2010, under "News Room," http://www.cunard.com/About-Cunard-Line/News-Room/Press-Information/Queen-Victoria/?art=6546 (accessed December 10, 2010).
Tragedy could have also fallen on her successor, the Queen Elizabeth 2. The new ship had been built according to both British and American safety regulations, which meant that she was extensively fire-proofed and had the best in fire suppression technology. The QE2 was built to be one of the safest ships afloat.In 1976, an engine room erupted and ultimately knocked out one of the liner's boilers. This forced QE2 to limp back into port at Southampton, where it was clear to all that something had happened. The liner's distinctive white funnel had been blackened as a result of the blaze.
The faulty boiler was eventually replaced and the QE2 resumed her work. Had it not been for her high safety standards, she may have followed her older sister to Valhalla only four years later.
References: David F. Hutchings, QE2: A Ship For All Seasons (Dorset: Waterfront Publications, 1993), 40-41.
Thursday, December 9, 2010
Once she arrived in California, the Mary got an equally impressive welcome as hundreds of small boats came out to greet the stately ship. She would be formally handed over to the city on December 11 and cease to be the pride of the British Merchant Navy.
I've always found it interesting that - especially now - the Queen Mary has been docked in Long Beach longer than she ever sailed the Atlantic. But thank goodness she's still around!