Monday, December 27, 2010

"Now I met only memories."

The ocean liners' Golden Age faded away as jet airliners took to the skies in the 1960s and became the preferred mode of transportation. Valiantly (and perhaps vainly) the old ships continued on as best they could, but the signs of change were quite apparent by the middle part of the decade. Bob Arnott describes in his autobiography, Captain of the Queen:

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.

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