Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Queen Elizabeth in Torrance

If you happen to visit the Del Amo Mall in Torrance, California - just on the corners of Carson and Del Amo - there is a good chance that you may see this building:


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:

Just like the Queen Mary's anchors, the Elizabeth's were 18 feet tall and weighed 16 tons. Each of those links are 2 feet long and weigh close to 225 pounds.
And here are perhaps the most sacred objects of them all: the letters "Q" and "E" that spelled out the ship's name. Another set is on display in New York, as I understand, but are in rather poor condition. These letters had a broken plexiglass cover over them and you can see it in the top right corner of the photo. It was already cast to one side when I arrived, but I was sure to replace it when I left.

In addition to letters from Governor Jerry Brown and Elizabeth, the Queen Mother (those photos did not come out at all) there is a plaque on the site that reads:

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.

It was an extremely touching pilgrimage. I realized that this is as close as I or anyone is going to get to the Queen Elizabeth (unless we dive to the 40-50 percent still underwater in Hong Kong), and being able to touch these objects helped bring her closer to me. Although the Queen Elizabeth is goine, she continues to exist in the hearts and minds of countless former crew members and passengers who sailed aboard her, as well as the enthusiasts and historians who study her. Long live the Queen!

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