Sunday, January 30, 2011

Myself and Commodore Warwick

Today, January 30, 2011, I had the distinct pleasure of meeting Commodore Ronald W. Warwick aboard the Queen Mary in Long Beach, California. I introduced myself to him and told him what an honor it was to meet him, and then we chatted about the new Queen Elizabeth, the original Queen Mary and how unique and lovely each ship is. I cannot begin to say how happy I was to meet him; even more so when he agreed to take a photo with me:

When I ran into him and his wife Kim later, I presented them with a few gifts to take home as keepsakes. What the Commodore did next, though, I did not anticipate whatsoever. He insisted on giving me something, so he took his QE2 pin off his lapel and gave it to me. I was absolutely touched, and thanked him profusely. To say that Commodore Warwick is a kind and generous man is an understatement!

I don't think it will surprise anyone when I say that I will treasure this gift until my dying day.

Reception Aboard the New Queen Elizabeth

After the new Queen Elizabeth docked in Los Angeles for the first time on January 29, 2011 a special reception was held on board the new Cunarder. Everette Hoard, my dear friend who let me wear Commodore Geoffrey Marr's uniform, presented Captain Julian Burgess with a special plaque on behalf of the Steamship Historical Society of America. His speech was eloquently moving by all accounts, and was a splendid example of the bond that exists between ships and the people who truly love them.

Front row: Los Angeles Councilwoman Janice Hahn; Captain Julian Burgess; British Consul-General Dame Babara Hay

Back row: Dr. Scott Gray, San Pedro CVB; Christopher Chase, Port of Los Angeles; James Callahan, Metro Ports; Everette Hoard, Steamship Historical Society

Saturday, January 29, 2011

The New Queen Elizabeth in Los Angeles

The new Cunarder Queen Elizabeth arrived in Los Angeles for the first time early this morning. My friend and I arrived early in an attempt to see her dock, but she had already done so by the time we got down there (at 6:45 am). Being the amateur photographer and nautical nerd that I am, I took a tremendous amount of pictures of the new Lizzie.

There weren't very many people out and about when we first arrived - both on land and the ship. Through my binoculars, however, I saw an officer on the bridge looking over something while drinking a cup of tea. After my friend and I checked out the nearby Lane Victory (a WWII-era Liberty ship), however, the terminal was buzzing with activity and a helicopter circled around the Elizabeth and undoubtedly filming a segment for the local news. It isn't, after all, just everyday that a ship makes its maiden call at a port.

Friday, January 28, 2011

The Ever-Changing Wreck of the Andrea Doria

Ken Marschall's painting of the Italian liner Andrea Doria laying on the seabed is perhaps one of the most iconic images in maritime history. While wrecked, one can still see glimpes of the beauty and elegance that made her one of the most lovely ships afloat.

That was quite a while ago, however, and is a far cry from the condition of the Doria today. Time and the elements have certainly had their way with the old ship.

An article from the Association of Underwater Explorers explains:

The wreck of the Andrea Doria has evolved throughout the years. Where she once appeared very much as an elegant liner peacefully resting on the seafloor, now she has aged and deteriorated, her hull has fractured and collapsed. Her upper decks have slowly slid off the hull of the Doria down to the seabed below. As a result of this transformation, a large debris field flows out from the hull of the liner. Access points frequented by divers, such as Gimbel's Hole, no longer exist. However, new areas are constantly opening up. The wreck is ever-changing, and presents new options for future explorations.

References: "Andrea Doria: A Wreck Undergoing Both Decay and Rebirth," Association of Underwater Explorers, (accessed January 28, 2011).

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Sad Irony

What's sadly ironic about this cartoon? The fact that the Lusitania would be at the bottom of the Celtic Sea in a mere two months.

I won't go into the issues involved with the sinking, or whether or not the Lucy was a legitimate target of war. This image just struck me in a certain much so that I felt I had to point it out.

"I would say that no seaman can be an atheist. He sees the Hand of God so often in the elements."

"I would say that no seaman can be an atheist. He sees the Hand of God so often in the elements." That is what Captain Donald Sorrell wrote in his (posthumously released) memoirs. Mariners and religion have a long, long history together: whether it be the Quaker whalers from Nantucket or the Cunard captain who performs Divine Service aboard one of the three Queens today. The two are connected. Captain Sorrell knew this, which is perhaps why he choose these words for a special prayer for the Caronia's maiden voyage:

We give Thee thanks, O Lord, for this beautiful ship, built by the efforts of people in whom the desire to strive and create has been allowed, through Thy grace, to develop and produce such a splendid result, and we pray that the crews manning her will continue, as we have commenced, to uphold always the highest traditions of the British Merchant Service. Through Jesus Christ Our Lord. Amen.

Before anyone gets any wrong ideas, I want to explain my reasons for posting on such a topic. God and religion have both played a major role in maritime history and Captain Sorrell's prayer is a prime example of that relationship. Nothing more and nothing less.

References: Sylvia Duncan and Peter Duncan, The Sea My Steed: The Personal Story of Captain Donald Sorrell (London: Robert Hale Limited, 1960), 155.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Majestic in the News

Here's a collection of three rather interesting newsreels regarding the RMS Majestic. Full credit for this compilation goes to sanderrodijk on YouTube.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

A Death Ship?

The MS Athena encountered some "bloody terrifyingly bad" weather after leaving Falmouth, England back in September 2006. Winds were so powerful that one 70-year old doctor was knocked to the deck and died as a result of his injuries.

This was not the first tragedy to befall the ship: the Athena was originally launched in 1948 as the Swedish liner Stockholm.

It was under her original name that she collided with the Italian liner Andrea Doria on the evening of July 25, 1956 and killed a total of 51 people. While the Andrea Doria eventually sunk to the bottom, hundreds of survivors were rescued by both the Stockholm and Ile de France, which had steamed to the Italian liner's aid. Once loaded with survivors, the Swedish ship limped into New York with severe damage to its bow.

The Stockholm was never able to live down its involvement in the accident and became subsequently known as a "death ship," and the fatality in September 2006 only added to this reputation. It seems that even under a new name, the old ship is haunted by its past.

References: Alan Feurer, "From 'Death Ship' to Cruise Ship," The New York Times, September 23, 2006, under N.Y./Region, (accessed January 25, 2011).

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Commodore Marr & Myself

On January 15, 2011 I was given the great and rare privilege to wear the late Commodore Geoffrey Marr's uniform. He was the last master of the RMS Queen Elizabeth, and sailed the ship to her berths in Florida and later Hong Kong. Shortly after his retirement from Cunard, Commodore Marr went back to sea as Second Mate aboard a banana boat; the allure of the ocean is too strong for some people. He passed away on March 4, 1997 and was ultimately buried at sea.
This particular uniform (Marr had several) is in the possession of my good friend, Everette Hoard, who actually knew the Commodore in his later years. He mentioned to me one day that the coat would probably fit me, which really got this idea underway. It turns out, actually, that the coat fits me perfectly and my friend was gracious enough to take a few photos for me.

Everette says that "there's a certain kind of magic about that uniform," and he is completely right. As soon as I slipped it on I instantly felt a connection to Commodore Marr and his life. I think it's amazing how certain objects can hold such power and significance; and it makes sense in this case. This uniform represents Commodore Marr's entire life and career; from his early days aboard the HMS Conway to chasing down the Battleship Bismarck aboard the HMS King George V to commanding the RMS Queen Elizabeth. All this and more is symbolized by this old jacket and hat.

It truly was an experience that I'll never forget for as long as I live. I don't think that I could ever convey enough thanks to Everette for letting me do what I did.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Royal Rendezvous: Part II

The Royal Rendezvous was thoroughly celebrated by New York City. Not only was there the magnificent fireworks display this evening; Mayor Michael Bloomberg declared January 13, 2011 to be "Cunard Royal Rendezvous Day." The famous Empire State Building was illuminated in red and the New York Stock Exchange was closed with ringing from one of the original Queen Elizabeth's bells.

This event was quite similar to the one held in 2008 when the Queen Elizabeth 2 was still in service. Today marked the new Elizabeth's maiden entry into New York.

References: Patrick McGeehan, "Cruise Passenger Spending in City Is Up Sharply," The New York Times, January 14, 2011, under N.Y./Region, (accessed January 13, 2011).

Royal Rendezvous: Part I

The Queen Mary 2, Queen Elizabeth, and Queen Victoria have all docked in New York Harbor today for a very special event. This is only the second time in the Cunard Line's history that the entire fleet has been berthed in New York Harbor, and the city intends to celebrate this rare occurrence with a tremendous fireworks display by the Statue of Liberty.

Queen Victoria and the Queen Elizabeth, which are docked at Piers 88 and 90, will leave their berths later this evening in order to meet up with their much larger sister, Queen Mary 2. All three will appear together for the fireworks show, which is set to begin at around 6:45 tonight.

References: Kathy Carvajal, "Maritime 'Queens' Dock In New York,", under "Local News: Manhattan," (accessed January 13, 2011).

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Last Survivor of the Lusitania Dies

Audrey Lawson-Johnston (née Warren Pearl), the last known survivor of the RMS Lusitania, died earlier today at the age of 95. The First World War was in full swing, and the famous Cunarder was just a few miles from the Irish coast when she was torpedoed by the U-20 on May 7, 1915: Lusitania sank in just 18 minutes.

Mrs. Lawson-Johnston's family was traveling to Great Britain when the disaster occurred. Her parents and brother survived, while her two sisters did not unfortunately. At only 3 months, there would have been no chance for the infant Audrey to survive on her own. She was saved, however, by nanny Alice Lines. The two women would remain close until the latter's death in 1997 at the age of 100. With Mrs. Lawson-Johnston dies the last living link to that long ago, wartime disaster.

References: "Last know Lusitania survivor, 95, dies." BBC News, January 11, 2011, under "UK," (accessed January 11, 2011).

Sunday, January 9, 2011

39 Years Ago: The Death of the Queen Elizabeth

It was 39 years ago today that fire swept through and destroyed the RMS Queen Elizabeth, which had been renamed the SS Seawise University. The liner had been sold to Mr. C.Y. Tung of Hong Kong who had the intention of turning her into a traveling school (similar to the Semester at Sea program that exists today). Shortly before her debut in this new role, however, several fires broke out aboard the former Lizzie on January 9, 1972 and completely destroyed her. Twisted, broken and burnt out, she would lay in disgrace until finally broken up between 1974 and 1975. Although much of the ship was scrapped it is estimated that as much as 50% of the former Queen Elizabeth still sits underwater in Hong Kong Harbor.

A memorial was established outside of Mr. Tung's headquarters in Torrance, California following the liner's destruction. It incorporated one of her massive anchors as well as a "Q" and "E" from her bow letters. A similar monument was put up in New York City and utilized the other set of letters.

The loss of any ship is tragic; especially one as beautiful and historically significant as the Queen Elizabeth. She lives on, however, in the hearts and minds of those who sailed aboard her; as well as those who wish they could have.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Secret Voyage of the Queen Elizabeth

As the Second World War began to escalate in the early part of 1940, the decision was made to move the new Queen Elizabeth out of Scotland; she would be too prime a target for the Luftwaffe otherwise. Without being thoroughly tested, she embarked on her secret maiden voyage, as described by Leonard A. Stevens:

On March 2, 1940, the Queen Elizabeth, untried at sea, set forth across the Atlantic. She was escorted for a ways by four British destroyers and some military aircraft; then the ship set off alone in the submarine-infested ocean. Captain J.C. Townley commanded a crew of about four hundred. The ship was unarmed except for two guns on each side of the flying bridge. Though the crew did not know it, they were actually acting on an order from Winston Churchill, who had said that the liner must keep away from the British Isles until ordered to return. Indeed, the Germans, who got word of the plans, were even waiting with their bombers over the English Channel at the time the Elizabeth was supposed to come through on her way to Southampton.

Out at sea Captain Townley opened his secret orders to learn that he was to take the Elizabeth to the Port of New York where her sister ship, the Mary, had been caught as the war began. He was to maintain radio silence, but he would be sent important wireless communications by the Royal Navy. He was to maintain a full blackout and take an evasive, zigzag course. Regardless of his course, Captain Townley had a tremendous advantage when it came to running the Atlantic in the ship that a German U-boat crew would most love to sink. His was one of the fastest liners on earth - or at that point without trials, she was supposed to be. As he added miles between the ship and Scotland, the Master of the Elizabeth was rapidly convinced that she was performing as her designers and builders had planned. It would have taken an extremely clever or mighty lucky U-boat captain to sink the new Queen.

The Queen Elizabeth’s secret voyage - both her trials and her unofficial maiden voyage wrapped in one - was uneventful, yet the crew would never forget that Atlantic crossing. The vessel, sleek and new as seen from the outside, was still raw on the inside. Pipes, wires, and other materials ordinarily hidden were exposed, and some not even fixed in place. Moreover, the gigantic ship was virtually empty, and crew members wandering around inside the liner found it a lonely, eerie experience. They made up about an eighth of the numbers the Elizabeth could carry when full. This new, untried hotel of the seas was a gray, lightless ghost ship skimming over the cold North Atlantic in the dangerous early days of World War II.

References: Leonard A. Stevens, The Elizabeth: Passage of a Queen (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1968), 153-155.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

"A Grand Celebration at Sea" at the 2011 Rose Parade

The Tournament of Roses - more commonly referred to as the Rose Parade - has become a New Year's Day tradition since its first inception in the 1890s. Marching bands and equestrians from all over converge on Pasadena, California to take part of this special event. It is the floats, however, that makes the parade really stick out. Using nothing but flower petals to decorate these masterpieces, countless volunteers have created designs that are truly unique and out of this world.

This year marked the Cunard Line's debut in the Rose Parade. Their float, entitled "A Grand Celebration at Sea," turned many heads as it rolled down Colorado Boulevard. Although smaller than most floats at 55 feet in length, 24 feet high and 18 feet wide, it was nevertheless elegant and beautifully designed. Cunard's entry won, appropriately enough, the Queen's Trophy for the best use of roses. How can one beat that?

References: "Cunard Wins Queen's Trophy in the 122nd Pasadena Tournament of Roses Parade," Cunard, January 2, 2011, under "News Room," (accessed January 2, 2011).