1909 - 1917
the Cunard Line had launched their giant duo consisting of Lusitania
and Mauretania in 1906, they had used turbine power to drive the
ships. This was a new power resource, and the conservative British could
not easily be persuaded into this novelty. Even more conservative than
Cunard was the White Star Line, who had preferred triple or quadruple expansion
engines instead of the much better turbine engines on the Big Four quartet.
The speed performance on this class of liners proved to be painfully slow.
With a service speed of near ten knots better than the Big Four-quartet’s,
Lusitania and Mauretania had showed the world the future
|This painting of the
Laurentic was commissioned by White Star to advertise their new
the White Star Line was not totally blind, and before ordering the first
of the Olympic-class in 1908, the company would test what engines
to be used on the Olympic and her future sisters. Two choices was
to pick from; the first being the old and reliable expansion engines with
two propellers. The second was a new combined version with the expansion
engines’ exhaust steam used to power a low pressure turbine to drive a
the Dominion Line had laid down a vessel at Harland and Wolff, which they
intended to name Alberta. This vessel’s engines were already finished,
and they were of the same type that White Star was interested to find out
more about; triple expansion engines with a low pressure turbine.
Star Line purchased this liner later that year and renamed her Laurentic.
On September 9, 1908, the Laurentic was launched. She was intended
to sail on the White Star Line’s Canadian-Pacific service, and became the
largest vessel on this route.
White Star had this type of vessel they needed an identical sister with
the old type of engines to compare her with. Fortunately, the Dominion
Line had a sister for the intended Alberta on the stocks. She was
the Albany with twin screws powered by two quadruple expansion engines.
She, just as the Laurentic, was purchased by White Star and renamed.
Her new name became Megantic, and together with Laurentic
she was intended to sail as the largest pair of vessels on the Canadian-Pacific
maiden voyage started off from Liverpool to Montreal via Quebec on April
29, 1909. As all other ships of her time, Laurentic had three classes
one could travel in. The vessel had the same basic luxury as the large
ships of the age, but in a smaller scale. Laurentic was equipped
with a first class reading room, a smoking room with a partly glassed ceiling
for the sun to shine through. If one had not got the money to travel in
the prestige liners, but still wanted luxury, the Laurentic was
the perfect choice.
|The First Class
Reading Room was one of the Laurentic's most splendid features.
both the Laurentic and the Megantic had been tested against
each other, the Laurentic proved to be the faster and more economic
ship. However, the Megantic was not refitted with new engines; that
would take too much work and time – and of course money – for such a small
liner. The Megantic kept on sailing anyway, and never lacked in
popularity or reliability. Neither did the Laurentic, and in 1911,
she took the record for the Canadian route with a voyage-back-and-forth
time of only thirteen days and four hours.
First World War, Laurentic was commissioned as a Canadian Expeditionary
Force Troop Transport suited for 1,800 soldiers. In October 1914, she left
Canada with the famed 32-troopship convoy that all together carried 35,000
Canadian troops to Europe. After completing her trooping duties admirably,
the Laurentic was turned into an Armed Merchant Cruiser in 1915.
25, 1917, the Laurentic steamed out from Liverpool. She carried
475 officers and crew, and a very distinguished cargo
of gold bullion, worth five
million pounds. The gold was being shipped to the United States in order
to pay for war munitions supplied by the Americans. The ship had sailed
a bit from the British coast, when a violent blast, followed by a second
one was heard. Without doubt a torpedo or mine was in question. Unfortunately,
the second explosion had destroyed the area where the engine room was.
All of the ship’s lights had been put out, and the engines had been made
useless. The Laurentic was doomed, and it was not made any easier
by the fact that it was still dark, and the officers had to swing the lifeboats
out in pitch darkness. Perhaps the pumps would have saved the vessel, but
as all engineering personnel had been killed and the engine room was being
water-filled rapidly, they could not be used. The Laurentic’s commanding
officer, Captain Reginald A. Norton together with the ship’s chief steward,
Mr. Charles Porter, descended down the vessel’s decks, which were being
water-filled one by one rapidly. They managed to close two watertight doors,
and see to that no man still alive was left on the sinking liner. After
doing this they got up on deck and entered the last lifeboat. Then the
Laurentic made her final plunge and sank in 125 feet of water.
|A broadside view of the
Laurentic, with her simple lines clearly evident.
had left the ship safely, but not the men inside them. Several of them
had been badly hurt by the cold water, and as the lifeboats were picked
up the following day, many were found dead in the boats.
of the expensive cargo was also a major stroke for the British authorities.
However, hope was that the cargo could be salvaged in the summertime easily,
because of the shallow waters. The work started off as soon as it could,
and after seven years of salvaging, 3,186 gold bars were recovered. As
the total number was 3,211, and no more could be found, the work was considered
finished. In 1932, a private group of salvagers managed to pick up another
five bars from the wreck. The remaining twenty bars still awaits their
|The Laurentic - Specifications:
||565 feet (172.6
||67.3 feet (20.6 m)
||14,892 gross tons
||Two four-cylinder triple
expansion engines driving the two wing-propellers and one low pressure
turbine powered by the expansion engine's exhaust steam. The turbine turned
the centre propeller.