1909 - 1933
1907, the Cunard Line had introduced two new astounding ocean liners named
Lusitania and Mauretania. They became known as the largest,
fastest and most luxurious passenger liners afloat. With a service speed
in the vicinity of 25 knots, the two ships captured the Blue Riband of
the Atlantic from the German liners Kaiser Wilhelm II and Deutschland.
Cunard stealing all the glory, the British rival White Star Line, wanted
its share as well. They started to plan for two new ships that would outmatch
Lusitania and Mauretania in size and luxury, but not in speed.
If the first two ships were successful, they would be followed by a third.
Of course, these ships were the Olympic, Titanic and Britannic.
With a gross tonnage of roughly 45,000 tons, they would beat the Cunarders
with 15,000 tons.
and Mauretania owed the Blue Riband to their spectacular machinery.
Instead of the conventional triple or quadruple
expansion engines, Cunard had
invested its money in the new turbine engines. This type of machinery gave
the two liners 68,000 horsepower. If they had been equipped with expansion
engines, it is possible that they would not have taken the Blue Riband
from the Germans.
|The Megantic at
the success of turbine power for Cunard, White Star thought they also needed
a new type of engines for their new liners. The previous prime ships of
the line – the Celtic, Cedric, Baltic and Adriatic
– had all been equipped with two screws and expansion engines, but to the
cost of a fairly low service speed at 16 knots. However, they were very
reliable, and the North Atlantic passengers enjoyed these comfortable ships.
Star Line did not go as far as to decide on genuine turbine engines straight
away. They saw two choices – either would they have the conventional expansion
engines with two screws fitted into the Olympic-class, or they would
invest in a combined sort of engine with triple expansion engines that
powered a turbine engine with excess steam. The expansion engines would
turn two wing propellers, while a centre propeller would be powered by
the turbine. But before inserting one of the choices into the ships straight
away, White Star needed to test the two engine types against each other.
and 1908, the Dominion Line had laid down two almost identical liners –
the Alberta and the Albany. The Alberta was fitted
with the combined engine type and propellers White Star were considering
for the Olympic-class, while the Albany was fitted with the
conventional expansion engines and a mere two screws. These liners were
built for the Dominion Line in order to match the Allan Line and Canadian
Star immediately saw the opportunity in the two Dominion liners. By the
time of the ships’ launching, they had both been bought by the larger company
to be used on the White Star-Dominion joint service to Canada. The Alberta
was renamed Laurentic and the Albany was renamed Megantic.
Now, these two ships were to be tested against each other to help White
Star decide what engines to use on the forthcoming giants.
had been launched in September 1908, and went out on her premiere crossing
in late April 1909. The Megantic was launched in December 1908 and
was delivered to White Star on June 3, 1909. She crossed from Liverpool
to Montreal on her maiden voyage on June 17.
both ships now in service, White Star could compare them. The superior
ship was without doubt the Laurentic. She had approximately the
same service speed – 17 knots – as the Megantic, but at a lower
cost. White Star took the final decision and
chose the new combined
triple expansion/turbine-type of machinery for the Olympic-class.
|A nice photograph of
the Megantic, showing her fine lines.
the Megantic was not to be rebuilt with the superior engine type.
In order to do that, her whole stern frame would have to be replaced. In
any case, she was perfectly satisfactory, and continued her duties without
one of the most hated criminals in Britain – the wife killer Dr. Crippen
and lover Ethel le Néve – had fled to Canada on Canadian Pacific’s
Montrose. Since Crippen was an American citizen, he would be outside
of British jurisdiction if her stepped ashore in North America. However,
the crew on board the Montrose became suspicious and wirelessed
Scotland Yard about Crippen’s presence. One Inspector Dew booked a ticket
on the Laurentic – who was the fastest ship on the Canadian run
along with the Megantic – and managed to catch up with the Montrose
off Father Point, St. Lawrence. The Montrose let the inspector on
board and Dr. Crippen was arrested. He was taken care of by the police,
and later returned to Britain to stand trial on no other ship than the
Megantic. For his criminal deeds, Dr. Crippen was hanged.
the First World War erupted. Many liners were taken in by the Admiralty
to assist in the war at sea. The Megantic was used for trooping
duties as early as October 3, 1914 when she participated in the famed 32
trooper convoy from Gaspé to Plymouth. The convoy was escorted by
the warships Charybdis, Diane, Eclipse, Glory
and Talbot. Megantic was in the White Squadron section along
with the Bermudian, Royal Edward and Franconia. On
October 14, the Megantic had carried out her duty flawlessly, and
lay anchored off Devonport. On November 30, she was again placed on the
North Atlantic run, between Liverpool and New York.
1915, the Admiralty once again requested the Megantic’s assistance.
She would, yet again, act as a troop ship. The limit of soldiers on board
was set to 1,800 men. The Megantic stayed in this guise for another
two years. On February 24, the ship was lucky enough to escape a torpedo
from the German submarine UB-43. In April of that year, Megantic
was taken over by the Liner
|Although the Laurentic's
engines proved superior to those of her sister, the Megantic retained
her original machinery throughout her career.
a few months after the war had ended, the Megantic was returned
to civilian service. On December 11, 1918 she made her first post war sailing
between Liverpool and New York. In 1919, the liner was refitted at Belfast
and emerged with a slightly altered passenger accommodation capacity. First
class was changed from 230 to 325, second from 430 to 260 and third from
1,000 to 550. After the refit, the Megantic was returned to the
Canadian service. Her consort became the Canada who replaced the
Laurentic, who tragically had been lost to German mines in 1917.
In the off season, Megantic was sent cruising in the West Indies.
1920, the Megantic made one sailing for the White Star-Shaw, Savill
& Albion joint service, and later that year she made a voyage in Government
service with some of its staff to Sydney and Wellington. In 1924, the ship
was converted into a Cabin Class liner – the new passenger accommodation
was 452 cabin class and the same as before in second and third classes.
Megantic was charted for a trooping voyage to Shanghai, and in late
March the following year she was put on the London-Le Havre-Halifax-New
York service until the St. Lawrence opened – then her destination became
Québec and Montreal. In 1930 and 1931, the ageing liner was used
on economy cruises with Adriatic, Calgaric and the new Laurentic.
In May 1931, she was returned to the liner service between Liverpool and
Montreal. In July she was laid up Rothesay Bay.
the poor financial situation in the world at the early Thirties, it became
less and less likely for the Megantic to return to service. She
was, after all, 22 years old. She remained laid up until February 1933,
when she steamed out of Rothesay Bay under her own power, bound for Osaka
where she would be broken up.
|The Megantic - Specifications:
||565 feet (172.6 m)
||67.3 feet (20.6 m)
||14,878 gross tons
||Quadruple expansion engines
powering two propellers.
||Originally 1,690 people