1871 - 1896
name ‘White Star’ first appeared in 1849, when the youngsters John Pilkington
and Henry Threlfall Wilson advertised their company, the ‘White Star Line
of Boston Packets’, and its first ship owned by Pilkington and Wilson -
the three masted barque Iowa - in the Liverpool newspapers. Even
though the company advertised in Britain, the ports of call were strangely
all situated along the American coast. The two men made enough profit in
the Americas to consider an expansion, but their only concern was - what
destination would they choose?
1850s, gold was discovered in Australia. This required many
large ships to carry all the miners searching for fortune. This was the
perfect opportunity for the two-year-old White Star Line of Boston Packets,
and the company put their ships into the Australian trade. In 1852, the
company’s name was changed to ‘White Star Line of Australian Packets’.
parallel course, Thomas Henry Ismay, had started his shipping-company career,
when he became a partner in the ‘Nelson, Ismay & Co.’ By the mid-sixties,
the latter company and the White Star Line had developed an unofficial
relationship; sometimes helping arranging each other’s voyages. This ‘partnership’
grew deeper and in 1869, the two companies joined forces, forming the
new ‘Oceanic Steam Navigation
Company’, also known as the ‘White Star Line’ - a company that would become
a very fabled one.
|The first Oceanic,
here shown with sails set.
company agreed with the shipbuilding company ‘Harland & Wolff’, to
have them build all their ships, providing they would be the best on the
seas. Soon the White Star Line ordered the first vessel from Harland &
Wolff. She was to be named Oceanic, consequent to the company’s
name. The Oceanic was the first in a quartet of sisters, all of
similar characteristics. The other three sisters appeared frequently until
27, 1870, the Oceanic was launched. The ship was of a totally new
breed. She had been put together by the absolutely best material available.
Some noteworthy features on board the Oceanic was for instance her
railings that had replaced the old bulwarks, and her large dining saloon
that measured 80x40 feet where every passenger had his own chair. The White
Star Line had not feared any costs in achieving the most modern and beautiful
ship upon the waves. The press noted the ship’s appearance, which in their
words, ‘resembled an Imperial yacht’. The ship was made for a glorious
future, but time would prove different.
maiden voyage started off from Liverpool on March 2, 1871. Unbelievably
for the White Star Line, the ship only carried 64 paying passengers, and
only hours off Liverpool, the Oceanic developed engine problems,
so serious that the ship could not continue to her destination port of
New York, but had to return to Liverpool instead. The maiden voyage was
resumed on March 16. When the Oceanic finally reached New York she
was the subject of celebration and over 50,000 people visited the ‘finest
ship on the transatlantic route’.
did not become the great success the managers of the White Star Line had
hoped, but she had set new standards in shipbuilding technique, and no
passenger would any longer accept a new ship of the old breed. To remedy
some of the Oceanic’s teething troubles, several changes in the
construction were made during the ship’s first annual overhaul in January
1872. A large forecastle was added with a breakwater in order to keep the
front of the ship relatively free from water in stormy weather; a problem
that hitherto had haunted the Oceanic. The engine power was enlarged
with increased steam pressure and the assistance of two new boilers. In
order to keep the two extra boilers, the coal bunkerage was enlarged. In
addition to this, the vessel’s masts were shortened to reduce an annoying
years later the White Star Line introduced their new Blue Riband-champion;
the first Britannic. With this ship in White Star
service, the Oceanic
began to seem somewhat outdated. In March she made her final sailing between
Liverpool and New York. The transatlantic route was handed over to the
new prime ships. The Oceanic was chartered by the Occidental &
Oriental S.S. Co. for San Francisco-Yokohama-Hong Kong service. The ship’s
officers were still from White Star but the crewmen were Chinese. The funnel
of the vessel remained White Star-buff, but instead of the usual red-and-white
company flag, the O. & O. flag was used. When the Oceanic had
left Liverpool and arrived at Hong Kong it was revealed that no ship had
managed such a distance with that average speed before. The Oceanic
could now also claim to be a record-holder, just like the likes of her
younger company-mate; the Britannic. The speed of the ship continued
to prove worthiness, when in December 1876, she made yet another record
crossing, this time between Yokohama and San Francisco.
|The White Star Line's
Oceanic - the first steamship in the company's fleet.
no major mishaps in her history, the Oceanic continued her service
into the 1880s. Unfortunately, no ship seems to escape accidents,
and this went for the Oceanic as well. On August 22, 1882, the ship
collided just off the Golden Gate Bridge with the coastal liner City
of Chester, which sank with a loss of sixteen lives.
last efforts of showing her worthiness, the Oceanic made a last
record crossing between Yokohama and San Francisco in November 1889. The
voyage took 13 days, 14 hours and 5 minutes. Six years later the Oceanic
was returned under White Star management. The company sent the ship to
Harland & Wolff for re-engining, but after having gone through the
ship, the plans of putting the Oceanic back into service was abandoned.
The old ‘greyhound’ was sold for £8,000 for breaking up on the Thames.
On February 10, 1896, the Oceanic left Belfast under tow of the
Dutch tug Oceaan. The time had come to introduce a new era in shipbuilding.
|The Oceanic - Specifications:
||3,707 gross tons
||Iron, one deck, ten bulkheads.
||2x2 cylinder type engines
powering a single propeller.