1899 - 1914
1890, the largest ship ever constructed in history was the Great Eastern
from 1859. Since this vessel had gone to the scrapyards in 1888, and no
other ship had been near the Great Eastern’s size, it was time to
update ships so that they succeeded the Great Eastern. That was
what Thomas Henry Ismay thought when he commissioned a new pair of ships
from Harland and Wolff’s shipyard. They were supposed to be Oceanic
and Olympic. With a length of over 700 feet these new ships would
surpass the Great Eastern’s old record of 689 feet rather easily.
Of course the tonnage of Great Eastern remained a record, for the
White Star Lines new duo would only have a gross tonnage of slightly over
17,000 tons compared to the Great Eastern’s near 19,000. This would
make the new ships the largest in existence, but not the largest in history.
White Star Line’s policy more and more turned out to be, speed was not
the main part about the new ships. The service
speed would not exceed White
Star’s former Blue Riband-holders Teutonic’s and Majestic’s
20+ knot speed, but would still manage to hold some 19-20 knots during
an entire voyage as service speed.
|A beautiful photograph, showing the
Oceanic's lovely appearance.
14, 1899, the first of the class; the Oceanic was launched. No one
had seen such a great ship since the disappearance of the Great Eastern
in 1888. With two huge funnels painted in the White Star Line’s company
colour buff, raised forecastle and poop deck and the clean lines typically
for White Star ships, she was quite a beautiful sight. The name decided
upon was that of the White Star Line’s pioneer vessel. It was considered
good luck to name a new ship after an old reliable one, and the second
Oceanic was to be the pride of her company. On August 26, she had
finished her satisfactory sea trials and left Belfast for Liverpool. In
Liverpool she would be opened up for the press, as customary with a new
ship. When the media had been satisfied, the ship was prepared for her
maiden voyage. After almost a week all was finished and the Oceanic
left Liverpool for the Americas. The voyage went off without any mishaps
and six days, two hours and thirty-seven minutes after the beginning of
her premiere trip Oceanic entered the harbour of New York. She had
averaged 19.57 knots, which was perfectly adequate. One problem was discovered
however, and that was that the stern of the ship vibrated violently at
Oceanic continued her service and held the title of the largest
ship in the world throughout the century. On the first year of the new century, when anchored
in the Mersey, the Oceanic was stuck by lightning and lost the top
of her main mast. In April, 1901, the Oceanic was not any longer
the largest ship in the world. The White Star Line then launched the Celtic
at 21,000 tons. The Celtic was the first ship to surpass the Great
Eastern in tonnage as well as length. The same year was to become somewhat
sad for the Oceanic in another way as well. In September she accidentally
rammed and sank the small Waterford S.S. Co. steamer Kincora in
heavy fog just outside Tuskar Rock. Seven people perished as a result of
her launch, the Oceanic had patiently waited for her sister,
the Olympic, to be born. But after Thomas Ismay had died in 1899,
the order was cancelled. This was in order to gather strength to produce
what was to be called the ‘Big Four’ class (Celtic, Cedric,
Baltic and Adriatic), all over 20,000 tons.
First Class Dining Room.
old days, before equality laws and high labour salaries with working conditions
unimaginable for us today, the working class was often looked down upon.
This went too far on board the Oceanic one day in 1905. Some of
the ship’s stokers carried through a mutiny against the commanding officers.
As one could expect thirty-five of these stokers were punished and charged
later with order restored.
the White Star Line changed their main homeport to Southampton, and on
May 22, that year Oceanic made her last sailing from Liverpool.
The first departure from her new homeport was done twenty-eight days later.
Her running mates on the Southampton-New York run were the Teutonic,
Majestic and the new Adriatic.
war was declared between Britain and Germany, and the Admiralty required
merchant vessels to participate in the hostilities. The Oceanic,
who had made her last voyage to New York in July, was commissioned as an
‘Armed Merchant Cruiser’. The Admiralty, with no experience in handling
such large ships as the Oceanic, appointed the Royal Naval Captain
W. F. Slayter to command the ship. As some sort of precaution, Oceanic’s
own captain Henry Smith was present on the ship. To have an inexperienced
captain proved to be foolish. On September 8, when the Oceanic was
three miles off Foula Island (twenty miles west of the Shetland Islands)
Captain Smith told Captain Slayter that he had moved the ship too close
to land, when trying to pass the island, and was risking
to ground her as the current was moving rapidly. Captain Smith was overruled
by the naval captain, who insisted on a tight schedule. Due to this the
ship was taken out of course by Mother Nature and grounded on the Hoevdi
Rocks in the Shaalds. Since the people on board the Oceanic were
stuck on the ship, help was called for and the small trawler Glenogil
came to assist and transferred some 400 men to other ships now present.
Attempts to pull the ship off the rocks failed, and two weeks later the
sea began to handle the Oceanic badly. She was declared a total
loss, and all salvage thoughts were abandoned. No one of the two captains
was blamed, but D. Blair, the ship’s navigator, was held responsible for
the sad event. After this accident, the Admiralty changed their procedures
so that the merchant fleet would have their own captains when in the Admiralty’s
service, and that no ship should never have two captains.
|A stern view of White Star's
went on, and the Oceanic remained where she had once grounded. Not
being in the way for shipping traffic, no one made any moves towards removal.
But the vessel was perfect material for scrappers, and in March, 1924,
all above the waterline level was removed from the scene. The rest stayed
until the 1970s, when work commenced to take away the last remains
of the old Oceanic. Not until 1979 was the last worthwhile pieces
removed. The Oceanic had finally, after 65 years as a wreck, been
laid to rest.
||705 feet (215 m)
||68.3 feet (20.85
||17,274 gross tons
||Two triple expansion
engines turning two propellers. 28,000 horsepower.