For amateur historians and trivia collectors everywhere

Location: Masterton, New Zealand

I survived school history despite the best efforts of the education system to bore me to death. Many years later, I discovered Treaties, dates, the movement of nations, are mere context. The fascination is in the details.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Launching Leviathan.
The Victorian era engineering genius I.K. Brunel (1806-1859) over-reached himself when he conceived the Great Eastern. Built on the banks of the Thames at the Isle of Dogs, she was five times bigger than any steam ship afloat and nearly 700 feet long.

"The Great Eastern was to be launched sideways, a scheme then contrary to all precepts of large shipbuilding, and one which drew many warnings of failure. ....
To overcome her twelve thousand inert tons, Brunel would need sufficient hydraulic rams to push her, steam tugs on the river to pull her, gigantic steam winches on shore to let her down the ways and huge windlasses to check the mass when it slid too fast. .....
Despite misgivings, Brunel announced the launching for November 3, 1857, when the ship could be floated on a rising tide. The Times tried to quiet public excitement by saying, 'The launch is likely to be a long and tedious affair, which will probably occupy eight to ten hours'."
(The Great Iron Ship, James Dugan, 1953).

It took almost 3 months. The 'Wonder of the Seas' floated free on 31st January 1858.


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