The legendary Cunard Queen Elizabeth 2 on the Hudson River in New York City, October 16, 2008, as she departs for the final time.

22 June, 2010

The Clydebank Plan Revised

With the fate of Clydebank redevelopment in the balance,  the addition of Clydebank's last great ship would serve as the centerpiece, alongside the great Titan Crane, for showcasing the proud shipbuilding history of the area.  Plans for mixed use redevelopment have turned there back on this rich history and thankfully are stalled due to the economic downturn.  Plans to turn the QE2 into a floating hotel are stalled in Dubai as well.  The merits of returning QE2 home deserve to be studied.  More to follow.....

18 June, 2010

QE2 Sold

Two years ago on this date, this image came up on my screen at work. This image was saved to my hard drive.  While I sat down at my desk for a quiet lunch, I could not believe what I was seeing was true.  A few more frantic Google searches confirmed the news to be legitimate.  I was just not prepared for this news.  All signs coming from Cunard were that the ship would sail on past the 2010 SOLAS requirement deadline, which we had been told the ship would be able to meet with minimal work.   Apparently, Cunard got an offer they just could not refuse.

In only one respect was this good news.  This bit of news sealed the deal regarding whether we were going to go on the transatlantic crossing I had booked months earlier.  This winter crossing was going to be special anyway since it was a tandem crossing with the new Queen Victoria.  I called Dawn at work and told her that there would be no further discussion about cancelling this trip.  We were going on QE2's final winter crossing and we would make it into the Winter Crossing Club with no time to spare. 

I would get in my winter crossing and experience some rough seas with a big grin on my face!

Thank you Myles for posting a reminder of the significance of this day on the definitive site on the Queen Elizabeth 2, the world's most famous ocean liner.

What Were They Thinking

While the interiors are far better than the exterior, something disturbs me about seeing brick on the interior of a "ship."  The block of flats above the bridge area look like they were added as an afterthought, after the ship was under construction.  Actually, this construction has some precedent with NCL, who pulled the same thing off with the France/Norway conversion.

This is what the ship looked like in her original configuration as the  S.S. France.  I think Carnival got the inspiration for their iconic funnel from this ship.

The ship in her final incarnation as the NCL S.S. Norway, shortly before the boiler explosion that would ultimately take her out of service forever.

NCL towed the ship from Miami, where the boiler explosion occurred, to Bremerhaven, Germany to allegedly repair the damaged boiler.  After sitting idle for an extended period, the ship was transfered to NCL's parent line, Star Cruises, and the path to Alang began.  Despite numerous attempts to save the ship and deny entry into Alang due to hazzardous materials onboard, the ship was beached and the systematic dismantling of the ship began. 

A sad end to a great ship in Alang, India.  NCL currently owns America's great SS United States,  which may meet the same fate.

11 June, 2010

QE3: The Shape of Things to Come

This phrase reminds me of the advertising for the Triumph TR7 that was used in the late 70's to describe the radical for the time wedge shape of the new sports car from the British automaker British Leyland.  The radical shape provoked a love it or hate it reaction.  Coupled with the dreadfully poor build quality of the cars, the Triumph nameplate disappeared in the United States in the early 80's.

When Cunard announced they would be building a replacement for QE2, the speculation was that the design would be a derivation of the Queen Victoria design.  QE3, the third Queen Elizabeth, would later confirmed by Cunard to be a true sistership to Queen Victoria, but which some changes.  For myself and countless other QE2 devotees, this would prove to be an utter disappointment, expecting more from Cunard.  QE2 was a radical design and trend setting when she was launched in 1967.  She would showcase the latest design trends, featuring prominent British designers, and she was a shock to many accustomed to the Art Deco interiors of the original Queens. 

Cunard, in choosing to name new the ship Queen Elizabeth, is harking back to the Art Deco designs of the original Queen Elizabeth, in a retro style, and is taking no chances here with cutting edge interior design.  You could see this coming with the interiors of the Queen Victoria, which are done in a heavy retro Victorian theme.  Having not seen either ship yet in person, I will reserve any further judgement.  Having experienced the "over the top" Joe Farcus interior designs on the Costa Magica as my other cruise ship experiences, I suspect the Princess interior design team will provide a much more classy, restrained elegance experience throughout the ship.  Perhaps the Art Deco influences will be handled well, but I am concerned that they may go the Disney route here and do a watered down poor impression of Art Deco.

My biggest disappointment with the new QE3 lies in the fact that the new ship will not be trend setting or special in any way, but more of the same from Cunard, who are playing it safe with the retro "liner" theme.  I can understand why the ship will not be built for the speed and sea-keeping abilities of a liner.  QM2 is handling this market well.  I can also understand using a proven hull design to save on engineering costs.  Both the Queen Victoria and the QE3 are variations on the proven Carnival Corporation Vista hull design.  But I had higher expectations that there would be more customization of this design to make them unique to Cunard.  Perhaps additional engines for additional speed when desired.  Perhaps a different bridge design.  Perhaps some modifications to the squared off stern. Perhaps even a Tyfon horn sound to remind us of QE2.

Instead, the Queen Elizabeth is getting additional cabins, similar to the sistership HAL's Eurodam, which does not make the already rather ugly stern profile any prettier.  Gone is the stepped down liner-like profile of the Queen Victoria in favor of additional cabins and smaller balconies.  Adding to this, the area above the bridge on the QE3 is roofed over for indoor sporting activities, which adds additional mass high up on the profile.  While I am looking forward to using this space, it does look a bit tacked on from the photos that have been posted.

The mass expanse of the bridge, extending low across the bow, does not appear to have been changed in the slightest from the Queen Victoria design.  Once again, I was wishfully thinking that Cunard would have made at least a few subtle changes in the design to pay homage to the greatest ship in the world that preceeded the current design.  Also missing, will be the open observation deck I spent so much time braving the elements on QE2.

One of QE2's sleek, almost sinister features I loved to photograph was the blacked out bridge window area with the forward sloping glass.  Blacking out the vast expanse of window mullions across the bridge would go along way to improving the look here.....hint, hint Cunard.

Despite these changes and cookie cutter approach to the design, with the Cunard colors, QE2 inspired funnel and foremast, QE3 will still look better than most other cruise ship sailing the seas.  QE2 was stunningly beautiful at any angle, with perfect proportions.  She was designed in a different time, without the emphasis on balconies and interior volumes and amenities that the cruising public have now come to expect.  Wherever I look on QE2, I see evidence of designers spending time to get every detail and proportion just right.  Unfortunately, I just do not see this in QE3. 

QE3 is the shape of things to come, personifying the trend to maximize what the ship contains inside while striking a compromise with the exterior aesthetics of the ship.  Like the TR7 car design, it's a love/hate reaction to those familar to QE2.  I'm just not in love quite yet.  We're booked on the Maiden Tandem Crossing in January 2011 and I suspect that may change once we're onboard after a two years absence from Cunard.  The temptation to make comparisions to QE2 will be still be hard to resist.

10 June, 2010

QE2: In the Haze of Dubai

The latest picture of QE2, looking very lonely, in the afternoon haze of Dubai.  The movable cranes at the pier have been moved, giving an unobstructed view from the webcam.

06 June, 2010

T.S.S. Cameronia

The T.S.S. Cameronia was used for Atlantic crossings at least twice by my family members.  The Cameronia was built for the Anchor-Donaldson Line in 1919 by the William Beardmore & Co. Ltd. shipyard located on the River Clyde in Glasgow.  The T.S.S. designation either refers to "turbine steam ship" or "twin screw steamer."  The ship measured in at 16,365 gross tons, 552 feet long, with a beam of 70 feet.  She was a one funnel, two masted, twin screw ship with a service speed of 16 knots.  The ship carried a total of 1740 passengers in 265 1st class, 375 2nd class, and 1100 3rd class accommodations.  Additional information on the ship can be found here.

On October 19, 1929, my great aunt Jane (Jean) MacLeod, 18 years old at the time, left Glasgow on the Cameronia to join my grandfather as an immigrant to the United States, arriving in New York City 10 days later on October 29, 1929.  At this point, the Cameronia was owned by Cunard as they had purchased the Anchor-Donaldson Line and were running it as a subsidiary of Cunard, often sharing the same facilities and piers in New York. 

From left, Susan Connon (Angus) Milne, Isabella (Angus) Grant, John Baird Angus, Janet McDougal Angus, and Mary Jane (Angus) McLeod, my great grandmother.

Ten years later, my great grandmother, Mary Jane MacLeod made a similar trip along with her brother John Angus.  An Angus family reunion of sorts was held on the deck of the Cameronia at the pier in New York.

From right to left; Jane McLeod, Mary Jane Angus McLeod, Susan Connon Angus Milne, unknown relative, Isabella (Beldy) Angus Grant with grandchild(?), Charlotte Grant (pretty confident on this) and unknown relative.

I had these photographs of my grandfathers, but could not identify the ship or the year.  I studied Bill Miller's book on the Cunard Line, looking in particular for a Cunard ship with woodwork on the bridge area as seen in the background on this picture below, but to no avail.  It wasn't until I found the actual records on the Ellis Island site, did I solve the ship mystery.


Mary Jane (Angus) McLeod                              Mary Jane (Angus) McLeod and my grandfather William MacLeod

On June 30, 1939, my great grandmother Mary Jane McLeod, departed Glasgow on the Cameronia with her brother John Angus, arriving in New York City nine days later on July 9, 1939.  She made this trip without my grandfather, who apparently stayed behind in Peterhead, to see her first grandson who had just been born, my uncle Robert MacLeod.  At this time, I am still searching for confirmation as to how long she stayed and how she got home, since crossings at this time would become increasingly dangerous due to the war.  At this time, the Cameronia had been sold when the Cunard-Anchor Line had gone into bankruptcy and had been purchased by a newly formed Anchor Line.

The Cameronia continued to make unescorted transatlantic crossings until she was requisioned as a troop ship by the British Admiralty in December 1940.  In December of 1942, she was hit with an aerial torpedo, with the loss of 17 lives, but carried on to port for repairs.  The ship woould later go on to become the largest troopship to take part in the Normandy Landings. After the end of WWII, the ship was laid up, but was brought out of retirement and converted for use as an Australian emigration ship. 

January 1, 1953, the ship was sold to the Ministry of Transport and renamed the "Empire Clyde."  After 39 years in service, including hard wartime service, the ship was sold to scrappers in March 1958.

R.M.S. Saxonia

R.M.S. Saxonia was the ship my great grandmother, Emily Elizabeth Sinclair (Cochrane) took, along with my great uncle Benjamin Sinclair, who was 3 at the time, to immigrate from London to the United States. 

Boat Deck accessible to all passengers 

The ship left Liverpool on September 17, 1909, stopped in Queensferry, Ireland for additional passengers, and arrived in Boston 9 days later on September 26, 1909, a far cry from the speed of a 30 knot 5 day QE2 crossing.

Early incarnation of the ship's bridge, as viewed from the bow

Launched in 1899 from the same yard which would later build QE2, the Saxonia was built by John Brown and Co, Clydebank, Scotland for the Cunard Line.  The ship was 14,200 tons, 580 feet long, 64 feet wide, and had a service speed of 15 knots.  She and her sistership, the R.M.S. Ivernia, have the distinction of having the tallest funnel every fitted on a steamship.  The Saxonia held 1960 passengers, with 164 1st Class, 260 2nd Class, and 1600 in 3rd Class accommodations.  These 3rd class accommodations, specifically designed for immigrants, paid for the majority of the operating costs of the ship.  I suspect that my relatives traveled in 3rd class.

Utilitarian 3rd Class accommodations

3rd Class Lounge, no doubt where my relatives spent time in during the crossing 

3rd Class Dining

The Saxonia was later requisitioned by the British Admiralty to serve in WWI and survived her wartime service without major incident.  After the war ended, the ship was used to transport solders from France back home to New York.  In 1919, the ship re-entered commercial passenger service.  In 1924, the ship was laid up in Tillbury, her career with Cunard over.  In 1925 she was purchased for scrap by a Dutch yard and broken up.

Saxonia  Postcard  available on the ship for purchase

Unfortunately, I do not have any family photographs of the ship.  The majority of the black and white photos are courtesy of the National Maritime Museum archives, Greenwich, London.

05 June, 2010

R.M.S. Laconia

This Cunard ship is directly responsible for my existence and the continuation of our branch of the MacLeod family ancestry in the United States.  On July 31, 1927, my Grandfather, William Angus MacLeod, arrived in Boston on the Laconia.  The ship sailed out of Liverpool, with a stop in Glasgow, where my Grandfather boarded for his journey to America, never to see Scotland again.  With the fishing fleet of his hometown of Peterhead essentially destroyed in WWI, there was no work to be had.  Many of his family had already fled to the United States with the hope of jobs and prosperity.  His occupation is listed as "sawmill worker" on the immigration papers, but more specifically, he was a cooper and made the wooden barrels for the fishing fleet.  Other Peterhead family members were stone masons in the granite quarries of Peterhead and many fled to Barre, Vermont to continue their trade in the local granite quarries.  My Grandfather left with all his worldly posessions, including his tools, in a steamer trunk, which I still have in my possession.

Interestingly, my Grandfather changed his name here from McLeod to MacLeod.  In Scotland, the two spellings are interchangable and dropping the "a" is an abreviation of "Mac", which means "son of."  I recall him mentioning the reasoning behind the subtle change was that he did not want to be confused as a "Mic" or irishman.  At the time, there was widespread discrimination in this country of the Irish. 

The Laconia was built for the Anchor-Donaldson Line by Swan, Hunter & Wigham Richardson shipbuilders located in Wallsend-on-Tyne, UK along with sisterships Scythia and Samaria.  Cunard Line later aquired the Anchor Line in whole and ran the line as a subsidiary.  Sadly, when we visited the Tyne on our QE2 Farewell to the British Isles Voyage, there is absolutely nothing left of the shipbuilding trade save for the drydocks.

The 20,000 ton Laconia was the second ship to bear the name as the first Laconia was sunk in WWI by German torpedos.  As originally constructed, the 623 foot long, 73 foot wide Laconia accommodated 2180 passengers in 340 cabin class, 340 tourist class, and 1,500 third class cabins.  Rest assured, my Grandfather traveled in third class.  With twin screws and steam turbines, her service speed was a respectable 16 knots, but the crossing would be long compared to a swift 30 knot QE2 crossing in far more luxury.

In 1923, the first of its kind Cunard World Cruise was undertaken by the Laconia, with 22 ports of call during the 130 day long cruise, a tradition upheld by QE2 and the current Cunard Fleet. Located outside the Yacht Club on QE2, there is a large silver cup, the Laconia Cup, commemorating this event.  This was a reminder to me of my family's Cunard connection everytime I passed by it.

 R.M.S. Laconia continued her service with Cunard until September 4, 1939, when the British Admiralty requisitioned the ship for war time duty, converting the ship into an armed merchant ship.  Unfortunately, the second Laconia met the same fate as her predecessor and was sunk by a German torpedo.  On September 12, 1941, at 8:10PM, 130 miles northeast of Ascension Island, the Laconia was struck on the starboard side by a torpedo fired by U-Boat U-156.  At 9:11PM, the ship sunk with many Italian prisoners of war onboard, which proved to be an embarrassing situation for the Germans since they were allied with Italy at the time.  At this time, the U-Boat captain surfaced and rescued as many survivors as they could in an incident that would become known as the Laconia Incident.

Realizing civilians and prisoners were onboard, the U-Boat captain requested additional help from U-Boat Command and several additional U-Boats were dispatched, all flying Red Cross flags signaling a rescue operation was underway.  Allied B-24's in the area, allegedly unaware of the rescue operation underway and they started attacking the surfaced U-Boats with survivors on deck. The German submarines were ordered to dive and the survivors on deck were abandoned.  After this incident, the German Command ordered all U-Boat commanders not to rescue any survivors after torpedo attacks.

The Laconia is one of many Cunard ships responsible for safely transporting my relatives from the UK either to visit or to immigrate to the United States.  While my Grandfather did not get the opportunity to experience the Statue of Liberty on his arrival, many of my relatives did on other ships of the Cunard Line Cameronia, Carmania, Saxonia, Queen Mary, and Queen Elizabeth and White Star Line Cymric and Olympic (Titanic's sistership.)