Maiden Voyage of SS Great Western
In its day The Great Western, designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel , was as epoch making as Concorde a century and a half later, for it cut the journey time across the Atlantic in half. The steam-powered ship which left Bristol on April 8 1838 took a mere 15 days to cross the ocean. Not only was that far quicker than her sailing ship rivals, but it also was more controlled, allowing the captain and navigator rather than wind and waves to choose the route.
Brunel was doubly visionary in that his steamship was regarded by the great engineer as an extension of his Great Western Railway from London to Bristol: he was building that holy grail of planners, an integrated transport system.
The oaken ship commissioned as a first vessel by Thomas Guppy of the Great Western Steamship Company was driven by two paddle-wheels rather than propeller, but already looked forward to the ocean liners of the future with a crew member for every two of her 128 first class passengers bound for New York. It is no exaggeration to say that SS Great Western began or at the very least accelerated changes in the world’s geography – and its future political and social development.
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