Those symbols of technical prowess, financial power and human foibles. There are names that conjure the increasing power and magnificence of steam; Cunard, White Star, Inman and Brunel. There are also names that remind us of our arrogance and vulnerability when we pit ourselves against the power that is the North Atlantic; Titanic, Atlantic, Arctic.
This fantastic book by Stephen Fox captures the history of the "Ocean Geyhounds" with lots of details about the technical changes in the ships as well as the development of their opulence and the effect of the changing world of the 19th Century and early 20th Century.
Filled with anecdotes and quotes from many of the early promoters, voyagers and crews of these technical marvels, the book gives us a feel for the passage across that stormiest of great seas. Rivaling even the dreaded Cape Horn for the ferocity of its storms, with the added dangers of fogs, icebergs, and congested fishing grounds, these machines carried their passengers, rich and poor alike, across in all weathers and all seasons.
From the Introduction:
During the nineteenth century, the roughest but most important ocean passage in the world lay between Britain and the United States. Bridging the Atlantic Ocean by steamship was a defining, remarkable feat of the era. Over time, Atlantic steamships became the largest, most complex machines yet devised. They created a new transatlantic world of commerce and travel, reconciling former Anglo-American enemies and bringing millions of emigrants who transformed the United States.I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in both the technical and social history of transatlantic travel.
Keep your sightglass full, your firebox trimmed and your water iced.
Samuel Cunard, Isambard Brunel,
and the Great Atlantic Steamships