Newspaper article Coffs Coast Advocate (Coffs Harbour, Australia)

Dockside Dreamers Save the United States; It Will Cost $200,000,000 to Convert

Newspaper article Coffs Coast Advocate (Coffs Harbour, Australia)

Dockside Dreamers Save the United States; It Will Cost $200,000,000 to Convert

Article excerpt

Byline: David Ellis

BIZARRE as it may seem, the biggest and most luxurious cruise ship ever built in the United States had only two items of timber in it.

One was a half-tonne laminated hardwood butcher's block in the galley, and the other a grand piano in the ballroom.

Otherwise the ship and everything within her a right down to the aluminium flower vases a was built entirely of steel, aluminium, glass, asbestos sheeting or fibreglass to ensure it would be virtually impossible to catch fire.

Even bedding, carpets, curtains, tablecloths and napkins were made from fire-resistant materials specially developed for the 55,000 tonne SS United States, that was the length of three football fields.

And equally bizarre was the financing of the ship: the United States Lines craved a 2000-passenger vessel that would rival the UK's Queen Mary in speed and luxury between Southampton and New York, while the American Navy, mindful of the growing Korean conflict at the time, needed a standby vessel that could be quickly converted if necessary into a 14,000-bunk troopship and floating hospital.

So the United States Lines drew-up plans for the SS United States, and the US government put in $50,000,000 of the $78,000,000 cost and got a say in the final design and construction a including it being virtually fire-proof. That piano in the ballroom was originally ordered to be made out of aluminium, but when that proved tuneless, a rare fire-resistant timber was found that even when doused with petrol and set alight survived unscathed.

It took 23,000 workers two years to build the SS United States at a shipyard at Newport News in Virginia; she was finally launched in 1952, making her maiden voyage from New York to Southampton on July 3 of that year.

And she achieved what the Americans had long wanted to do: she broke by 10 hours the trans-Atlantic speed record that had been held for 14 years by Britain's Queen Mary, doing the crossing in three days, 12 hours and 12 minutes at an average 35.59 knots (40.96mph) during the next 17 years she made the crossings 726 times at an average 30 knots (35mph).

Although it had put so much money in to her construction, the US Navy never had need to call on her as either a troopship or floating hospital, nor to transit the Panama Canal which it insisted she be designed to do a albeit with a clearance of just 0. …

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