Little Bits of History


Posted in History by patriciahysell on September 20, 2011

RMS Queen Elizabeth 2 (photo by Jim Champion)

September 20, 1967: The RMS Queen Elizabeth 2 or QE2 is launched. By the mid-1960s air travel was the preferred method of trans-Atlantic motion. Prices were cheaper and flights were quick. Two luxury ships, the Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth were both expensive to operate and were not keeping up with the times. Both pre-war ships were showing their age. Cunard line gambled with $80 million on a new liner to replace these aging behemoths.

The new design needed to be smaller and cheaper to operate but still maintain the same speeds as before. Staff numbers needed to be decreased and the ship needed to draw less draft. The original design of the ship was altered and she was built as a cruise ship, plying the Atlantic during the peak summer trade season. QE2 was built by the Upper Clyde Shipbuilders in Clydebank, Scotland. Her keel was laid down on July 5, 1965 in the same plot used to build the other Queen ships. She was launched on this day by Queen Elizabeth II using the same gold scissors used by her mother and grandmother to launch the previous royal-named ships.

QE2 served as the flag ship for Cunard Line from 1969 until 2004 when RMS Queen Mary 2 took over. During her nearly 40 years of service, she crossed the Atlantic as a cruise ship sailing from her port of registry at Southampton, England. Although she ran every year of her service, it was not year round. There was no identical sister ship or running mate included in the line. She was retired from service in 2008 and was purchased by Istithmar where she was to become a floating hotel at Palm Jumeirah, Dubai. Instead, she remains moored at Port Rashid and her fate is uncertain.

QE2 is 963 feet in length and measures 105 feet at the bean. The ship is 171 feet in height with a draft of 32 feet. Her gross tonnage is 70,327 GT and she displaces 48,923 when loaded. She is powered by 9 MAN B&W 9-cylinder diesel electric generators with two GEC Propulsion motors operating two propellers. Her maximum recorded speed was 39 mph but her normal speed was 23 mph. Her capacity for passengers was 1,777 or 1,892 with all berths filled. Her crew consisted of 1,040 hard working souls to keep this floating palace plying the Atlantic Ocean.

“A bigger business is like a cruise ship: There are lots of amenities and you can go a lot further, but it’s harder to turn quickly.” – Tony Hsieh

“A ship is always referred to as “she” because it costs so much to keep one in paint and powder.” – Chester W. Nimitz

“Being in a ship is being in a jail, with the chance of being drowned.” – Samuel Johnson

“It is not the ship so much as the skillful sailing that assures the prosperous voyage.” – George William Curtis

Also on this day:
Cannes Film Festival – In 1946, the first Cannes Film Festival is held.
Girl’s Night – In 1973, Billy Jean King won the “War of the Sexes” against Bobby Riggs.

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