Colossal ship''s anniversary celebrated with Docklands exhibition

MARITIME enthusiasts learned about the chequered history of the SS Great Eastern, 150 years after its maiden voyage. An exhibition at the Museum of London Docklands on Saturday charted the history of the colossal ship designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel a

MARITIME enthusiasts learned about the chequered history of the SS Great Eastern, 150 years after its maiden voyage.

An exhibition at the Museum of London Docklands on Saturday charted the history of the colossal ship designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel and launched from the yard of Messrs J Scott Russell and Co in Millwall on the Isle of Dogs in January 1858.

The iron-hulled steam and sail ship, which was originally designed to sail non-stop to Australia, was finally completed in August 1859 and took its maiden voyage in September.

Visitors took a tour of the display which included a model of the ship, which was the biggest in the world when it was built and was used as a passenger liner and cable-laying ship, and photographs and technical drawings dating back to its concept in 1852.

Museum staff told visitors about the pitfalls and tragedies during the building of the Great Eastern, including the disappearance of two riveters who are believed to have been accidentally sealed inside the ship's hull. It is rumoured their skeletons were discovered when the ship was decommissioned.

A boiler explosion during one of the Great Eastern's first voyages killed several crew members but after running aground near New York, the ship managed to dock safely and passengers were not even aware of the incident.