The Great Britain
IT will be seen, on referring to our business columns, that the favourite steamship the Great Britain is to leave Melbourne for Liverpool on the 11th Janu- ary. This celebrated ship, and her equally celebrated com- mander, Captain Gray, are so identified with Australia that they may almost be regarded as colonial institutions, and a short notice of the eventful his- tory of this remarkable vessel can hardly fail to prove inter- esting to our readers.
This magnificient [sic] specimen of naval architecture has had a most chequered history, the events of which comprise a romance which attaches to no other steamship. From the commencement of her build- ing at Bristol, and her leaving that port in 1845, to her release from Dundrum Bay, on the Irish coast, where she went ashore, in 1846, the steamer experienced an amount of ill- success until her arrival in Liverpool in 1847, which dis- pirited her owners from further proceedings, and the Great Britain lay in the north docks, literally "a sheer hulk." To the eye of the sailor, however, and the lover of a fine ship, there was much to admire under her unsightly exterior. Her beautiful lines and evident capa- bilities were so apparent to the practised eye, that it was felt to be a pity that she should lie a wreck in port. Messrs. Gibbs, Bright, and Co., of Liverpool, who had formerly acted as agents for the com-
pany, then became the owners
[Caption:] The Great Britain steamer
of the vessel. Large contracts were imme- diately entered into for a modification of the interior of the ship, the only alterations permitted in her exterior form being the removal of the rolling plates attached to her sides, which were found insufficient for their object—and a slight addition to the depth of her keel to prevent her rolling. The effect of these improvements was that the vessel was enabled to carry about 1000 tons of additional cargo—no mean consideration when her subsequent voyages are taken into consideration. The dimen- sions of the Great Britain now are as follow :— Length over all 330 feet, beam 51 feet 6 inches, depth from promenade deck 40 feet 10½ inches, capacity for cargo about 3000 tons, ditto for coals 1200 tons. Her masts are now reduced to four instead of six, as she originally had, but this in nowise affects her sailing power, as she is able to spread 13,000 square yards of canvas. The next, and one of the most important considerations in the vessel is her motive power. The old engines were nominally of 1000 horse-power, but it is a question if they ever worked over 500 horse-power;
the new engines, by Penn and Son, of
Greenwich, on the other hand, are nominally of 500 horse-powor, and they have on an emergency been worked up to a much higher power. Her cylinders are 82½ inches in diameter, and 6 feet of stroke ; and by the intervention of cog wheels the
screw shaft makes three revolutions to one of the engine. The screw or fan has three arms or blades, and is 15 feet 6 inches in diameter, and 19 feet pitch, there are six boilers, either of which can be used independently of each other if necessary, and there
is accommodation for 700 tons of coals in the bunkers, and 500 tons in other parts of the vessel. One of our illustrations shows the saloon of the Great Britain. In this vast apartment, which
is the main room, 300 persons can dine. Probably the following passage from the Athenæum will convey as able a precis of the structural merits of the steamer as we could desire to place before our readers :—"But we must descend from our promenade on the deck into the huge caverns, the cauldrons below. The first peculiarity noticed is the engine and the enormous chain and chain-wheel for driving the screw. Four separate steam-engines drive round the axis of this
[caption] THE GREAT BRITAIN STEAMER.
monstrous wheel—two at one end of the axle, two at the other: the wheel between. The cylinders are apart at the bottom of the vessel, and the piston rods, which issue out of them, converge to the ends of this wheel. Each pair of engines work one crank, and the two cranks are placed at right angles. But the chain is the extraordinary thing. There are grooves on the wheel. At the end of each link of this huge chain there are teeth projecting into these grooves; so that, as the wheel revolves, the chain is compelled to revolve with it ; at the bottom of the vessel, immediately below the great wheel, lies a little wheel or pinion, having grooves cut in its circumference of the same size, and at the same dis- tance from each other, though much less in number than those of the large wheel. The same chain passes round both wheels, and while the large wheel revolves by the power of the engines once, the small
one revolves as much oftener as it is smaller. The small wheel has for its axis, the axis of the Archimedes Screw, which is attached to the after-end of the axis, and protrudes through an aperture at the stern into the water. Its revolutions give motion to the
vessel by their re-action on the water. Such is the
[caption] SALOON OF THE GREAT BRITAIN.
Vital Principle of this Monster of the Deep." Since the preceding quotation was written, twenty-five years have elapsed, and during that time the name Great Britain has become a "household word" at the firesides of thousands in this and the adjacent colonies. No other vessel has ever successfully conveyed to our shores a tithe of the number of colonists that the Great Britain has, and the statement that a relative or friend is leaving for the old country by that favourite vessel deprives the parting of half the pangs usually experienced on such occasions—such is the confidence felt in the boat and her intrepid but judicious commander, Lieutenant J. Gray, R.N. For many years the Great Britain has traded between Liverpool and Melbourne with a regularity that has never been interrupted, and the Press has had to record, voyage after voyage, her rapid passages. For the informa- tion of our younger readers we may mention that the Great Britain was built from the designs and under the inspection of I. K. Brunel, the celebrated civil engineer, and that she was at the time of her construction the first ocean screw steamer, and also the largest
steamer that had ever been built. She has, during the latter part of her career, been as successful as she was unfortunate at first. She is now as strong and as good a ship as when she was built, and in all human probability has still a long career of useful
ness and profit for her owners before her. All those who have been passengers in her will, we feel assured, join us in wishing Captain Gray a happy new year and a prosperous voyage.