Sunday, February 7, 2016

The S.S. United States - Saved!

I have a love for classic passenger ships.  Perhaps it is the era that they existed in that I am in love with but the beauty and gracefulness of the liners of the day are enthralling.

Some years ago I was flying into Philadelphia when the plane flew low over the river on its approach to land and we passed over a classic liner tied at a dock and also a derelict looking Navy cruiser.  I had to find them!

The liner turned out to be the S.S. United States.  The cruiser was the U.S.S. Des Moines docked at the Navy yard.  It has since been scrapped but the United States remains.

I managed to find my way to the area where the ship is docked.  Although I couldn't get to the liner I could see much of it from outside the fence.  The grand old ship was looking very sad.

The S.S. United States is the fastest liner ever built.  In an era where crossing the ocean quickly was the goal, the United States stood out, crossing from New York to Southampton in 3 days.  The government participated in funding the construction of the ship, looking to use it as a troop ship in a future war.  It never served but benefited significantly from the government funding.  The hull design and engines were a national security secret.

I read a fascinating book about the naval architect who designed the ship.  The book "A Man and his Ship"  is a great read about the era and the people who lived it.  I highly recommend it.

The liner was a victim of declining passenger volume as airliners carried people across the ocean in less than a day.  The ship was tied up and the interior fitting auctioned off.  Later it was gutted in preparation for conversion to a cruise ship but the plan fell through. Later  Norwegian Cruise lines purchased it with the intent to rebuild it but 9/11 put an end to those plans.

Recently the ship was weeks away from having to be scrapped since the non profit foundation that owned it could no longer afford to maintain it.  Just this past week Crystal Harmony cruise lines announced that they were purchasing the ship to rehabilitate it into a luxury cruise ship.   I hope and wish this comes to pass although I am a bit skeptical.  60 plus years of salt water immersion must have thinned the shell plating by now but I do hope it comes to pass.  This living link to our past where one man's vision could come to pass through sheer force of personality needs to be once again sailing the seas.

The ship in its glory days
Sad and neglected in Philadelphia.  Hopefully it will be restored to its former glory!

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