S.S. GREAT EASTERN

S.S. Great Eastern, a 22,500-ton (displacement) iron steamship designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel was built on the Thames River, England.

Intended for the passenger and cargo trade between England and Ceylon, she was by far the largest ship the World had yet seen.

She was so far ahead of contemporary commercial requirements, and industrial capabilities, that her length (nearly 700 feet) and tonnage would remain unmatched for four more decades.

Though christened Leviathan during an initial launching attempt in early November 1857, she was thereafter always known as Great Eastern. Nearly three month’s costly struggle to get her afloat, and more problems while she was completing, left her original company bankrupt. New owners decided to employ her on the route between Britain and North America. However, insufficient capitalization restricted outfitting to luxury accomodations, thus ignoring the decidedly non-luxurious, but very profitable immigrant trade. The ship financial difficulties continued compounded by a series of accidents.

In September 1859 Great Eastern’s first voyage was cut short by a boiler explosion. Her second company collapsed under the expense of repairs and a new firm took her on. Finally reaching New York in June 1860, for the next two months she was exhibited to the public and made voyages along the U.S. coast. Nearly a year passed before Great Eastern’s next westbound trip in May 1861, by which time the American Civil War had begun. During June and July she transported troops to Quebec to reinforce Canada’s defenses. In September Great Eastern began another trip to New York, but was disabled by a severe storm. In mid-1862 she made three voyages, but improving commercial prospects abruptly ceased when she struck an uncharted rock entering New York harbor, necessitating more expensive repairs. She did not resume service until mid-1863, making two more trips and bankrupting yet another company.

Sold at auction, Great Eastern was chartered for laying a trans-Atlantic telegraph cable. The ship finally found her niche. In 1866 Great Eastern brought a cable to North America, establishing nearly instantaneous communication between the Old World and the New that has remained unbroken ever since. Following a unfruitful effort by French interests to put her back into passenger service in 1867, Great Eastern returned to cable work. Between 1869 and 1874 she strung six more cables from Europe to America, repaired two earlier ones, and laid another across the Indian Ocean.

Great Eastern was laid up at Milford Haven, Wales in 1874. In 1886 she steamed to Liverpool to become an exhibition ship. This prosaic, but profitable employment continued during visits to London and Scotland later in the year. Sold late in 1887, Great Eastern went back to Liverpool, where she was stripped and slowly broken up during 1888 and 1889.

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About Michael L. Grace

MICHAEL L. GRACE is part of the award winning team that created the internationally performed award winning musical SNOOPY, based on PEANUTS by Charles M. Schultz. SNOOPY continues to be one of the most produced shows (amateur & stock) in America/Worldwide and has had long running productions in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and in London's West End. There are over 100 individual productions every year. He has written movies for TV, including the award-winning thriller LADY KILLER, various pilots and developed screenplays for Kevin Costner and John Travolta. Besides co-writing and co-producing SNOOPY, he wrote and produced the one-man play KENNEDY. He produced P.S. YOUR CAT IS DEAD by pulitzer prize winning author James Kirkwood. He wrote the stage thriller FINAL CUT which had productions in the UK, South Africa and Australia. His one-man play, KENNEDY - THE MAN BEHIND THE MYTH, was developed for HBO and has starred Andrew Stevens, Gregory Harrison and Joseph Bottoms. He has recently been involved in European productions with CLT-UFA, Europe's leading commercial television and radio broadcaster. He wrote MOWs THE DOLL COLLECTION, THE BOTTOM LINE and LAST WITNESS for German television. While in college and graduate school he worked as a foreign correspondent for COMBAT, the famous leftwing Paris daily, and as a travel writer. He visited more than 50 countries. He struggled as an actor, then joined the enemy and entered the training program at William Morris. He became a publicist and worked for Colonel Tom Parker, Elvis Presley's manager, at Paramount and MGM. He followed with a brief stint as a story executive, working in the frantic horror genre period of the early 80s and wrote THE UNSEEN. He went onto write for episodic television and develop series pilots. He was a continuing writer on such series such as LOVE BOAT, PAPER DOLLS, and KNOTS LANDING. He developed screenplays for such major award winning directors as Nicolas Meyers, Tony Richardson and J. Lee Thompson. He has written for all the major networks and studios. He has been hired numerous times as a script doctor, doing many uncredited rewrites on TV movies and features. He is currently writing A PERSON OF INTEREST, a thriller novel, and, IT'S THE LOVE BOAT... AND HOW IT CHANGED CRUISING BY SHIP a non-fiction book dealing with how the hit TV series as a major cultural phenomenon and altered the style of cruising by ship. He was raised in Los Angeles. He attended St. Paul's, USC and the Pasadena Playhouse. He received a B.A from San Francisco State University where he majored in theatre arts and minored in creative writing. He is listed as a SFSU leading alumni. He also apprenticed at ACT - The American Conservatory Theatre. For a brief period he had intentions of becoming an Episcopal(Anglican) priest and attended seminary at Kelham Theological College in the UK. When "the calling" wasn't there, he left seminary and did graduate work at the American University of Beirut. He has guest lectured at USC, UC San Diego, McGill, Univ. of London and the Univ. of Texas on the business aspects of making a living and surviving as a writer, focusing on development hell, in the Hollywood entertainment industry. Grace is a lifetime member of the Writers Guild of America, the Dramatist Guild and former regional chairman of the Steamship Historical Society of America. He resides in Palm Springs.

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