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.