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SS Great Eastern

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Great_eastern_launch_attempt.jpg
SS Great Eastern shortly before her launching, 1858
This article describes the ship the Great Eastern. For information on the Great Eastern Railway please see Great Eastern Railway.

The Great Eastern was a ship designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel. She was the largest ship ever built at the time of her launch, and had the capacity to carry 4,000 passengers around the world without refuelling.

The ship was built in partnership with an experienced ship designer, John Scott Russell. Unknown to Brunel, Russell was in financial difficulties. The two men disagreed on many details. It was Brunel's final great project, as he collapsed after being photographed on her deck, and died a few days later.

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Great_Eastern_1866.jpg
Great Eastern at Hearts Content, July 1866

The ship was launched--after many technical difficulties--in 1858. She was 692 feet (211 m) long, 83 feet (25 m) wide, 60 feet (18 m) deep (draught was 20 ft (6.1 m) unloaded and 30 ft (9.1 m) fully laden) and weighed 32,000 tons. In comparison the Persia, launched in 1856, was 390 feet (119 m) long and 45 feet (14 m) in breadth.

The hull was an all-iron construction, a double hull of 0.75 inch (19 mm) wrought iron in 2 ft 10 in (864 mm) plates with ribs every 6 ft (1.8 m). Internally the hull was divided by two 350 ft (107 m) long, 60 ft (18 m) high, longitudinal bulkheads and further transverse bulkheads dividing the ship into nineteen compartments. She had both paddle and screw propulsion, the paddle-wheels were 56 ft (17 m) in diameter and the four-bladed screw-propeller was 24 ft (7.3 m) across. The power came from four steam engines for the paddles and an additional engine for the propeller, total power was estimated at 8,000 hp (6 MW).

After only a few passenger voyages and a series of accidents, she was sold for 25,000 (her build cost has been estimated at 500,000) and converted into a cable-laying ship. She laid 2,600 miles (4,200 km) of the 1865 transatlantic telegraph cable and took part in other similar operations before being broken up for scrap in 1889.

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