Saturday, July 30, 2011

Curse of the Great Eastern - London, England

In 1858 in London, England the largest ship of the time, the paddle wheeler  Great Eastern was launched.  However, a history of death surrounded the ship even before it hit the water.  This torrid history is believed to have started when two riveters turned up missing when the ship was being built.  It was believed that they sealed themselves inside the double walls of the hull, entombing themselves forever.

The paddle wheeler Great Eastern during an attempted first launch in 1858

The great ship was troubled before it broke water.  In early 1958, an attempt to launch the ship ended in failure.  Due to technical problems, they could not get the ship into the water on the date it was slated to be launched.  Ship builders did eventually get the Great Eastern launched, but it seem from that point on the ship was cursed.

On its' maiden voyage, the Great Eastern was headed out of port when a massive explosion rocked the boilers and actually caused one of the ship's stacks to collapse.  One of the crew members was thrown overboard and was lost.  The ship was laid up for repairs for some time.  Shortly after this voyage the ship's designer, Isambard Kingdom Brunel, passed away.

The Great Eastern returned to ferrying passengers from England to the United States and on one occasion when pulling into dock at New York City, it pulled in to close. One of the ship's paddle wheels destroyed part of the dock and a couple of dockworkers were killed.

The Great Easter docked in New York City in 1860

At one point in the Great Eastern's lifetime it ran aground and took severe damage from hitting rocks.  When a crew of workman went below to repair the damage, they resurfaced in a hurry, claiming that they could hear a pounding noise coming from the hull as if someone were trying to get out.  The superstitious work crew refused to return to work on the ship, believing that the sound was that of the spirits of the dead riveters trying to get out.

The huge deck of the Great Eastern paddle wheeler in 1865

As the troubled passenger liner sat idle for a while it eventually was sold and refitted to lay the first permanent trans-Atlantic telegraph cable in 1886.

The Great Eastern paddle wheeler dwarfs ships moored next to her in 1866

In 1889, only a few years after laying the trans-Atlantic cable, the ship was scrapped only 31 years after it set sail, and in all, 31 deaths that occurred were in connection with the ship. One death for each year the Great Eastern sailed. When the ship was beached and dismantled for scrap, it is rumored that some of the workmen where shocked when they found a human skeleton inside the hull!

The Great Eastern met its end in 1889.  In this photo it is shown beached and being dismantled for scrap.

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