In terms of remarkable longevity, White Star Line’s Germanic stands apart from nearly every other ocean liner. Her life afloat in active service extended from the Age of Sail to the Atomic Age.
Launched at Belfast’s Harland & Wolff on 15 July 1874, the 5,008 GRT Germanic was 455 feet long and 45 feet at beam. She could carry up to 1,720 passengers (220 first class and 1,500 third class).
On 7 August 1875, Germanic took the Blue Riband from fleetmate Adriatic, completing a westbound transatlantic crossing in 7 days, 23 hours and 7 minutes at an average speed of 14.85 knots.
Although primarily steam powered, Germanic also carried four masts, three of which were square-rigged. The sails came in handy in January 1883 when Germanic’s propeller shaft broke while traveling on her usual Southampton to New York route. Her sails were hoisted, and the liner sailed safely to Waterford, Ireland. The incident may have marked the last time that an ocean liner traveled under sail power. It must have been glorious.
Something less happy occurred on 13 February 1899. During a fierce blizzard Germanic, weighed down by snow and ice coating her masts and rigging, sank. Fortunately, she was in New York harbor at the time. Ten days later she was refloated and, under her own power, made her way back to the Harland & Wolff shipyard in Belfast for a refit.
Germanic was blessed by a very long life, sailing for British, American, Canadian and Turkish owners. She finally sailed into history in October 1950.
Floating hotels and museum ships aside, only Cunard Line’s Parthia (1870), which ended her days afloat in 1956, served longer than Germanic.
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