On 19 September 1897, the North German Lloyd liner Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse left Bremerhaven on her maiden voyage, bound for New York.
Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse was truly a marvel of her age. She was the largest and longest liner afloat, second overall only to Brunel’s Great Eastern of 1860. Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse was also the first four-funnel ocean liner.
Built by Vulcan Co. in Stettin, Germany, the 14,349-ton Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse was 627-feet long with a 66-foot beam. Her twin-screw propulsion system was rated at better than 22 knots. To obtain a speed of 22.5 knots, the black gang had to shovel 22 tons of coal per hour into her furnaces. The liner’s best days’ run was 580 nautical miles.
Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse was involved in the massive dock fire at Hoboken, New Jersey, on 30 June 1900, but was towed to safety, escaping damage.
Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse was destroyed during the First World War while serving as an armed merchant cruiser. On 27 1914 she met her end off the Spanish Colony of Rio de Oro on the west coast of Afric in an encounter with Britain’s HMS Highflyer. After a fierce battle, and facing almost certain defeat, Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse was scuttled by her crew. (The British, however, claimed that the ship was actually destroyed by gunfire from Highflyer.)
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