TITANIC-TITANIC.com | SS Oceanic I
When Thomas Ismay bought the insolvent White Star Line's house flag, name and goodwill, he joined forces with the Belfast shipbuilders Harland & Wolff, and the two companies formed an informal arrangement which would, with the exception of just one vessel - Laurentic II - last until the Cunard White Star merger in 1934. That arrangement meant that the White Star Line would only buy new ships from Harland & Wolff, and in return, Harland & Wolff would only build ships for the White Star Line.
Oceanic was the first vessel built for the White Star Line under this agreement. She was launched on 27th August, 1870. She was a huge step forward in many ways from previous ships, both inside and out. For starters, her length to beam ratio was 10:1, as opposed to the more usual 8:1, making her look much sleeker than previous ships, and inside, there were marked improvements too. There were proper chairs in the dining saloon, as opposed to the long wooden benches that had previously been fitted in ships, and her cabins were more spacious too. She was equipped with a single screw, powered by a single compound engine, and could make 14.5 knots.
On 2nd March, 1871, Oceanic departed Liverpool on her maiden voyage to Queenstown and New York, but due to an engine bearing running dry and subsequently overheating, she had to face the ignominy of turning around and limping back to Liverpool for repairs.
She left Liverpool for the second time exactly two weeks later on the 16th March, and this time all was well, and Oceanic arrived in New York 12 days later. To look at Oceanic in comparison to other liners such as Titanic or Olympic, she looks quite dated, however, 50,000 people turned out to see Oceanic arrive in New York, an indication that here indeed was a liner to celebrate.
In the winter of the same year, Oceanic returned to Harland & Wolff to have additional boilers added, and also more coal space to ensure she had enough fuel for the new boilers. Other work was also carried out at this time to overcome teething problems discovered during her 9 months in service on the North Atlantic.
For the following three years Oceanic was the pride of the White Star Line, and the celebrity vessel on the North Atlantic run, but the introduction in 1844 of Britannic on the route meant Oceanic was no longer the star attraction, and she was chartered to the Occidental Oriental Steam Ship Co. They operated her on the San Francisco - Yokohama - Hong Kong service using a combination of White Star Line Officers and O.O.S.S. Co. crew. During her service on this route, she claimed a fastest crossing between Yokohama and San Francisco, the extra boilers and coal space proving their worth.
In 1882, Oceanic met with the only notable accident of her time in service. On 22nd August, she collided with the City of Chester just off San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge, and although Oceanic was relatively unharmed, the City of Chester was not so fortunate, and sank with the loss of 16 lives.
In 1889, Oceanic again broke the record between Yokohama and San Francisco, taking just over 13.5 days for ther journey, but that would be the last of her shining moments, and in 1895, she was returned to the White Star Line, who despatched her to Harland & Wolff for a major refit and update. However, a thorough inspection showed that she was too far gone to be overhauled, the money would be better spent going towards the construction of new ships.
Oceanic was sold to a firm of London shipbreakers, and scrapped in 1896, ending 25 years of service.
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