Driving up to the Port of Southampton’s Mayflower Terminal and catching first glimpse of the white-and-black hulled Queen Mary 2, the largest, longest, tallest, heaviest, and most expensive ship ever built, evoked considerable excitement and awe. Docked to port at a 50-degree, 54.25′ north latitude and 001-degree, 25.70′ west longitude and facing a 116.4-degree compass heading, the 17-decked leviathan, with a 1,132-foot length and 148-foot width, featured a gross weight of 151,400 tons and towered above the buildings with its balcony-lined façade, eclipsing it with its 236.2-foot height. Its draft extended 33.10 feet beneath the water line. The floating metropolis, complete with its staterooms, restaurants, shopping arcades, libraries, theaters, and planetariums, would bridge, in six days, the European and North American continents, the equivalent in hours to the duration of the aerial crossing by 747-400, itself then the world’s largest commercial airliner. But the oceanic crossing would yield civility, refinement, rejuvenation, emotional repair, and return to the slower, but more elegant era of steam ship travel-a journey, I would soon find out, would lead to a search for the maritime history of the past which had created the technology of the present.
Unlike the proliferation of modern cruise ships with their comparatively lower speeds and greater-volume, square-geometry hulls, the Queen Mary 2 had been designed as a next-generation successor to the 35-year-old Queen Elizabeth 2 and, as such, would have to offer the same year-round, passenger-carrying capabilities, predominately in the rough North Atlantic, with a design which sacrificed revenue-producing volume and lower construction costs of the traditional cruise ship for the required safety, speed, and stability of the ocean liner. Resultantly, it featured the same v-shaped hull configuration characteristic of the long line of its Cunard predecessors, constructed of thicker steel which carried a 40-percent greater cost than those of conventional cruise ships. Designed by Stephen Payne, whose inspirations for the bow had come from the Queen Elizabeth 2 and the brake wall from the Normandie, it was the first quadruple-screw North Atlantic ocean liner since the France of 1962. Payne himself, a naval architect born and raised in London, had been involved with the Carnival Holiday, Carnival Fantasy, and Rotterdam VI projects. The latter, incorporating a modified Statendam hull, had featured a less “boxy” hull shape than the traditional cruise ship, but had still been considerably removed a full liner design.
Intended for the primary Southampton-New York route, it incorporated dimensional restrictions dictated by the United States port, including a funnel height which cleared the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge by only ten feet and an overall length which exceeded the 1,100-foot pier of the Port of New York by 34 feet.
Constructed by Alstom Chantiers de l’Atlantique in St. Nazaire, France, which had also built the Normandie, and designated hull G32 by the shipyard, it had been the first Cunard liner ever constructed outside of the United Kingdom and, like Concorde, the world’s fastest and hitherto only supersonic airliner, became the second British-French collaborative transportation project intended for trans-Atlantic service, although via vastly different, if not opposite, modes.
Its interior offered unparalleled space and comfort. Of the 17 decks, the first four were for machinery, storage, and the 1,254-strong crew; 13 were for the 2,620 passengers; and eight contained balcony staterooms. Notable features included a Grand Lobby, the Royal Court Theatre, the Illuminations Theatre and Planetarium, the ConneXions Internet Center, the Queen’s Ballroom, a Winter Garden, nine major restaurants, 11 bars and lounges, an 8,000-volume library and bookstore, an Oxford University lecture program, performances by the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, five swimming pools, sports venues, a Canyon Ranch Spa, a pavilion of shops, and a discotheque. These appointments would constitute my “home” for the next six days.
Symbolically reflected by its smaller QE2 predecessor berthed a considerable distance from its bow at the Queen Elizabeth 2 Terminal, the Queen Mary 2 represented a two-fold gross weight increase over its earlier-generation counterpart and, indeed, traced its lineage back to a long path of Cunard vessels which had spanned a 165-year period. I somehow sensed that the imminent crossing would not only be a journey of distance, but a return in time.
Gently vibrating at its spine, the behemoth laterally separated itself beneath from its berth below the metallic overcast at 1810, local time.
Unlike the conventional engine-propeller shaft technology of older-generation ships, the Queen Mary 2 was powered instead by four aft, hull underside-mounted Rolls Royce Mermaid electric-motor pods, each weighing 260 tons and containing four fixed-pitch, 9,900-pound, stainless steel blades, and collectively producing 115,328 horsepower. The forward, outboard pair was fixed and provided forward and astern propulsion, while the aft, inboard pair featured 360-degree azimuth capability and provided both propulsion and steering, obviating the need for the rudder. The advanced-technology system reduced both complexity and weight and increased internal hull volume by eliminating the traditional engine configuration’s associated equipment.
Three Rolls Royce variable-pitch, transverse-propeller bow thrusters, collectively producing 15,000 horsepower, provided port and starboard bow maneuvering capability at speeds of up to five knots. At eight knots, when their effectiveness had been exceeded, they were covered by 90-degree rotating, fluid-dynamic doors.
Led by dual water-sprout shooting tugboats, the behemoth oceanliner commenced its lumbering movement down the basin. Maintaining an 11.5-knot forward speed in the Solent, it commenced its starboard turn from 140 degrees at Calshots Reach at 1907, poised for the similar maneuver at Brambles.
Compressed into dark gray, the sun projected its glowing orange streaks outward through the thin, unobstructed strip on the western horizon. Assuming a 220-degree heading through the Thorn Channel, the Queen Mary 2 initiated its starboard turn to round the Isle of Wight.
The first dinner on board the elegant, maritime engineering triumph had been served in the 1,351-seat, three-story-high, dual-level Britannia Restaurant which had featured a grand, sweeping staircase, column supports, and a vaulted, back-lit, stained glass ceiling and was reminiscent of and inspired by the grand dining room salons of the 20th century French liners such as the Ile-de-France, the L’Atlantique, and the Normandie. The meal itself, served on Wedgwood bone china and in Waterford crystal, had included white zinfandel wine; cream of mixed mushroom soup with parmesan croutons; crusty rolls and butter; oak leaf and Boston salad with shaved carrots and sherry vinaigrette dressing; rack of pork with wild mushroom ragout, truffle mashed potatoes, morel sauce, and sauerkraut; warm apple strudel with brandy sauce; and coffee.
The thin line of orange lights outlining the coast traced itself behind the stern. Maintaining a 27-knot speed and a 250-degree heading, the rock-steady, 151,000-ton engineering mass plied the black channel and commenced its great circle course, from Bishop’s Rock in the Scilly Isles. Ahead lay the infinite Atlantic-and the path forged by every one of Cunard’s previous transatlantic liners. Tomorrow, I would begin tracing the historical one.
Dawn greeted the lengthy liner as a tunnel of indistinguishable, moist gray. Encased between the morose cloud dome above and the navy sea slate below, which spat periodic white caps, the black-and-red funneled vessel penetrated the moisture-saturated morning, the rain-emitting sky and the swirling, eddying sea merging into seamless, wind-blustery, ship-bombarded drench.
Any undesired movement, however, was quickly, and invisibly, dampened by the two pairs of 15.63-square-meter Brown Bros/Rolls Royce fin stabilizers which were controlled by gyroscopic vertical reference instruments and extended as far as 15 feet from the hull to counteract ship roll.
Plunging into 348-meter-deep waters 98 nautical miles off of Ireland at noon, the Queen Mary 2 had traversed 418 miles since its departure from Southampton yesterday.
Current weather entailed intermittent, light rain with a clockwise movement to the west, predicted to drop to force 4. The present force-5, fresh breeze out of the south, coupled with an 11.2-degree Celsius air temperature, carried a 994-millibar pressure. The sea, with a moderate 4 state, maintained a 10-degree Celsius temperature.
Afternoon tea, held in the Queen’s Room, had been a British tradition and a delightful intermittence between lunch and dinner served on every Cunard crossing, the last personal one of which had been the 2002 eastbound journey on the Queen Elizabeth 2. The Queen’s Room itself, the largest ballroom at sea, featured an arched ceiling, twin crystal chandeliers, a velvet blue and gold curtain over the orchestra stage, a 1,225-square-foot dance floor, a live harpist, and small, round tables seating up to 562. Today’s presentation included egg, ham and cheese, cucumber, tomato, beef, and seafood finger-sandwiches, scones with clotted cream and jam, and strawberry cream tarts.
Afternoon tea at sea could trace its lineage back some 165 years. Einstein’s theory of relativity somehow seemed to apply. Suspended between continent, landmass, and population, the ship seemed caught within a void, an arrested warp in which history seemed captured and in which the vessel reconnected with its past, as it once again replayed it, a separation from the present on land and an approach to its past on the sea. It was to this suspension of time, distance, and place that the threads of Cunard’s past indeed led. One man, who had lived some 200 years ago, had made the journey of today possible.
The name of that man, of course, had been the same as that which had graced a long line of ever-advancing Atlantic ocean liners, Samuel Cunard. Born on November 21, 1787 in Halifax, Nova Scotia, as the son of Abraham Cunard, himself a carpenter at Halifax’s Royal Naval Dockyard, he had forged a maritime link upon physical entry into the world. His initial venture had entailed a Royal Mail contract award to transport mail over the Boston-Halifax-St. John’s route after cessation of the War of 1812 between Great Britain and the United States, while he later became involved with the first steam-powered vessel project intended for Atlantic crossings. Named the Royal William, the 160-foot-long, 1,370-ton ship had been inaugurated into service in August of 1931 between Quebec and Halifax, requiring 6.5 days for the journey.
The venture which had sparked his ultimate fame, however, occurred at the end of the decade when the British government had announced its intention to subsidize steam-powered mail service between England and the United States. In a formal proposal to fulfill the requirement, submitted on February 11, 1839, Cunard outlined a bimonthly, steam-powered service between England and Halifax operated by 300-hp ships making 48 annual crossings. Awarded a contract by the Admiralty in June for four 206-foot-long, 400-hp, 1,120-ton vessels ultimately to be designated the Acadia, the Caledonia, the Columbia, and the Britannia, he finalized plans to serve the Liverpool-Halifax-Boston route.
The latter ship, the Britannia, had actually been the first to be completed. The 207-foot-long, 34-foot-wide hybrid power ship, constructed of African oak and yellow pine at Robert Duncan’s Shipyard on the River Clyde in Scotland, had featured a clipper bow, three masts with square yards, and two mid-ship-located, black-and-gold paddle boxes which extended almost 12 feet from either side and contained 9-foot-wide, 28-foot-diameter paddles turning at 16 revolutions per minute and operating off of a 403-hp, two-cylinder, side-lever steam engine which burned 40 tons of coal per day exhausted through a single, aft smoke stack. The engine, requiring 70 feet of hull for installation, drew coal from a 640-ton bunker.
Of the four decks, the upper, or main deck, featured the captain and chief officer cabins, the pantry, the galley, the officers’ mess, the crew cabins, the raised, exposed bridge, and the dining saloon, which, at 36 feet long and 14 feet wide, had been the largest enclosed room on the ship. Two aft, circular staircases linked the dining hall with the second deck, which housed the gentlemen’s and ladies’ cabins, each with two bunk beds, a wash basin, a mirror, a day sofa, and a port hole or an oil lamp, with shared toilet facilities, equaling a 124-person capacity, of which 24 had been female. The cargo holds, located on either side of the engine yet another deck lower and capable of accommodating 225 tons, accompanied the sail locker, the mail room, the stores, the steward quarters, and the wine cellar in the stern. Coal had been stored on the fourth, or lowest, deck.
The 1,154-ton Britannia, inaugurated into scheduled service on July 4, 1840 from Liverpool to Boston with an intermediate stop in Halifax, operated the world’s first transatlantic steam ship service, carrying 63 passengers and taking 12 days, ten hours for the 2,534-nautical-mile crossing at an 8.5-knot speed, one third of the journey undertaken by pure-sail. After an eight-hour port suspension in Halifax, it continued to Boston in another 46 hours.
By January 5, 1841, all four Cunard ships had entered the fleet.
The Britannia itself made 40 round-trips before being sold to the Prussian Navy, which had converted it to a pure-sailing ship used for target purposes and renamed it Barbarossa. It was ultimately sunk in 1880. Nevertheless, it paved the way for a long line of Cunard liners to come.
Biting into the angry, dark-blue, white cap-spitting North Atlantic on a 272-degree heading at 1545 with its protruding, bulbous bow, the mighty Queen Mary 2 engineering triumph pitched on its axis at a 23.4-knot speed, the sun’s rays having been powerful enough to tear the singular cloud fabric into a puffy, white mosaic of aerial islands. The ship had reached a 50-degree, 12.036′ north latitude and 14-degree, 26.312′ west longitude coordinate.
That night’s dinner, served in the Britannia Restaurant, had included Merlot wine; smoked halibut mousse and jumbo shrimp on Russian salad; Lollo Rosso and apple salad with caramelized walnuts and cider vinaigrette; filet mignon and lobster tail with young roasted potatoes, polenta cake, and asparagus in hollandaise sauce; chocolate banana tart with mango sauce; coffee; and petit fours.
The Britannia, as a ship design, had been only the beginning, and would pale in comparison to the leviathan Cunard vessels produced in the 20th century.
Continually bowled significant sea swells, the Queen Mary 2 had pitched through the dark blue, star-glittering night at its center of gravity like a seesaw, its bow pounding the mountainous wave troughs and projecting avalanche-white reactions at 45 degrees from its centerline.
Breakfast, eaten in the King’s Court with its multiple stations, had included a ham and pepper omelet, bacon, hashbrowned potatoes, a grilled tomato, white toast, and cranberry juice.
Negotiating 25- to 30-foot seas over the mid-Atlantic ridge, which covers the Continental Divide, the ship had sailed 590 nautical miles in the 24-hour period since 1200 noon yesterday, now pursuing a 263-degree heading, with 2,075 miles remaining to the New York Pilot’s Station.
Light rain showers were forecast to dissipate, with gradual clearing. The force-5 wind, out of the northwest, had produced 9-degree Celsius temperatures, with a 996.5-millibar pressure. The sea, whose moderate state had been registered a “4,” maintained a 12-degree temperature.
Gazing out toward the Atlantic’s infinity, I could not help but think that somewhere out there, if not in physical space, then in historical time, had been the first of the “huge” Cunard Atlantic liners which assuredly had passed this way during the beginning of the 20th century.
The design, the Lusitania, had had its origins as early as 1902 when J.P. Morgan had attempted to create a steamship conglomerate called the International Mercantile Marine by buying several existing companies, including the White Star Line. In order to ensure Cunard’s continued autonomy and dissuade its absorption into the ever-expanding corporation, the British Parliament had granted it a 20-year contract and subsidy to build two of the world’s then largest and fastest liners and, in the process, regain the speed record the Germans had captured with three of their twin-screw vessels.
Cunard, seeking tenders for the two ships from four shipyards, specified a 750-foot length, a 76-foot width, and a 59,000-hp capability attained by reciprocating engines driving triple screws. The contract, awarded to John Brown and Company of Clydebank, Scotland, resulted in a 790-foott length and an 88-foot width, eclipsing the 30,000-ton gross weight by 2,500 tons for the first time, and employing turbine engine technology, also for the first time, with a 68,000-hp combined capability, exhausted, in an effort to emulate the Germans, through four funnels.
Construction, commencing in the fall of 1904, produced two of the largest, fastest, and most powerful Atlantic liners ever built with long, sleek designs; straight sterns; rounded bridges; and four raked funnels sporting 787-foot lengths, 87-foot widths, and 31,550-ton gross weights propelled by steam turbines geared to quadruple screws.
Accommodating 563 first class passengers amidships, 464 aft second class passengers, and 1,138 third, or steerage, class passengers in the forward portion of the hull, the first of the two new liners featured opulent appointments. A Georgian-style lounge sported light green colors, a marble fireplace, stained glass panes, and a 20-foot-high dome. The Veranda Café had latticed wall patterns and rattan furniture. The dining room, of dual-deck configuration, had been the first of its kind on a Cunard ship. The main lounge had been decorated with mahogany paneling, while the smoking room featured dark Italian walnut. The second class dining saloon also sported Georgian appointments and the drawing room had been decorated in the Louis XVI style. Featuring electricity for the first time, the Lusitania provided modern conveniences to its passengers, including two elevators.
On its second westbound crossing, the liner beat all speed records, averaging 23.993 knots and covering a 617-mile, single-day distance, although it ultimately broke the 26-knot mark, reaching New York in four days, 20 hours.
Its fate, however, was not to remain so successful. Departing England on its 202nd voyage on May 1, 1915 with 1,257 passengers, 702 crew members, and three stowaways, the ship had approached Great Britain, sailing ten miles off of Old Head of Kinsale when it had been broadsided by a German torpedo, listing forward and to starboard. Slipping oceanward at a 45-degree, bow-first angle, it hit bottom 18 minutes later, exploding and killing 1,201 on board, the result of a deliberate act of war.
Because not an outcrop of land is sighted during the six-day Atlantic crossing, the Queen Mary 2 seemed suspended in a void between two continents, the journey about course, speed, weather, sea state, distance, and interior life, the temporary, although ever-moving civilization atop the sea.
Soldiering on, the ship burned 3.1 tons of heavy fuel oil per hour at a 100-percent load to operate its diesel engines, or 261 tons per day at a 29-knot steam speed, while it used 6 tons of marine gas oil per hour to run its gas turbines, or 237 tons per day, drawing off of a 1,412,977-US gallon tank for the former and a 966,553-gallon tank for the latter.
Its fresh water supply, produced from seawater by 3 Alfa Laval Multi Effect Plate Evaporators, replenished itself at the rate of 630 tons per day, satisfying its 1,100-ton daily consumption. The potable water tank capacity equaled 1,011,779 US gallons.
A German-themed lunch, served in the King’s Court, had included bratwurst, bacon sauerkraut, cheese spaetzel, roasted potatoes, schnitzel, and black forest cake.
Maintaining a 261-degree heading and a 23.1-knot steam speed, the city at sea had reached a 49-degree, 43.705′ north latitude and 28-degree, 25.458′ west longitude position by 1500.
The Queen Mary 2’s Winter Garden, designed after the skylighted verandah cafes of the Mauretania, had featured a 60-by-25-foot trompe l’oeil ceiling depicting a lush, verdant gardens, paneled walls which looked through cast iron gates to rolling hills, and wicker furniture, and had been created to counteract the cold, gray, turbulent winter of the North Atlantic.
The Mauretania itself, the ship which had provided the Winter Garden’s inspiration, had been the second of the two early-20th century Cunard designs after the Lusitania. The nine-decked liner, accommodating 563 first class passengers in 253 cabins, 464 second class passengers in 133 cabins, and 1,138 third class passengers in 278 cabins, had featured its own opulent appointments. The first class smoking room, for example, located in the stern, had featured polished wood wall panels and plaster friezes. The lounge, located on the Boat Deck and measuring 80 by 53 feet, had been adorned with mahogany wall panels, gold moldings, long ceiling beams, gilt bronze, and crystal chandeliers. The library, featuring bay windows, had been decorated with sycamore paneling. The first class dining room, seating 330, had been configured with long, white clothed tables and revolving chairs, and was decorated with polished ash, teak-molded paneling, and arched windows, while the second class dining room, with parquet floors, featured Georgian oak paneling and carved cornices. A grand staircase, installed between the second and third funnels, connected five decks with the public rooms.
Entering service on November 16, 1907 between Liverpool and New York, the Mauretania had been retrofitted with four-bladed propellers two years later, in 1909, at which time it could attain maximum speeds of 26.6 knots. It had been only the first of several modifications. With the outbreak of World War I in 1914, for instance, it had been repainted gray and briefly served as a troop ship, reliveried and returned to commercial service five years later in 1919, at which time it operated in company with the Aquitania and Berengaria, offering weekly east- and westbound service on the Southampton-New York route. It remained the fastest of the three.
Yet another modification, necessitated by fire, resulted in conversion to oil-burning engine technology and cabin reconfiguration, reducing both the second and third class passenger capacities.
In its 27 years of operation, during 22 of which it had held the North Atlantic speed record until it had been recaptured by the Bremen in 1929, the Mauretania had sailed some 2.1 million miles in transatlantic, Mediterranean, and Caribbean service before being usurped by two larger, more advanced Cunard liners. Making its last crossing on September 26, 1934, it was scraped the following year in Scotland.
That evening’s dinner, served in the Queen Mary 2’s Britannia Restaurant, had featured white zinfandel wine; baby shrimp thermidor on walnut brioche; cob salad with smoked chicken and bleu cheese dressing; roasted seabass with Mediterranean vegetables and olive tapenade; banana foster flambee with rum raisin ice cream and whipped cream; and coffee.
The Lusitania and Mauretania replacements, although larger, would prove a motley pair: although one had been the third in the series, it had been slower, while the other had been transferred from the fleet of the enemy, the Germans.
Suspended in the middle of the Atlantic, the black-hulled leviathan pursed its Great Circle course on a 249-degree heading, eating the gray and foamy-white ocean with its bow with a 21.7-knot appetite. Four hundred seventy miles off the coast of Newfoundland, the ship negotiated 3,549-meter-deep waters, having covered 607 nautical miles in the 24-hour period since yesterday, now 1,615 miles from Southampton. At a current 47-degree, 34.066′ north latitude and 042-degree, 00.754′ west longitude position, it was 1,468 miles from its destination.
External conditions were mild: the air temperature, at 14 degrees Celsius, had been coupled with a force-4 moderate breeze out of the southwest and low level cloud, with a 989-millibar air pressure. The sea, whose state had been slight, had a 12.7-degree Celsius temperature.
If the triplet of early 20th-century Cunard liners could have sailed past the Queen Mary 2 in chronological order, the Aquitania would have trailed both the Lusitania and the Mauretania, the third of the long, sleek, quad-funneled vessels constructed by John, Brown and Company of Clydebank.
The 45,647-ton ship, with a 901-foot length and a 97-foot width, had been both larger and heavier than its two predecessors, resulting in a 3,200-passenger capacity. Launched on April 21, 1913, it had commenced trial runs 13 months later, achieving a 24-knot maximum speed, and entered commercial service on May 30, 1914 on the Liverpool-New York route.
Opulently appointed, it featured a long gallery which connected the main lounge with the smoking room decorated with a series of garden lounges; a carpeted, Louis XVI-style first class restaurant; a columned Palladian lounge, which spanned two decks; and the first pool ever installed on a Cunard ship.
Late to the North Atlantic, the Aquitania had sailed on the fringes of World War I and had been requisitioned by the government for military service as an armed merchant cruiser in August of 1914; but, because of its excessive size, had been recommissioned as a troop ship the following year. Reconfigured for ocean liner service after the war, the ship resumed its civil role in August of 1920, amending its capacity six years later, in 1916, when a major reconfiguration decreased the first class passenger complement from 618 to 610, increased the second class capacity from 614 to 950, and dramatically decreased the third class complement by some three-forths, from 1,998 to 640, in order to more accurately match passenger class demand.
Once again reconfigured to a 7,724-person troop ship during World War II, the Aquitania provided eight years of military service during which it had sailed 500,000 miles and carried more than 300,000 troops.
Arriving in Southampton on December 1, 1949, the multiple-role vessel ended 35 years of service, having sailed some 3 million miles on 443 voyages. It had been Cunard’s last quad-funneled design.
Lunch, back in the present on the Queen Mary 2, had been served in The Carvery, itself one of the King’s Court stations, and had included beef tikka masala, white rice, cauliflower in cheese sauce, and double chocolate fudge cake.
Although the Aquitania’s very long, mulitple-role, and fruitful career had ended in 1949, it had, for the most part, continued to operate in tandem, as originally conceived, with two other Cunard transatlantic liners, despite the fact that the Lusitania had been destroyed almost immediately after entering service. The third ship, however, emanated not from a Cunard blueprint given life by a ship builder on the Clyde, but instead by the very enemy which had necessitated its replacement.
Endeavoring to compete with the Cunard and White Star Line designs which now regularly plied the Atlantic, the Hamburg-America Line had laid the keel of a new breed of transatlantic liners on June 18, 1910, intended to be the largest-capacity, highest gross weight passenger ship ever built. The specifications were, for the time, staggering: measuring 919 feet long and 98 feet wide, the elongated, tri-funneled, 52,117-ton ship, designated the Imperator, had been powered by steam engines geared to four-bladed propellers feeding off of 8,500-tons of coal nourishing two 69- and 95-foot-long engine rooms, respectively. Accommodating 908 first class, 972 second class, 942 third class, and 1,772 steerage class passengers, the behemoth, steered by a 90-ton rudder, was christened on May 23, 1912 and entered commercial service 13 months later, on June 10, from Cuxhaven to New York with an intermediate stop in Southampton.
The Imperator featured a First Class winter garden with potted palm trees and a dual-deck indoor swimming pool.
Because initial service had demonstrated top-heavy conditions, its three funnels were shortened by nine feet during an autumn retrofit.
Ultimately banned from sailing because of World War I German atrocities, the ship had been moored in Hamburg for four years until a war reparation agreement resulted in its transfer to Cunard in 1919 as compensation for the German-sunk Lusitania. Rebased in Southampton two years later, in April of 1921, it had been subjected to an initial retrofit during which its coal-burning engine technology had been replaced with oil and it had been reconfigured with 972, 630, 606, and 515 first, second, third, and tourist passengers, respectively. Redesignated Berengaria, the ship joined the Mauretania and Aquitania, operating Cunard’s weekly transatlantic service. Although it had been originally planned to continue operating it until 1940, its antiquated wiring system, which resulted in persistent on-board fires, had precluded its anticipated service longevity, temporarily leaving only the Mauretania and Aquitania until a new breed of Cunard liners, to offer double the tonnage of the existing designs, could enter service. That ship, of course, bore the name of the current one: Queen Mary.
Dinner, served in La Piazza Restaurant on board the (present-day) Queen Mary 2, had included a mixed green salad with ranch dressing; artichoke hearts; vegetable moussaka; pasta with onions, mushrooms, black olives, garlic, and red tomato sauce; tiramisu; and coffee.
Dusk could be more accurately gauged by looking beyond the wooden deck with its Queen Mary I-reminiscent line of deck chairs and down toward the sea, rather than up toward the sky. The former, a reflection of the latter, had appeared a deep blue, mirroring the temporary brightness of the sky during the early-evening when the mountainous white cumulous formations had parted, creating a blue rift. It then rapidly metamorphosed into a dark blue and, momentarily, a cold, morose, winter gray, the prevalent environmental conditions of so many earlier transatlantic crossings, as the dark, billowing clouds reassembled into a tight, cohesive quilt, hindering even a momentary glimpse of the sun. Merging dimensionally with the ocean, the amorphous, referenceless void cacooned the floating city until visibility extended no further than ten feet from either of its sides. Two souls, well dressed, braved the fierce, blustering wind as they attempted, buttressed by the force, to circle the deck. Thus was life on a transatlantic crossing.
As the day bordered the midnight demarcation line, the ship crossed from the Newfoundland Basin to the Grand Banks of Newfoundland and, effectively, reached the North American continent. Two days of steaming remained before it arrived at its terminus, the Port of New York.