Eighty-eight years ago, when launched from the River Clyde in Scotland, the RMS queen mary was destined to rule the oceans. Ocean liners had a golden age between the end of the 19th century and the outbreak of the First World War, among other reasons due to emigration to the United States, but it was only in the intervening period. -wars as competition among shipping companies to flex their maritime muscles reaches its zenith. This is why the construction of the queen marycompleted in 1934 and named for George V’s wife and Queen Elizabeth II’s grandmother, Mary of Teck, has attracted so much attention.
The ship had the largest hull ever seen, over 300 meters long, 12 decks and a capacity for 2,139 passengers and 1,101 crew. BBC radio presenter George Blake, present at the launch, described the ship as a “great white cliff, huge and overwhelming”. Cunard-White Star, the shipping company that ordered the queen mary, abandoned its standard classicism and devoted its interior decoration to art deco. But the queen marywas national pride: at a time when nations were vying for prestige on the high seas, the queen mary was the fastest ship ever launched and superior to its closest rival, the French ship SS Normandy.
the queen mary had swimming pools, tennis courts, libraries and kindergartens, among other services. The ship’s abundance was matched at the time by only a handful of other ships and among its passengers were world leaders and politicians, royalty and Hollywood stars such as Audrey Hepburn, Greta Garbo, Clark Gable, Elizabeth Taylor, Judy Garland, Buster Keaton and Fred. Astaire. Among the other passengers, in second and third class, were middle-class American families who could afford a few weeks vacation in Europe, Europeans who wanted to breathe the fresh air of the New World and those who emigrated to the United States. United looking for a new life.
The connection between the British and American coasts heralded the most prestigious chapter in the struggle for the maritime crown. So, from her maiden voyage in May 1936, the British liner’s target was the Blue Riband, an unofficial award given to the ship that records the fastest transatlantic crossing and was at the time owned by the SS Normandy. The Queen Mary, which like the Titanic shuttled between Southampton and New York, was quick to relieve France of this honor. In August of the same year, during an east-west crossing, the 16-turbine ships, which put out 160,000 horsepower, reached an average speed of 30 knots (35 mph). The trip was completed in four days and 27 minutes. A year later the Normandy would still beat this time, but in 1938, the queen mary regained the Blue Ribbon with a trip that cut two hours and 12 minutes off the four-day trip and held it until 1952, when the United States beat his time.
With the outbreak of World War II, the queen mary gave up his luxurious and courteous pursuit of maritime records to undertake a task of far greater importance. Repainted in navy gray – which earned it the nickname “Grey Ghost” – the queen mary became a transport ship ferrying troops from Australia and New Zealand to Britain. In a single voyage, 15,000 soldiers were transported around the world and throughout the war, due to its speed, it was able to easily escape the attentions of German submarines. The Nazi regime was so furious that it put a price on the queen marythe head. It was also used to transport Winston Churchill, hidden among the passenger list with various aliases including Colonel Warden.
Paradoxically, this was due to orders not to halt or change course to prevent attacks below the waves which led to one of the greatest tragedies of war in the British rearguard. In 1942, off Derry in Northern Ireland, there was a breakdown in communication between officers on the decks of the light cruiser HMS Curacao and the queen marywhich collided with the much smaller ship and cut her in half with the loss of 239 of the cruiser’s 338 crew.
In the late 1940s, some of the luster of the golden age of ocean liners began to fade. The development of jet aviation during the war had opened up the skies, and by 1952 cities as far apart as London and Johannesburg had been linked by air (although the first flight between the two required 24 hours and five stops). Such achievements heralded the beginning of the end for large ships. The glamor that had created such an appeal around sea travel had now transferred to aircraft.
By 1965 the entire Cunard-White Star fleet was operating at a loss and the company decided to shut down operations. the queen mary made its last trip in 1967 and was then sold to the highest bidder: the city of Long Beach, California. Much of the ship’s engines have been stripped and it has been turned into a tourist attraction with its owners offering a multi-dealer system – including a museum dedicated to marine biologist Jacques Cousteau, a hotel and restaurant co-existing inside, with guided tours of the tours organized by the city’s tourist authorities – which did not work as planned.
That’s when Disney got involved. Jack Wrather, a millionaire with fond memories of his own transatlantic voyages, signed a long-term concession to manage the ship but in 1988, just after his death, Disney bought his estate – due to a working interest in the Disneyland Hotel in California, which Wrather owned – which included the queen mary. The ship’s financial viability, however, remained elusive, particularly after the entertainment giant shelved plans for an adjacent theme park whose queen mary would have been part. Disney finally gave up management of the ship in 1992, and the queen mary closed to visitors.
Since then, ownership of the queen mary changed hands several times, each time with the same result: a lack of financial viability and deterioration of the ship’s structure. It has been closed since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic and last year the city itself took over after the previous owners went bankrupt. The Los Angeles Times reported in February that authorities in Long Beach will allocate $5 million over 2022 to prevent the ship from flooding. It’s just a palliative to stave off an even bigger problem: studies, cited by the newspaper, suggest that it will take $289 million to complete a complete upgrade of the queen mary. The city government has even floated the idea of sinking it, but a previous backlash from residents who are keen to make sure the ship stays where it is when the possibility of moving it to a new location was mooted suggests that’s not a short-term option. -term. It would suffice, in the same way as the queen mary escaped enemies at sea during the war, so that this jewel of the golden age of sea travel would be just profitable enough to cover the costs of repairing the extensive damage the ship had suffered during years of neglect.