Repairing the Accident on “The Great Eastern”. Illustrated London News (1 October 1859): 331. 17.5 cm high by 24 cm wide. Illustrated London News reported

An accident near Portland Island — a boiler explosion that shattered a funnel and the bulkheads — having befallen the 700-foot-long ship in her sea-trials after she left her berth at Depford, she put into Weymouth, Dorset, fo repairs, and attracted vast crowds of curious sight-seers. Apparently, according to the Sherborne Journal, thousands visited the seashore via specially scheduled excursion trains in the fourth week of September. The ship had to pass inspection by the surveying engineer of the Board of Trade and receive a safety certificate before she could proceed with her journey. A correspondent for the Times reported from Weymouth on the previous Monday that

"The repairs necessary for fitting the Great Eastern for sea are daily going forward with the utmost diligence and rapidity. Mr. Crace's artists are busy redecorating the grand saloon [pictured in a double-page spread, pp. 378-379]. Carpenters and fitters are incessantly at work removing the traces of the late explosion, and restoring the cabins as they were before it happened. The new funnel has been put together on deck, and is nearly finished, and the injured wrought-iron beams and bulkheads have been cut out and preparations made for replacing them with others." [330]

Clearly readers of the Illustrated London News in October and November 1859 were fascinated by the fortunes of Isambard Kingdom Brunel's great ship, popularly dubbed "The Leviathan" at her launching in November 1857, but now more properly called the SS Great Eastern, at 22,500 tons the largest steamship built to date, and offering a high degree of passenger comfort (note the sumptuous decor and furnishings of the Grand saloon) and technological refinement, as evidenced by Brunel's innovative strategy of combining screw and paddle-wheel propulsion. Owing to the severity of the explosion, the company that bought her went bankrupt, and the mammoth vessel did not arrive at her destination, the port of New York, until June 1860.

Scanned image and caption by Philip V. Allingham. Formatting by George P. Landow. You may use this image without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the person who scanned them and (2) link your document to this URL in a web document or cite the Victorian Web in a print one.]

Other pictures of this ship


Dugan, John. The Great Iron Ship. New York: Harpers, 1953.

Last modified 2 July 2011