RMS Queen Mary

RMS Queen Mary (Courtesy Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

Arriving in New York Harbor, June 20 1945,with thousands of U.S. troops
Ordered:April 3, 1929
Laid down:December 1, 1930
Builder:John Brown and Company
Location:Clydebank, Scotland
Launched:September 26, 1934
Christened:September 26, 1934
Maiden Voyage:May 27, 1936
Fate:Retired December 11, 1967
Status: Hotel/Restaurant/Museum
Current Location:Long Beach, California
General Characteristics
Tonnage:81,237 gross tons
Displacement:81,961 tonnes
Length:1,019.4 ft (311 m) oa; 965 ft B.P.
Beam:118.5ft (36.1 m)
Draft:39 ft (12,00 m)
Height:181 ft (55.17 m)
Main Engines:160,000 shaft hp (119 MW) Parsons double reduction steam turbines; max. 200,000 shaft hp (149 MW) steam turbines, 4 shafts
Speed:approximately 30 knots (56 km/h) - 29.5 knots (55 km/h) cruising in service; maximum sustained speed was 32.6 knots (60 km/h)
Passenger Capacity:2139: 776 first (cabin) class, 784 tourist class, 579 third class)
RMS Queen Mary was a Cunard Line (then Cunard White Star Line) ocean liner that sailed the North Atlantic Ocean from 1936 to 1967. Built by John Brown and Company, Clydebank, Scotland, she was designed to be the first of Cunard's planned two-ship weekly express service from Southampton to New York, in answer to the mainland European superliners of the late twenties and early thirties. Queen Mary and her slightly larger and younger running mate RMS Queen Elizabeth commenced this two-ship service after their release from World War II troop transport duties and continued it for two decades until Queen Mary's retirement in 1967.

Naming and construction

The ship was named after Mary of Teck, the consort of George V of the United Kingdom. Until her launch she was known simply as Cunard hull No. 534, since the name she was to be given was kept a closely guarded secret. Legend has it that Cunard intended to name the ship "Victoria", in keeping with company tradition of giving its ships names ending in "ia". However, when company representatives asked King George V's permission to name the ocean liner after Britain's "greatest queen", his wife, the former Princess Mary of Teck, announced that she would be delighted. And so, the legend goes, the delegation had of course no other choice but to report that No. 534 would be called RMS Queen Mary. However, this story was denied by company officials, and is probably apocryphal, since traditionally the names of sovereigns have only been used for capital ships of the Royal Navy. It is more likely that the name Queen Mary was decided on as a compromise between Cunard and the White Star Line, with which Cunard had recently merged, who had a tradition of using names ending in "ic".

Construction began in December 1930 on the River Clyde by the John Brown & Company Shipbuilding and Engineering shipyard at Clydebank Scotland but was halted in December 1931 due to the depression. Cunard applied to the British Government for a loan to complete 534. The loan was granted, with enough money to complete the Queen Mary as well as enough to build a running mate, hull No. 552 which became the Queen Elizabeth. One condition of the loan was that Cunard merge with the financially ailing White Star Line, which was Cunard's chief British rival at the time. Both lines agreed and the merger was completed in April 1934. Work on the Queen Mary resumed immediately and she was launched on September 26, 1934.

Early history

There was already a Clyde turbine steamer named Queen Mary, so Cunard reached agreement with the owners that the existing steamer would be renamed TS Queen Mary II, and in 1934 the new liner was launched by Her Majesty as RMS Queen Mary.

When she sailed on her maiden voyage from Southampton England on 27 May 1936 the Queen Mary measured 80,774 gross tonnes . Her great rival Normandie which originally grossed 79,280 tonnes had been modified the preceding winter to increase her gross size, and therefore kept the title of the largest ocean liner.

Queen Mary however proved to be the faster ship. In August 1936 she captured the Blue Riband in both directions from Normandie with average speeds of 30.14 knots (55.82 km/h) westbound and 30.63 knots eastbound. Normandie reclaimed the honours in 1937, but in 1938 Queen Mary took back the Blue Riband in both directions with average speeds of 30.99 knots (57.39 km/h) westbound and 31.69 knots eastbound, records which stood until 1952.

World War II

In late August 1939, the Queen Mary was on a return run from New York to Southampton. However, the international situation led to her being shadowed by the battlecruiser HMS Hood. She arrived safely, and set out again for New York on 1 September. By the time she arrived, the Second World War had started, and she was ordered to stay where she was, joining her great rival, Normandie. In 1940, the pair were also joined by Queen Mary's running mate Queen Elizabeth. Rather than keeping them bottled up, it was decided to use them as troopships. So, the Queen Mary left New York for Sydney, where she, along with several other liners, was converted into a troopship to carry Australian and New Zealand soldiers to the United Kingdom. Eventually joined by the Queen Elizabeth, they were the largest and fastest troopships involved in the war, often carrying as many as 15,000 men in a single voyage, and often travelling out of convoy and without escort. During this period, because of their wartime grey camouflage livery and elusiveness, both Queens received the nickname "The Grey Ghost". Because of their size and prestige their sinking was such a high priority for Germany that Adolf Hitler offered the equivalent of $250,000.00 and the Iron Cross to the U-boat commander who could sink them. However, their high speed meant that it was virtually impossible for U-Boats to catch them. Once, Germany was nearly successful; whilst The Queen Mary was in South American waters, a radio signal was intercepted which indicated that spies had reported her last refuelling stop and a U-Boat was waiting on her line of voyage. After being alerted, The Queen Mary changed course and escaped.

On 2 October 1942 Queen Mary accidentally sank one of her escorts, slicing through the light cruiser HMS Curacoa (D41), with the loss of 338 lives.

In December 1942, the Queen Mary was carrying nearly 15,000 American troops from New York to Great Britain. While 700 miles from Scotland during a gale, she was suddenly hit broadside by a rogue wave that may have reached a height of 28 meters (92 feet). In his book, The Age of Cunard, author Daniel Allen Butler mentions that the immense wall of water damaged lifeboats on the boat deck and broke windows on the bridge " 90 feet above the waterline. The huge wave caused a list that briefly reached an astounding 52 degrees before the ship slowly righted itself. He reported that investigations later estimated that three more degrees of list (about 5 inches in the wrong direction) would have made the vessel turn turtle. He also said that seasoned hands on the ship felt it would indeed capsize. The occurrence was kept secret at the time. An account of this crossing can be found in Walter Ford Carter's book, No Greater Sacrifice, No Greater Love. Carter's father, Dr. Norval Carter, part of the 110th Station Hospital on board at the time, wrote that at one point the Queen Mary "damned near capsized." "One moment the top deck was at its usual height and then, swoom! down, over, and forward she would pitch."

After World War II

After the war, Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth dominated the transatlantic passenger trade. But in 1958, the first transatlantic flight by a jet began a completely new era of competition for the Cunard Queens. A many voyages, winters especially, Queen Mary sailed into harbor with more crew than passengers. By 1965, the entire Cunard fleet was leaving a trail of red ink. Hoping to continue financing their still under construction QE2, Cunard mortgaged Queen Mary and the rest of the fleet. Finally, under a combination of age, lack of public interest, inefficiency in a new market, and the damaging after-effects of the national seamen's strike, Cunard announced that Queen Mary would be sold. Many offers were submitted, but it was oil-rich Long Beach, California who beat the Japanese scrap merchants. And so, Queen Mary was retired from service in 1967, while her running mate Queen Elizabeth was withdrawn in 1968. RMS Queen Elizabeth 2 (QE2) took over the transatlantic route in 1969. And in turn, QE2 was replaced in 2004 by RMS Queen Mary 2 (QM2).

The Queen Mary in Long Beach

After her retirement in 1967, she steamed to Long Beach, California on the west coast of the United States, where she is now permanently moored as a tourist attraction. For a while Howard Hughes' Spruce Goose was located in a large dome next to the Queen Mary (the dome is currently used primarily as film studio).

Long Beach did not buy the Queen Mary to preserve her as an ocean liner. They needed her for another reason. Since they started drilling for oil in Long Beach Harbor, some of the money raised from it had been set aside in a fund called the "Tidelands Oil Fund". Some of this money was allocated in 1958 to buy a maritime museum for Long Beach at some time in the future. The Queen Mary had now been chosen to act as the host for this museum, and had been purchased as a conveniently sized building with a name attached to it.

It had been decided to clear almost every area of the ship below R deck to make way for the museum. This would take the new museum space to 400,000 square feet. It would mean the removal of all the ship's boiler rooms, the forward engine room, both turbo-generator rooms, and the water softening plant. Only the aft-engine room and "shaft-alley", right at the stern of the ship, would be spared from the cutter's torch. It only occurred to a very few people in 1967 that the destruction of the engineering and so many other areas of the ship would ever be regretted. One of the first problems that arose during the conversion from ocean liner to tourist attraction was a dispute between land-based and maritime unions over who was going to convert the ship into a floating hotel. The United States Coast Guard had final say though, and deemed the Queen Mary now a building, since most of her propellers had been removed and her machinery gutted.

With all of the lower decks practically gutted from R-deck and down, it was up to Diner's Club, the initial lessee of the ship, to turn the rest of the former ocean liner into a hotel. Diner's Club vacated the ship not long after the conversion process was started.

She was stripped of most of her motive power, second-class and third-class accommodations, and some of her greater public rooms and amenities. The first-class cabins were turned into a hotel. Original restaurants and dining halls were gutted and converted into storage spaces, while new dining venues were built on the once open sheltered promenade decks. Original first-class public spaces were gutted and turned over to retail space.

The first-class pool is abandoned but is still in existence (the pool's underside was left with no structural support as a result of the removal of machinery underneath, therefore, it cannot hold water). The Second Class and Third Class public rooms were gutted too, as did the annexe to the First Class swimming pool, the Turkish Baths. The Second Class swimming pool was completely removed and offices put in its place. There is not a single crew cabin left intact aboard the ship today. She now serves as a hotel, museum, tourist attraction, and for-rent site for events, but her financial results have been mixed.

On February 23, 2006, the Queen Mary 2 saluted its predecessor as it made its port of call in Los Angeles Harbor while on a cruise to Mexico. The event was covered heavily by local media, although much international media was there also. This brought much needed attention to the first Queen Mary, which, in the past several years, has faced financial difficulty.

The current operators of the Queen Mary are currently in bankruptcy court after a dispute between them and the City of Long Beach.

The Queen Mary's original professionally manned wireless radio room was destroyed once the ship arrived in Long Beach. In its place an amateur radio room was created one deck above the original radio reception room with some of the discarded original radio equipment used for display purposes only. The amateur radio station with the call sign W6RO ("Whiskey Six Romeo Oscar") relies on volunteers from a local amateur radio club. They are there most of the time when the ship is open to the public, and the radios can also be used by other licensed amateur radio operators


Ghosts have been reported on board only after she reached California. Many areas are alleged to be haunted. Reports of hearing little children crying in the nursery room, actually used as the third class playroom, and a mysterious splash noise in the drained first class swimming pool are cited. In 1966, 18 year old fireman John Pedder was crushed by a watertight door in the engine room during a drill, and his ghost is said to haunt the ship. This aspect of the Queen Mary has been carefully exploited as part of the entertainment program of the ship by the Long Beach operators much to the dismay of her maritime history supporters. Guests of the hotel are encouraged to document their paranormal experiences.

The Queen Mary operates daily tours with some theatrics applied to portions for dramatic effect. And guests can pay for private paranormal investigations. The ship also maintains a haunted maze and expands to multiple mazes during Halloween called Queen Mary's Shipwreck.

The Queen Mary has been the subject of numerous professional paranormal investigations by printed publications like Beyond Investigation Magazine and nationally televised shows like Ghost Hunters.

Beginning in 2006, the Queen Mary is hosting a paranormal exposition called Ghostfest Expo. It is being billed as a "scientific exploration" into the field of paranormal research.


  • Fiona Apple's video for "O' Sailor" was shot on the Queen Mary in Long Beach, CA.
  • The movie The Poseidon Adventure was partially filmed on the Queen Mary, and the miniature Poseidon used in the film's special effects shots was a scale model of the ship. Parts of SOS Titanic were also filmed onboard the Queen Mary.
  • The Queen Mary has been featured in many other movies, such as Pearl Harbor and several other films.
  • From 1988 to 1992, the ship was leased from the City of Long Beach by media conglomerate The Walt Disney Company, and was to be integrated into a planned theme park in Long Beach, until the plans fell through and the company used an "early out" clause to terminate its lease. Those plans influenced the subsequent development of Tokyo DisneySea, which prominently features a "ship" resembling the Queen Mary.
  • Toyota's advertisement for Celica All-trac Turbo in the 1991 Long Beach Grand Prix featured Queen Mary, and the text is On April 14th, we're going streaking in front of the Queen.
  • In the third season finale of Arrested Development the Bluth family has their celebration at their patriarch George Sr.'s innocence on the Queen Mary. George's wife Lucille, in the end of the episode, activates the ship and drives it out to sea to avoid being arrested by the Securities and Exchange Commission.
  • Although greatly exceeded in size by her new namesake RMS Queen Mary 2's 151,200 gross tons, the Queen Mary, with a significantly deeper draft, is the heavier ship, with a displacement of over 80,000 tons compared to the newer ship's approximately 76,000 tons.
  • In the B-movie Tidal Wave: No Escape, Harve Presnell destroyed the Queen Mary with an artificial tsunami.
  • The ship was used as the home for the finalists of reality TV show Last Comic Standing in the fourth season.
  • The Queen Mary was the primary location used to shoot the movie National Lampoon's Dorm Daze 2.
  • The Queen Mary was one location the TAPS crew investigated for hauntings during the second season of the TV series Ghost Hunters.

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License.It uses material from the Wikipedia article "RMS Queen Mary". Reality TV World is not responsible for any errors or omissions this article may contain.

Page generated in 4.64710521698 seconds