Belfast Ships: The Oceanic I and II

Belfast’s first White Star ship and first modern liner. Harland and Wolff’s luxury liners broke with early shipbuilding precedent. The Oceanic II remains the company’s most elegant vessel ever. Harland and Wolff’s luxury liners broke with early shipbuilding precedent. The Oceanic II remains the company’s most elegant vessel ever.

The Oceanic I was Belfast's first White Star ship and first modern liner. Equipped with a single screw, powered by a single compound engine, it could make speeds of 14.5 knots. Launched on April 27, 1870, it was described as ‘as comfortable as a Swiss hotel.’ Its appearance was much sleeker than previous vessels and the interior much improved too, with more spacious cabins for first class passengers. Fifty thousand people turned out to see the Oceanic arrive in New York on March 28, 1871, following a 12 day maiden voyage from Liverpool. After being the main attraction on the North Atlantic run for three years, the liner was chartered to the Occidental Oriental Steam Ship Company, and operated on the San Francisco-Yokohama-Hong Kong service. In 1889, the Oceanic broke the record between Yokohama and San Francisco, taking just over 13 and a half days for the journey. After 25 years of service, the ship was scrapped in 1896.

The Oceanic II was launched on January 14, 1899. It the largest ship afloat in the world, and Harland and Wolff's most elegant vessel ever. Its luxuries included marble lavatories for first class passengers. At 17,274 tons gross, and 209m in length, it could put out 28,000 horse power and reach speeds of 21 knots.

{PAGE BREAK}The launch attracted an estimated 25,000 visitors, many from abroad. The Belfast News Letter printed the following poem in commemoration:

She stirs!
She starts—she moves—she seems to feel
The thrill of life along her keel,
And spurning with her foot the ground,
With one exulting, joyous bound,
She leaps into the ocean’s arms …

The Oceanic III, a giant quadruple-screw liner, was ordered in 1927, but the ship was never finished due to the economic slump.

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