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SS Vaterland - The World's Largest Ship (1914)

The SS Vaterland at Anchor off Quarantine

The SS Vaterland at Anchor off Quarantine

The S. S. Vaterland of the Hamburg American Line, the largest steamship afloat, arrived in New York, May 2ist, 1914. She is 950 feet long, 100 feet beam, and has a tonnage of 56,000, and developed a speed of 20.3 knots on her trials.

In September, 1911, Blohm & Voss started work on her at Hamburg and she was launched April 3, 1913. She has a double bottom, and a double skin extending well above the waterline. Steel bulkheads, both longitudinal and transverse, of exceptional strength, divide her hull. She has five steel decks and nine decks in all above the water line.

She is equipped with Frahm anti-rolling tanks, which, with her natural stability, render her one of the steadiest ships afloat.

The Vaterland carries a crew of 1,234 men, and is commanded by a commodore, 4 captains, and 7 officers. There is a chief engineer, 3 first engineers, and 35 assistants and electricians, with a "black gang" of 403. There are 446 men in the steward's department. She also carries 3 physicians, 3 assistants, 1 female nurse, 3 telegraphers. 3 telephone operators, one stenographer and typewriter, a master of the bath, a book seller, a cabinet-maker, masseurs and a gardener.

Four screws driven by quadruple turbine engines of the Parsons type propel the Vaterland, developing 90,000 H. P. For backing two special high-pressure and two low-pressure turbines are provided. All the turbine engines may be used singly. She has 4 fire rooms and 46 water tube boilers.

Great precautions have been taken in her construction and equipment to assure safety. She carries submarine sounding signals and electrically driven lead heavers. A large searchlight is placed high on the foremast and controlled from the bridge. Loud speaking telephones keep all parts of the ship in instant communication with the bridge. Her lifeboat equipment includes 83 boats, accommodating about 5,600 persons. Two of these are motor boats and carry special wireless apparatus. All are handled by Welin quadrant davits.

The Navigating Bridge on the SS Vaterland

The Navigating Bridge on the SS Vaterland

The wireless telegraph equipment of the Vaterland is the most powerful ever installed on shipboard, and comprises three separate sending instruments. The special long distance service equipment will keep the vessel continuously in touch with land throughout the Atlantic crossing.

Sailor on the Vaterland at the Wheel showing the Gyro Compass

Sailor on the Vaterland at the Wheel showing the Gyro Compass

An entirely new arrangement of the public cabins has been made possible by the unusual position of her funnels. These pass through the decks at a point outboard near the side, instead of through the center of the ship. By removing the obstruction of centerline funnels, it has been possible to have one great cabin open directly into another, thus giving the ship a remarkable effect of spaciousness.

This vista extends from the Ritz-Carlton Restaurant through the Winter or Palm Garden and the grand hallways, to the main lounge or hall-room. The grand staircase, which is one of the most attractive features of the Vaterland, extends through six decks. The several staircases are supplemented by three passenger elevators in the first, and one in the second cabin, each one running through six decks. In addition, there is an elevator in the engine room, running from "A" deck to "J" deck.

The passenger accommodation of this ship with the Grand Salon, the main dining room seating So.), the Kitz-Carlton Restaurant, Winter Garden, the 60-ft. wide grand staircase, gymnasium, passenger elevators, and the marble and tile swimming pool modelled after a Roman bath, resemble more the interior of a sumptuous hotel than a sea-going ship. The staterooms with their marble washbasins, and beds instead of berths, carry out this idea.

The second-class cabins, gymnasium, etc., are equal to the first class accommodation of some older ships, and even the third class passengers are provided with a piano, modern bathrooms, etc.

The navigating equipment is very complete and interesting. She is provided with Anschutz gyroscopic compasses, somewhat similar to those on the Imperator, but on an improved model. The photograph showing the bridge gives some idea of the apparatus there with engine room telegraphs, searchlight control, tire alarm indicator, etc.

Fireman with Smoke Helment, Oxygen Tank and Attendant with Telephone

Fireman with Smoke Helment, Oxygen Tank and Attendant with Telephone

The electric plant would care for the needs of a small city, as it consists of five direct-connected turbine-driven dynamos of 1.300 kilowatts each, besides a smaller one located far below the water line.

Her firefighting outfit is very fine, a thermostatic indicator on the bridge giving instant notice of the rise of temperature anywhere on the ship. Resides this there are tubes leading from each compartment and assembled at various central points on the upper deck through which any smoke will rise, thus indicating the presence of fire. She carries trained firemen, recruited from the Hamburg Fire Department, who are provided with smoke helmets, oxygen tanks, and portable telephones as shown in the accompanying cut.

The log instead of being towed astern is located inside the skin of the vessel, and its indications are read upon the bridge.

Considerable trouble was experienced in docking this ship on her arrival in this port, as she was drawing over 38 feet and must have been uncomfortably near the bottom once or twice. On leaving, she backed all the way across the river, and thrust her stern into a slip on the New York side. The quick water from her propeller sank a coal barge and parted the lines of one of the Southern Pacific ships moored there.

“The World’s Largest Ship,” in The Master, Mate and Pilot, Volume 7, No. 1, June 1914, P. 20-21

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