SS Germanic

The Ship

The SS Germanic also belonged to the White Star Line. On 29 May 1895 the New York Times wrote: ‘…The new steam-ship Germanic, of the White Star Line, which is expected to arrive at this port next Sunday, on her first trip across the Atlantic, is a sister ship to the Britannic, which was launched about twelve months ago. …She can accommodate 180 saloon and 1100 steerage passengers. She has three decks, the main, upper, and lower. There is a promenade or spar deck, 163 feet long, and 48 feet wide. The steering is done by steam, and is worked from the wheel-house, situated under the Captain’s bridge amid-ships.’ The news had an important aspect of contemporary practice: ‘A system of telegraphy has been introduced for working the ship when going in and out of dock, thereby obviating shouting and delay in executing orders.’ Rest of the report, referring to the Germanic, reads: ‘The Vessel is divided into nine water-tight compartments, the bulk-heads of five of them reaching to the main deck, thus giving great stability to the vessel as well as securing her safety. The engine and boiler space is 107 feet long, and this, considering the vast power required to propel a ship of the size of the Germanic, is economical, and leaves ample rooms for passengers and cargo. There are four cylinders, two high and two low pressure, the diameter of the former being 48 inches and the latter 83 inches. The stroke of piston is five feet. The nominal horse-power is 760, capable of working up to 5,400. The steam is supplied by eight oval shaped boilers each fed by four furnaces. The boilers are placed in sets of four, and each set is in a water-tight compartment. By an ingenious arrangement the doors of the water-tight bulk-heads may be closed in the event of water entering the adjoining compartments. In the case of the set of boilers furthest from the engines, these can be shut off from the bunkers beyond a slip door, which may be closed instantly by a turn of the handle through the agency of compressed air. A door on either side of the bulk-head will rise in the event of water coming into the hold below, and by these means the contingency of the fires being extinguished is amply and ingeniously provided against. To every compartment in the vessel there is run a steam pipe, which in case of fire could at once be used for extinguishing purposes. In addition there is a fire hose the full length of the first class saloon, which is attached to the plug every night, so as to be ready for use at a moment’s notice. There are also connections in every part of the ship to which the hose could be applied in case of necessity, so that the appliances for meeting the emergency of fire are of the most complete description …. The main saloon for first-class passengers is amidships in the middle deck …. The saloon of the Germanic is a magnificent apartment, 52 feet 9 inches in length, 42 feet 6 inches in width, with a height of nearly eight feet. The tables are arranged lengthwise, and as many as 200 persons can dine together. The new revolving chairs which have been introduced largely promote the comfort and convenience of the passengers, which admit of their leaving the table without disturbing those beside them. All of the furniture of the saloon is of teak, and the upholstery is in red velvet. The paneling is of beautifully-polished birds-eye maple, with fluted teak columns, and the walls are covered with neatly embossed papier mache, which is rendered water-proof. The flooring is of oak teak and walnut and is handsomely carpeted. A gay and cheerful aspect is derived from the decoration of the walls and the varieties of glasses of various shapes and colors standing in the racks which are suspend from the ceiling. A well-appointed fireplace, a handsome piano, and attractive library are features of the salon …. At the head of the spacious staircase leading from the saloon is a comfortable smoking-room, abundantly furnished with elegant lounges and tables …. Forward and left of the chief saloon there are seventy-five state rooms of various dimensions, all sumptuously furnished, some of them being large enough to accommodate a family …. There is a barber’s shop and a nursery …. The cooking for the whole ship is done by steam. …The sailing qualities of the vessel were pronounced to be such as would render her one of the fastest and safest ocean steamer afloat.’ 

Sometime during 1895 the Germanic was sent again to Harland & Wolff, the original builders, to lengthen her funnels and add an extra deck which finally increased her tonnage. 


Bouncing Back from Adversities

But on 13 February 1899 the ship ‘capsized at her New York berth because of too much ice on decks.’ With such immobile condition continuing uninturrupted, the ship further went down the mud. On 24 February the New York Times Headlined: ‘The Germanic Floated: Wreckers Raise the White Star Line, Sunk at her Pier.’ On 18 March the same newspaper again wrote: ‘The White Star Line steamer Germanic...which arrived at Queenstown yesterday [March 16] from New York March 7, has arrived here to be overhauled after her experiences at New York, where she sank at her dock and remained partly under water for a number of days.’ The Germanic resumed her transatlantic service from Liverpool on 7 June 1899.


The Beginning of Her End 

A book entitled Principles of Ocean Transportation writes as to how the end finally came upon the Germanic: ‘The largest American ocean line consolidation is the International Mercantile Marine Company. It is an American company but the bulk of the tonnage controlled by it is foreign. In 1902 it brought under one ownership and management five large transatlantic lines, whose aggregate fleet comprised 136 vessels, with a tonnage of 1.034.884. The lines brought together were the Leland Line, the White Star Line, the Red Star Line, the Atlantic Transport and the Dominion Line.’ But the final outcome is narrated by the international Time magazine in their issue of 19 January 1931: ‘In 1902 the late great John Pierpont Morgan formed a shipping combine which was to make the U. S. flag supreme on the seven seas. It was one of his several great mistakes. At first he contemplated joining all foreign lines into one great service. Although he failed to do this, he purchased the famed British White Star Line for his new International Mercantile Marine Co.’
As a White Star Line ship the
Germanic ceased to sail any more since she had reached New York on 10 July 1903. Afterwards she had been chartered by the American Lines and was put to their Southampton-New York route till 1905 before being sold to the Dominion Line and renamed to Ottawa. The Dominion Line had engaged her on their Liverpool — Quebec — Montreal route before selling her to the Turkish Government in 1911. The Ship was once more renamed to Gul Djemal and began carrying the Turkish soldiers in the First World War. Once, while on her war duty, the Gul Djemal was torpedoed by the Allied submarine E-14 and sank in shallow waters — many of the 4000 soldiers she had on board while being sunk had lost their lives. Later the ship was raised, repaired and reinstated to the war service. In 1918 Gul Djemal was entrusted to carry 1500 German soldiers to Dover, where they were disarmed and sent home.
When the war was over,
Gul Djemal went back to her domestic service as before. It is learned that, ‘The Ottoman — America Line made four transatlantic passenger voyages in 1920–21 to New York from Constantinople and also made some calls at Varna, Constanza and Odessa. They only operated one ship on this service — ‘Gul Djemal’, and she was the first Turkish passenger steamer to cross the North Atlantic. She was renamed Gulcemal in 1928.’ Seemingly this last change in name was nothing beyond a respelling of the old name. The guess is based on information that, ‘the ship was renamed as Gul Djemal in memory of and reverence to the Ottoman Sultan Mehmed V Reshad’s mother HH Gülcemal Khadin Efendi (1826–1895).’
Concurrently with her advancing age, the
Germanic encountered repeated misfortunes. On 19 January 1931 the Time magazine wrote: ‘The old White Star liner Germanic went ashore near Hora lighthouse in the Sea of Marmora and slowly began breaking up. Sad news was this to sea-loving oldsters who remembered her trim lines, big, square-rigged sails and two funnels amidships when she was (in the 1870s) the fastest transatlantic steamship. At that time she could cross from Queenstown to Manhattan in 7 days, 10 hr., 50 min. In 1895 she was equipped with new engines and driven the same distance in 6 days, 21 hr., 38 min. But when faster ships were built she was relegated to the Canadian emigrant service, rechristened the Ottawa. Later on, the Turkish navy bought her, used her in the World War, when she was torpedoed in the Dardanelles. Salvaged, she was made a Black Sea freighter, called the Gulcemah [sic], in which capacity she was serving when stranded last week.’
The indomitable vessel was salvaged from the Sea of Marmora and put to service again as before. No more news is available on her till 1949, when she was found to be serving as a storage ship. The
Gulcemal was converted into a floating hotel in 1950. For 75 years the Ship remained afloat on various seas around the world with both glory and gloom, but the end was not far off. On 29 October 1950 the once celebrated Germanic was taken to Messina, Italy, for scrapping which, when started, revealed the original White Star Line gold strip along her hull.



Vivekananda wrote in a letter from England to an admirer on 20 April 1896: ‘The voyage has been pleasant and no sickness this time. I gave myself treatment to avoid it. I made quite a little run through Ireland and some of the Old English towns and now am once more in Reading. …Nothing of importance happened on the way. It was dull, monotonous, and prosaic as my life. I love America more when I am out of it. And, after all, those years there have been some of the best I have yet seen.’The Swami began his classes in London on 7 May 1896. This was followed by a series of three Sunday lectures in one of the three large art galleries on the upper floor of the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours at 191 Piccadilly, the home of British Watercolour painting since 1831. His biography reads: ‘…the Swami’s many classes, his six Sunday lectures, and his uncounted private interviews did not by any means cover the whole of the work he was doing in England. He lectured also in many drawing-rooms and at several well-known clubs.’ But the essential element in all he preached had undeniably the message that, 'Vedanta teaches the basic philosophy of all religions; this philosophy is no monopoly of any particular religion. This is why Vedanta will become the universal religion; convert it into universal treasure. The Vedanta must not remain as the closed preserve of a group of narrow-minded people.’
In the second week of November he asked one of his leading admirers to purchase tickets on the most convenient steamer leaving Naples for India. Accordingly four berths were booked on a new steamer of the North German Lloyd, scheduled to leave Naples on December 30 for Ceylon. His other three English companions were Mr and Mrs Sevier, and J. J. Goodwin, the last being the Swami’s young stenographer. The Swami preferred to sail from Naples to shorten his sea-voyage, and en route visit the famous places in Italy.On 16 December Vivekananda was waved off by friends and admirers at the London Railway station. The party, after visiting the places of interest en route, finally boarded the
Prinz Regent Luitpold which left Naples on 30 December 1896.

SS Germanic of White Star Line

SS Germanic

Cabin plans of SS Britannic and SS Germanic

Cabin plans of SS Britannic and SS Germanic

Passenger List of SS Germanic

Part of a Passenger List of SS Germanic in October 1888

Immigrants Inspection Card of White Star Lines

Immigrants and steerage passengers Inspection Card of White Star Lines - Front Side

Notice to Booking Agents of the White Star Line in 1892

Notice to Booking Agents of the White Star Line in 1892 for SS Germanic

Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours in London

Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours in London in 1890s

Swami Vivekananda in London in 1896

In London in 1896

Naples Harbour in 1890s

Naples Port in 1890s

© : Somenath Mukherjee (See MORE )​