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OLYMPIC, GREATEST OF STEAMSHIPS
HENRY R. JEVONS
SOME day next July a skyscraper will come floating up Ambrose Channel, the Narrows and the North River to her berth at the new Chelsea docks in New York. For they are building sea-going skyscrapers these days and they are doing pretty well at it, considering. This particular skyscraper, the Olympic, the new White Star Liner, is only eleven stories, to be sure, but measured from the bottom of her keel to the top of her funnels she lacks only twenty-five feet of coming up to the new proposed building height limit in Chicago. Since the Olympic's foundation is salt water which is more unstable, if possible, than the quicksands which vex the builders in the Lake Michigan metropolis this must be conceded to be a pretty fair height. Nor are those funnels to be lightly considered in computing the height. They are very much more important than the ornamental lantern sometimes included in
reckoning the height of a building. Though they do not look very big, so exquisitely is the new liner proportioned, they would make a good many suites of offices if they were arranged for that purpose, for there are four of them, each oval in shape, 24 feet 6 inches in diameter the long way and 19 feet wide. Placed end to end they would make a tunnel 640 feet long with ample room for two standard gauge railroad trains to stand side by side.
Everything else about this latest prodigy of marine architecture is on the same stupendous scale. Unfortunately, descriptive writers of former days exhausted the entire stock of adjectives in describing "leviathans of the deep" that sometimes reached the enormous size of five or six thousand tons, so that now when they are really needed to convey an idea of a craft of forty-five thousand tons there isn't a superlative left that is fit to be seen in print. The only thing that can be done is to fall back on comparative statistics, and let it go at that.
As a starter it may be said that the length of the Olympic, 882 feet 6 inches, is 182 feet greater than the height of the Metropolitan tower in New York, the tallest structure on the continent, and four times the height of the Bunker Hill monument: and yet any one who has toiled up the steps to the top of Boston's proudest landmark will feelingly agree that it is not to be sneezed at. Also, the length of the Olympic and her sister ship, the Titanic, launched in February, 1911, is twice the height of the dome of St. Peter's in Rome and equals the total drop of the famous Bridal Veil falls in Yosemite Valley. Placed end to end beside the Brooklyn Bridge these two ships would completely span the
East River and extend over the shore one hundred feet on each side. In short the Olympic is 97 feet 6 inches longer than the Mauretania and Lusitania, is 92 feet six inches wide over all, and 94 feet wide over the boat deck. From the boat deck to the bottom of the keel is 97 feet; from the top of the Captain's house to the bottom of the keel is 105 feet 6 inches, and from the top of the funnels to the bottom of the keel, 175 feet. There are eleven steel decks and fifteen watertight bulkheads.
The launching of the Olympic alone cost more than enough to build a fine steamship. More than six hundred steers died merely to make her path into the water smooth., for twenty-two tons of tallow were used to grease the ways. Many a Belfast waterman made a modest little fortune (judged by a Belfast waterman's standard) picking- up the floating tallow after the launch. The tallow, however, was too trivial an item for serious consideration when compared with the rest of the bill.
It cost the Belfast Harbor Board, which draws no share of the Olympic's earnings, $292,000 to get ready for the launching. Of this sum $146,000 went to deepen the channel to 32 feet. Opposite the berth a pit fifty feet deep had to be dredged in the bottom of the harbor to make room for the plunge of the stern before the bow left the ways. Then Harland and Wolff, the builders, had to spend $48,670 to strengthen Victoria wharf opposite the berth lest the terrific commotion kicked up when the monster struck the water should cause the wharf to collapse. Still, that was but a beginning. Three of the largest slips they
had were converted into two for the Olympic and Titanic. Over the berth a double gantry had to be erected 840 feet long, 105 feet wide and 220 feet high and equipped with travelers and cranes capable of lifting from five to forty ton*. Besides this there was a floating crane to be provided at great cost to transfer the boilers to the ships after they were afloat. Part of the works had to be entirely reconstructed, other parts were altered and special equipment provided, making the outlay for the plant for building these biggest ships more than two million dollars.
From the time the keel was laid, December 15, 1908, to October 20, 1910, the date of the launching, a fair sized' army was steadily employed on the Olympic. For weeks before, the launching two thousand five hundred men toiled night and day making preparations for the great event. As the weight at launching was twenty-seven thousand tons, much the largest mass of steel ever put in the water at once, a great deal of careful planning and expert preparation were required to make ready for the sixty-two seconds occupied by the Olympic in making the plunge. From the time the hydraulic triggers holding the vessel on the ways were released until she was stationary in the water less than two minutes elapsed.
Since the Olympic represents an investment of $7,500,000 it was necessary that in addition to being the largest ship the world has ever seen, a distinction she will retain only until the Titanic is placed in service late this fall, when she will be one of the largest two, she should also be the heaviest and strongest. Five hundred thousand rivets, weighing 270 tons, were used in the construction of the double bottom alone. The largest rivet was 1J4 inches in diameter. This double bottom is 5 feet 3 inches deep. The largest shell plates are 36 feet long and weigh 4'/i tons. The largest beams are
92 feet long. The after boss arm, a sort of three pronged bracket that tags along to hold up the outer ends of the propellers, weighs 72y2 tons. The rudder, a dainty creation in steel, is 15 feet 3 inches wide with a stock 23^1 inches in diameter and weighs a hundred tons, as much as a good sized locomotive.
But speaking of riveting, 3,000,000 rivets weighing twelve hundred tons, are required to hold the Olympic together. All the shell plating up to the turn of the bilge and much of the other work was done by power riveters, which in Belfast are very different things from the little hand tool sprouting from the end of a rubber hose, the blood-curdling, nerve destroying r-r-r-r-r-r-r-at-at-at-at-tat of which is so distressingly familiar to American ears. The Irish riveter is a ponderous affair weighing seven tons which has to be manipulated by means of a traveling crane. But it does its work so easily and so silently that it was considered quite the thing to invite ladies who visited the works during the building of the Olympic to step up and drive a rivet.