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Ships of the Line: Frequently Asked Questions


Q1.  When you say how much a ship weighs (i.e. The Titanic was 48,000 tons) what does that mean?

A1.  A ship is weighed according to Gross Registered Tons (GRT).  GRT is the available space within the ship.  It is not a measurement of mass.

Q2.  Why do ships have sisters?

A2.  Ships have sisters because the operating companies saught to have weelkly service across the Atlantic to Europe.  One ship could not provide such a service then.  As in the case with the Queen Mary her running mate, or sister was the Queen Elizabeth.  The two combined provided transportation to Europe or America every week.  The faster ships became there was less need for running mates.   White Star planned the Olympic, Titanic, and Gigantic for such a service.

Q3. Why are ships referred to by female gender?

A3.  This is a custom used mainly in English dominated countries.  In France, for example the ships were male gender.  When construction of the Normandie was completed to the point of naming the ship, many didn't want to name it "Normandie" because in French, Normandie is feminine.  The bottom line is it just depends on the country and the language.

Q4. Is the Titanic the biggest ship ever built?

A4.  Absolutly NOT!  A major misconception I have discovered since starting Ships of the Line is that many feel the Titanic was the largest ship ever built to this day.  Titanic was the largest ship from January-April, 1912.   No sooner did the Titanic slip beneath the waves than Germany launch the first 50,000+ ton liners.  Britannic, sister to Titanic was larger, wider, and grossed more tonnage.  The longest passenger liner today is the Norway (France) 1,035 feet.  The largest in terms of tonnage is or will be the Voyager of the Seas which will be over 120,000 tons.

Q5.  Well, was Titanic the largest ship to sink?

A5.  Again, no.  The largest passenger liner to sink was infact Titanic's younger sister the Britannic.  She sank in November of 1916 off the coast of Greece as a result of a mine laid by the Germans.

Q6.  Well then what's the big deal with Titanic?

A6.  The sinking of the Titanic was so stunning, and earthshattering was that we were so sure that this ship was invincible to nature.   People of the day thought nothing could bring down this ship.  And here she sinks on her FIRST voyage.  Also the Titanic disaster is the largest loss of life on the ocean during peacetime.

Q7.  Why can't I book passage on the QE2 from New York to Miami?

A7.  This is because in the United States, no vessel registered to a foreign country can go directly from one US port to another.  If you wanted to go to Miami from New York, or even New York to San Juan, you would have to stop in Bermuda, or the Bahamas.  The only superliner that could go straight to Miami from New York would be the SS United States

Q8.  What happens to a ship when it is retired?

A8.  Unfortunatly, there are only two places for ships when their time is done.   At the bottom or at the breakers.  Now there are always exceptions (i.e. SS United States, RMS Queen Mary, etc) but the majority either sink or are dismantled (broken up is the term for ships.)

Q9.  I was reading a book about the Normandie, and it mentioned several times about her entering "quarantine".  What is that and is it bad?

A9.  Not at all.  Quarantine is like a customs check in at an airport.   Before a ship entered New York it would stop three miles out and authorites from the US government would board the ship and inquire about: passenger compliment, crew compliment, number of sicknesses onboard, the nature of the sickness, what if any animals or plants, they would review the cargo manifest, etc.  It was quite common in those days.

Q10. How big can ships be?

A10.  As big and long as the designers dream. 


If you have general questions regarding the great ships feel free to email the webmaster.