Thursday, May 11, 2006

Requiem for a Heavyweight - the Death of the SS France

CNN announced yesterday that one of the last great Trans-Atlantic ocean liners is sailing into the history books. The SS Blue Lady (ex-Norway, ex-France) is heading to a scrap yard at Alang in western India to be broken up. Launched as the SS France in 1960, the 1,000 foot+ ship was the pride of the French fleet. It completed over 400 trips between Europe and New York until competitive pressures from the airline industry caused it to be withdrawn from service in 1974. In 1979, the SS France was sold to the Norwegian Cruise Lines and renamed the SS Norway. The SS Norway cruised the Caribbean until 2000 when Hong-Kong Star Cruises purchased it and renamed it the SS Blue Lady. A deadly boiler explosion forced the ship from service and when it was determined that repairing the ship was too expensive, Star Cruises sold it to a scrapper.

The SS France, like the SS United States, SS Queen Mary, and scores of other great liners, transported tens of millions of passengers between Europe and the US between 1910 and 1970. Some even served as troopships bringing American forces to Europe during both World Wars.

The days of leisurely traveling between continents were doomed once jet passenger travel became an affordable and rapid way to travel great distances. With the possible exception of the QM2, there are no great liners in service – only large human “container ships” called super cruise ships. The photo below comes from the Ruderhaus website and is captioned, appropriately enough, "Beauty and the Beast". It shows the SS France being towed out of port on the way to the scrap yard while the “Pride of the Americas” returns from sea trials. For ship buffs, this is a heartbreaking image.

SS France

The SS France in her prime (from the SS Maritime Site):

SS France