Daily Event for February 5, 2008

On Feb. 5, 1840 in Greenock, Scotland a legend was about to be born, the Britannia, an 1,135 ton sidewheeler was launched for the British & North American Royal Mail Steam Packet Company. She could carry 115 passengers at a normal speed of 9 knots with her two paddle wheels churning through the water, of course she was also rigged for sail as the modern steam engine was yet unproven. She made her maiden voyage on July 4, 1840 from Liverpool to Halifax and then to Boston.

She served her owner well even holding the Blue Riband in the eastbound direction from Aug. 1840 until May of 1842, she had taken it from the Great Western, she also lost it to the Great Western. The ship made trans Atlantic crossings in the summer months with her sisters and for her owner and the British government, once and for all established what would be called the "North Atlantic Seaway", the age of steamships had arrived.

A trip that could take up to ten weeks in a sailing packet was now accomplished in about two, and could be done a little safer and more comfortably than ever before. The vision of this one man paved the way for all the others who would follow him, it would improve communication and shrink he world, so to speak. The visionary who brought about this extraordinary change in the way people traveled was Samuel Cunard.

The Britannia, Cunard's first steamship, made her last trans-Atlantic crossing on Nov. 18, 1848, she was then sold to Germany and commissioned in to the German Federal Navy as the Barbarossa. In 1852 she was transferred to the Prussian Navy and used as a barracks ship in Danzig, in 1865 her engines were removed and she was later moved to Kiel where she remained until her decommissioning on May 5, 1880. The hulk was used to bring in a new revolution, the torpedo. She was sunk as a target by the Zieten in Kiel Harbor, the wreck was later raised and scrapped.
© 2008 Michael W. Pocock

Portrait of the Britannia by Fritz Hugh Lane.
© Fritz Hugh Lane


Reproduction of a stamp issued by Canada.


2005 Daily Event
2007 Daily Event