Transatlantic crossings are passages of passengers and cargo across the Atlantic Ocean between Europe or Africa and the Americas. The majority of passenger traffic is across the North Atlantic between Western Europe and North America. Centuries after the dwindling of sporadic Viking trade with Markland, a regular and lasting transatlantic trade route was established in 1566 with the Spanish West Indies fleets, following the voyages of Christopher Columbus.
Prior to the 19th century, transatlantic crossings were undertaken in sailing ships, and the journeys were time-consuming and often perilous. The first trade route across the Atlantic was inaugurated by Spain a few decades after the European Discovery of the Americas, with the establishment of the West Indies fleets in 1566, a convoy system that regularly linked its territories in the Americas with Spain for over two centuries. Portugal created a similar maritime route between its ports in Brazil and the Portuguese mainland. Other colonial powers followed, such as Britain, France and the Netherlands, as they colonized the New World.
Guinness Book of World Records has awarded world records to vessels of various classes such as luxury liners, sail boats, and rowing boats. Because of the shape of the continents and the assistance (or resistance) of ocean currents, the Eastbound crossing is quicker than the Westbound crossing.
Transatlantic passenger crossings became faster, safer, and more reliable with the advent of steamships in the 19th century. The wooden-hulled, paddle-wheel SS Great Western built in 1838 is recognized as the first purpose-built transatlantic steamship, on a scheduled run back and forth from Bristol to New York City. The design by British civil engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel was a breakthrough in its size, unprecedented passenger capacity, and for Brunel leveraging the fuel efficiency of a larger ship. It became the prototype for a generation of similar ships.
The British & North American Royal Mail Steam Packet Company started its year-round Liverpool-Halifax-Boston service in 1840, using four new Britannia-class steamships and a mail contract from the British government. The company later evolved into the Cunard Line, with Cunard's dominance drawing the attention of the U.S. government, which had its own mail contract to offer to an American firm willing to compete. In 1850 the contract was awarded to the New York and Liverpool United States Steamship Company, which became the Collins Line, and which answered Cunard with its own four ships, which were newer, larger, faster, and more luxurious.
Competition developed among the industrial powers of the time—the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, and the United States—to competitively build grand ocean liners as symbols of national technical skill and expressions of power, not just transport businesses. The competition was for speed. An award called the Blue Riband has been tracked since 1838, for the fastest average speed of a steamship in regular service across the Atlantic. This record became so critical to international prestige that the RMS Mauretania was commissioned by the British government specifically to take the Blue Riband back from the Germans and their SS Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse, which it did in 1907. The government also required it be convertible into a troop carrier if needed. In 1935 shipping magnate Harold Hales formalized the prize by commissioning and donating the four-foot, solid silver Hales Trophy.
Examples of other famous transatlantic liners are RMS Lusitania, RMS Olympic, RMS Titanic, SS Île de France, SS Rex, SS Normandie, RMS Queen Mary, SS America, RMS Queen Elizabeth, SS France, Queen Elizabeth 2 , RMS Queen Mary 2, and the SS United States. The United States is the current holder of the Hales Trophy. In July 1952 that ship made the crossing in 3 days, 10 hours, 40 minutes. Cunard Line's RMS Queen Mary 2 is the only ship currently making regular transatlantic crossings throughout the year, usually between Southampton and New York. For this reason it has been designed as a proper ocean liner, not as a cruise ship.
During World War II the transatlantic crossing was very important for the United Kingdom as much of Europe had been taken over by Germany and its allies preventing trade and supplies; the struggle is known as the Battle of the Atlantic.
In 2009, two brothers, Ralph and Robert Brown, crossed the Atlantic Ocean in a 21 ft (6.4 m) flats boat – a special boat designed to operate in extremely shallow water. This flats boat was designed and built by Ralph Brown. The voyage was called the "I Am Second Wounded Hero Voyage" in honor of the men who were killed in Operation Eagle Claw; Ralph Brown had been in the USMC at the time of the Operation and was told he was going to participate in the mission. Though he ultimately did not go, other servicemen who did perished in the failed military operation.
In 1952, Alain Bombard crossed the Atlantic from East to West, journeying 113 days in a Zodiac, L'Hérétique.
In 1956, Henri Beaudout crossed the Atlantic from West to East, from Halifax to Falmouth, on a raft of wood and rope, L'Égaré II , in 88 days.
In 1970, Thor Heyerdahl crossed the Atlantic in Ra II, a papyrus raft built to an Ancient Egyptian design. This voyage followed an unsuccessful attempt the previous year in his first raft, Ra I.
In 1988, the junk raft, Son of Town Hall , crossed the North Atlantic Ocean.
In 2011, Anthony Smith and the Antiki crossed the Atlantic.
On 13 June 2003, French rower Maud Fontenoy started an eastward crossing of the Atlantic from Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon. She reached A Coruña in Spain on 10 October, becoming the first woman to accomplish this feat.
In 2005, the Vivaldi Atlantic 4 broke the previous rowing record of 55 days and setting a new record of 39 days.
On 26 October 2010, Polish sexagenarian Aleksander Doba was the first recorded individual to complete a non-stop transatlantic crossing by kayak. He departed Dakar, Senegal and arrived in Brazil 99 days later.
In 1997, the first East–West Atlantic Rowing Race took place, running from the Canary Islands to the Caribbean. It now runs roughly once every two years.[ citation needed ]
In 2006, the first West–East North Atlantic Rowing Race took place, running from New York City to Falmouth, Cornwall in the UK.[ citation needed ]
In 1775, the 62-ton schooner Quero, sailed by John Derby from Salem, Massachusetts to the Isle of Wight in 28 days (April 28 to May 25).
In 1866, the 26-foot (7.9 m) lifeboat Red, White and Blue sailed from New York City to Margate, England, in 38 days. [ better source needed ] In 1870 and 1871, The 20-ft yawl City of Ragusa sailed from Queenstown, Ireland, to New York and back, crewed by two men (and a dog) each way.
Transatlantic flight surpassed ocean liners as the predominant mode of crossing the Atlantic in the mid 20th century. In 1919, the American NC-4 became the first airplane to cross the Atlantic (but in multiple stages). Later that year, a British Vickers Vimy piloted by Alcock and Brown made the first non-stop transatlantic flight from Newfoundland to Ireland. Also in 1919, the British were the first to cross the Atlantic in an airship when the R34 captained by Major George Herbert Scott of the Royal Air Force with his crew and passengers flew from East Fortune, Scotland to Mineola, Long Island, covering a distance of about 3,000 statute miles (4,800 km) in about four and a half days; he then made a return trip to England, thus also completing the first double crossing of the Atlantic (east–west–east). The first aerial crossing of the South Atlantic was made by the Portuguese naval aviators Gago Coutinho and Sacadura Cabral in 1922. Coutinho and Cabral flew from Lisbon, Portugal, to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in stages, using three different Fairey III biplanes, and they covered a distance of 8,383 kilometres (5,209 mi) between 30 March and 17 June. The first night-time crossing of the Atlantic was accomplished during 16–17 April 1927 by the Portuguese aviators Sarmento de Beires, Jorge de Castilho and Manuel Gouveia, flying from the Bijagós Archipelago, Portuguese Guinea, to Fernando de Noronha, Brazil in the Argos, a Dornier Wal flying boat. In May 1927, Charles Lindbergh made the first solo non-stop transatlantic flight in an airplane (between New York City and Paris). The second solo piloting, and the first to carry a passenger, was Clarence Duncan Chamberlin on 6 June 1927. Edward R. Armstrong proposed a string of anchored "seadromes" to refuel planes in a crossing.
The first serious attempt to take a share of the transatlantic passenger market away from the ocean liners was undertaken by Germany. In the 1930s, Germany crossed the Atlantic with Zeppelins that could carry about 60 passengers in a similar luxurious style to the ocean liners. However, the Hindenburg disaster in 1937 put an end to transatlantic Zeppelin flights.
On 1 June 1944, two K-class blimps from Blimp Squadron ZP-14 of the United States Navy (USN) completed the first transatlantic crossing by non-rigid airships. The two K-ships (K-123 and K-130) left South Weymouth, MA on 28 May 1944 and flew approximately 16 hours to Naval Station Argentia, Newfoundland. From Argentia, the blimps flew approximately 22 hours to Lajes Field on Terceira Island in the Azores. The final leg of the first transatlantic crossing was about a 20-hour flight from the Azores to Craw Field in Port Lyautey (Kenitra), French Morocco.
Beginning in the 1950s, the predominance of ocean liners began to wane when larger, jet-powered airplanes began carrying passengers across the ocean in less and less time. The speed of crossing the ocean therefore became more important than the style of crossing it. The maturing passenger Jet Age starting with the Boeing 707 reduced the typical crossing time between London and New York City to between 6.5 and 8 hours, depending on weather conditions. By the 1970s, supersonic Concorde airplanes could connect the two cities in less than 4 hours, and only one ocean liner, Queen Elizabeth 2 remained on the transatlantic route for those who favored the slower style of travel.
The economics of commercial transatlantic flying have evolved markedly since the 1950s; the introduction of widebody airliners (such as the Boeing 747 and Douglas DC-10) in the early 1970s made affordable transatlantic travel to the masses a reality. Since the 1990s, the high reliability of modern jet engines has meant that twin engine jet aircraft such as the Boeing 767, Boeing 777 and Airbus A330 have largely taken over on transatlantic routes from quad-engine jets, whilst the supersonic Concorde was ultimately doomed by its high running costs, leading to its retirement in 2003. Since the late 1990s, twin engined, narrow body jet airliners have been used for transatlantic service, meaning that city pairs between major North American hubs and secondary European cities can now be connected directly without the need for larger widebody jets, which were uneconomic on routes with lower passenger demand. The Boeing 757 started this trend when it became ETOPS certified, although the most recent versions of both the Boeing 737 and Airbus A320 now have transatlantic capability.
Transatlantic cables are cables that have been laid along the ocean floor to connect North America and Europe. Before the advent of radio, the only means of communication across the Atlantic Ocean was to physically connect the continents with a transatlantic telegraph cable, the first of which was installed from Valentia, Ireland to Heart's Content, Newfoundland in 1858. It worked for a month.
The first pair of eastbound and westbound transatlantic telephone cables, TAT-1, were laid in 1955 and 1956 by the cable ship HMTS Monarch. The first transatlantic fiber optic cable, TAT-8, was installed in 1988.
The exchange rate between the United States dollar and British pound is still colloquially known as "cable" by financial marketeers, from the early use of the transatlantic cable for this purpose.
A transatlantic tunnel is a theoretical structure proposed several times since the late 19th century. It would be a tunnel spanning the Atlantic Ocean between New York City and the United Kingdom or France.
The introduction of various technologies facilitated progressively faster transatlantic crossings. The duration to travel westbound from Europe to North America when a new transport innovation was introduced for commercial use is listed below:
Cunard Line is a British shipping and cruise line based at Carnival House at Southampton, England, operated by Carnival UK and owned by Carnival Corporation & plc. Since 2011, Cunard and its three ships have been registered in Hamilton, Bermuda.
A steamship, often referred to as a steamer, is a type of steam-powered vessel, typically ocean-faring and seaworthy, that is propelled by one or more steam engines that typically move (turn) propellers or paddlewheels. The first steamships came into practical usage during the early 1800s; however, there were exceptions that came before. Steamships usually use the prefix designations of "PS" for paddle steamer or "SS" for screw steamer. As paddle steamers became less common, "SS" is assumed by many to stand for "steamship". Ships powered by internal combustion engines use a prefix such as "MV" for motor vessel, so it is not correct to use "SS" for most modern vessels.
The Blue Riband is an unofficial accolade given to the passenger liner crossing the Atlantic Ocean in regular service with the record highest average speed. The term was borrowed from horse racing and was not widely used until after 1910. The record is based on average speed rather than passage time because ships follow different routes. Also, eastbound and westbound speed records are reckoned separately, as the more difficult westbound record voyage, against the Gulf Stream and the prevailing weather systems, typically results in lower average speeds.
An ocean liner is a type of passenger ship primarily used for transportation across seas or oceans. Ocean liners may also carry cargo or mail, and may sometimes be used for other purposes. Only one ocean liner remains in service today.
SS Oceanic was the White Star Line's first liner and first member of the Oceanic-class; she was an important turning point in passenger liner design. Entering service in 1871 for Atlantic crossings, she was later chartered to Occidental and Oriental Steamship Company (O&O) in 1875. The ship provided passenger service for O&O in the Pacific until 1895 when she was sold for scrap.
Imperator was a German ocean liner built for the Hamburg America Line, launched in 1912. At the time of her completion in June 1913, she was the largest passenger ship in the world by gross tonnage, surpassing the new White Star liner Olympic.
CP Ships was a large Canadian shipping company established in the 19th century. From the late 1880s until after World War II, the company was Canada's largest operator of Atlantic and Pacific steamships. Many immigrants travelled on CP ships from Europe to Canada. In the early 20th century the sinking of the Canadian Pacific steamship RMS Empress of Ireland just before World War I became largest maritime disaster in Canadian history. The company provided Canadian Merchant Navy vessels in World Wars I and II. Twelve vessels were lost due to enemy action in World War II, including the RMS Empress of Britain, which was the largest ship ever sunk by a German U-boat.
The Inman Line was one of the three largest 19th-century British passenger shipping companies on the North Atlantic, along with the White Star Line and Cunard Line. Founded in 1850, it was absorbed in 1893 into American Line. The firm's formal name for much of its history was the Liverpool, Philadelphia and New York Steamship Company, but it was also variously known as the Liverpool and Philadelphia Steamship Company, as Inman Steamship Company, Limited, and, in the last few years before absorption, as the Inman and International Steamship Company.
RMS Etruria was a transatlantic ocean liner built by John Elder & Co of Glasgow, Scotland in 1884 for Cunard Line. Etruria and her sister ship Umbria were the last two Cunarders that were fitted with auxiliary sails. Both ships were among the fastest and largest liners then in service. Etruria was completed in March 1885, twelve weeks after Umbria, and entered service on the Liverpool – New York route.
SS Abyssinia was a British mail liner built in 1870, and originally operated by the Cunard Line on the Liverpool–New York route. She later served the Guion Line on the same route and the Canadian Pacific Line in the Pacific. In December 1891, Abyssinia was destroyed mid-Atlantic without loss of life by a fire that started in her cargo of cotton, further highlighting the danger in carrying both cotton and passengers on the same ship.
The Collins Line was the common name for the American shipping company started by Israel Collins and then built up by his son Edward Knight Collins, formally called the New York and Liverpool United States Mail Steamship Company. Under Edward Collins' guidance, the company grew to be a serious competitor on the transatlantic routes to the British Cunard shipping company.
SS Servia, also known as RMS Servia, was a successful transatlantic passenger and mail steamer of revolutionary design, built by J & G Thomson of Clydebank and launched in 1881. She was the first large ocean liner to be built of steel instead of iron, and the first Cunard ship to have an electric lighting installation.
Sylvania was an ocean liner built in 1957 by John Brown & Co (Clydebank), in Glasgow, for the United Kingdom-based shipping company Cunard Line. She was the last Cunard Line vessel built specifically for transatlantic crossings. The ship was later heavily rebuilt as a cruise ship, and sailed under the names SS Fairwind, SS Sitmar Fairwind, SS Dawn Princess and SS Albatros before being scrapped in 2004. She was renamed SS Genoa for her last voyage.
SS Arctic was a 2,856-ton paddle steamer, one of the Collins Line, which operated a transatlantic passenger and mail steamship service during the 1850s. She was the largest of a fleet of four, built with the aid of U.S. government subsidies to challenge the transatlantic supremacy of the British-backed Cunard Line. During her four-year period of service, the ship was renowned both for her speed and for the luxury of her accommodation.
City of Paris was a British passenger liner operated by the Inman Line that established that a ship driven by a screw could match the speed of the paddlers on the Atlantic crossing. Built by Tod and Macgregor, she served the Inman Line until 1884 when she was converted to a cargo ship.
The first RMS Saxonia was a passenger ship of the British Cunard Line. Between 1900 and 1925, Saxonia operated on North Atlantic and Mediterranean passenger routes, and she saw military service during World War I (1914–1918).
SS Arctic, an American paddle steamer owned by the Collins Line, sank on September 27, 1854, 50 miles (80 km) off the coast of Newfoundland after a collision with SS Vesta, a much smaller French vessel. Passenger and crew lists indicate that there were probably more than 400 on board; of these, only 88 survived, most of whom were members of the crew. All the women and children on board perished.
RMS Parthia was the second of two all first class transatlantic passenger cargo liners built for the Cunard Line. She later served on the London to Auckland route for the New Zealand Shipping Company under the name Remuera, and still later as a Pacific cruise ship under the name Aramac. She was scrapped in 1969–70.
A mail tender is a small steamboat used to carry mail. As a tender it only carries mail for short distances between ship and shore, ferrying it to and from a large mail steamer.
The Oceanic class were a group of six ocean liners built by Harland and Wolff at Belfast, for the White Star Line, for the transatlantic service. They were the company's first generation of steamships to serve the North Atlantic passenger trade, entering service between 1871 and 1872.