See where the Mayflower really left from!
Most people know that the Mayflower left Plymouth to carry the founders of the United States across the Atlantic. Fewer people know that Plymouth was just the last British port of call for the voyage, and it actually left from Southampton. There's a memorial recording the fact down on Town Quay opposite Mayflower Park at Cuckoo Lane - don't just snap the Titanic memorial, take a look at the mayflower memorial too. See http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.com/~villages/mayflower.htm for more information (sorry, won't fit in the 'Contact' field)
A City Searching For An Identity
For the past couple of thousand years Southampton has been one of England's main ports. In Roman times it was a fortified town called Clausentum (the enclosure) and was strategically important due its position at the top of what is now known as Southampton Water. This location allowed shipping access up the relatively deep channel into the heart of southern England.
Following the retreat of the Romans the Saxons developed the town as a major port (with an estimated 5,000 inhabitants it was one of the largest towns in the country) exporting mainly wool and importing wine. During this period the town became known as Hamtun, which evolved to become Southampton. Subsequently the County became known as Southamptonshire, and then, officially in 1956, simply Hampshire.
Following the Norman conquest the town became heavily fortified and by the end of the 14th century the city walls took much of the structure that remains today. At that time the walls and the the city's castle formed the docks and quays, facing the water on two sides whilst a moat protected the landward faces.
The next few hundred years saw the town's fortunes seesaw as first it gained, then lost, the monopoly to export tin and lead, then was granted the exclusive right to import Malmsey wine from France which kept it active as a port.
The Napoleonic wars were pivotal in Southampton's resurgence as it was one of the main embarkation ports for the troops whilst the port imports diversified to include coal, building materials and grain. Wine too was still a major import but now from Spain and Portugal.
The medieval town grew into a modern manufacturing centre, with appropriately shipbuilding becoming one of the main industries and during the mid 1700's was briefly popular as a seaside spa resort before losing favour to the up and coming Brighton.
In the 19th and 20th centuries the port developed as a passenger terminal, it was from here that the ill-fated Titanic departed, and the town was substantially cleaned up with the introduction of piped water supplies and a modern sewerage system.
Trade and industry prospered and during World War I the town was designated as the #1 Military Embarkation Point through which over 8 million troops passed on their way to the continent.
During World War II the town was once again a major military base and was targetted by German bombers which resulted in much of the centre being razed in 1941 and 42. Following D-Day the port was instrumental in the logistical supply route to Europe and the dock facilities substantially expanded.
Post-war planners did the town few favours aesthetically with rebuilding being almost haphazard. Much of the Medieval and Georgian centre had been severely damaged but unlike Plymouth, for example, there was no real plan for the town's rehabilitation.
In 1964 the town was awarded city status and once again the 60's and 70's planners paid scant regard to the city's historical legacy.
The resulting present-day Southampton really is a mish-mash of conflicting architectures and styles. The traffic planners seemed to have the idea that the car is king and so the centre is a chaos of main roads with the inner ring road surrounding the few oases of relative calm.
There are though signs that the city is trying to establish an identity for itself. The pedestrianisation of the centre is being expanded and the Medieval city walls and buildings gradually being renovated and restored.
The more modern developments, such as the West Quay shopping mall, completed in 2000, attempt to reestablish a balance between old and new. The Victorian gardens, which occupy a crescent of much of the eastern part of the city centre, have escaped the developer's ravages and provide a welcome escape from the ubiquitous infernal-combusting engined machines.
The seafront too is experiencing a renaissance with a modern marina and improved hotels and restaurants - although the pier looks as if it's ready for complete demolition!
All-in-all, despite its incongruities, Southampton is a lively, friendly and multi-cultural city and one which is definitely going forward in the right direction (or maybe going backward?) it just needs a bit more TLC.
RMS Queen Elizabeth 2: A Brief History
"My First Views of My Favorite Ship"
Although I had been interested in the Queen Elizabeth 2 since around 1978, I'd always lived in areas of the United States where it was impossible to see the Cunard ocean liner. In May 2003, my visit to the UK (to see Bruce Springsteen in concert) coincided with a visit of the QE2 to Southampton. My best friend and I took an early-morning train from London and took a harbor cruise in order to see the ship up-close.
Some impressions of that harbor cruise are included in my Southampton Travel Tips. This Travelogue will include a brief history about the QE2. I also plan to create a second Travelogue listing some of the remarkable technical statistics of this ship.
"PLAN TO REPLACE CUNARD'S QUEENS (1958-63)"
In December 1958, the Cunard Line had begun to consider a replacement for their transatlantic liners - the Queen Mary (which took her maiden voyage in 1936) and the Queen Elizabeth (having entered service as a troop ship in 1940). A government grant of £18 was provided towards the construction of one 75,000-ton liner to be ready to enter service by 1966. This was known as the "Q3 Project".
However, there was considerable opposition to the "Q3" plan. More people were crossing the Atlantic by air. Operating costs for the large liners were also rising and could not be offset by fare increases. The original plan was dropped in 1963, but a new Cunard came up with a new scheme to build a slightly smaller liner capable of traversing both the Panama and Suez Canals and to be used primarily for cruising. The Government agreed to this plan and provided the loan.
"CONSTRUCTION OF THE QE2 (1965-69)"
The building contract was awarded to Glasgow's John Brown & Co. Ltd. (which also constructed the earlier Queen's). The code-named "Q4 Project" had her keel-laying at Clydebank on July 5, 1965. A delivery date was set for January 1969.
On September 20, 1967, HRH Queen Elizabeth II launched the hull and named it the Royal Mail Ship Queen Elizabeth 2. Legend has it that the original name for the ship was given to the Queen in a sealed envelope but, without opening it, Her Majesty named the vessel after both herself and the original Cunard Queen Elizabeth. Cunard adopted the numeral "2" to help distinguish the ship from the monarch.
On November 19, 1968, the QE2 moved to a dry-dock in Greenock before beginning her trials. Due to continued technical problems, Cunard didn't accept delivery of the ship until late.
After a shakedown cruise in the eastern Atlantic, the QE2 departed from Southampton on May 2, 1969, on her maiden voyage to New York.
"THE 'QUEEN' IN THE 1970'S"
The first dramatic incident in the QE2's career occurred in January 1971 when the ship received an SOS call from the French liner Antilles. It had run aground near Mustique in the Caribbean and leaking fuel had caught fire within the ship. By the time the QE2 arrived, the French ship was an inferno. The passengers had already been taken ashore to Mustique in the lifeboats. During the night, the passengers were transferred to the QE2 and two other French ships which had come to assist. The next day, the Antilles capsized and sank; the passengers were landed at Barbados.
While en route from New York to Southampton, the QE2's captain received a message on May 17, 1972, that there was a bomb aboard and that it was time to explode during the voyage. A search by crew members proved fruitless so a Royal Air Force bomb disposal unit was flown out and parachuted into the sea close to the ship. The incident proved to be a hoax and the FBI succeeded in arresting the culprit. The bomb disposal teams were awarded the Queen's Commendation for Brave Conduct.
On April 1, 1974, while on a cruise from New York to San Juan, a technical fault caused the QE2's propulsion machinery to shut down. The liner was disabled and it was not until April 3rd that the cruise ship Sea Venture (of Flagship Cruises) arrived to assist. The passengers were transferred and tugs were hired to tow the QE2 to Bermuda.
Over the next few years, the QE2 reduced her amount of transatlantic crossings and primarily concentrated on cruising - the highlight of which was the annual around-the-world cruise.
"THE QE2 GOES TO WAR"
The outbreak of the Falkland Islands War on April 2, 1982, led to a change in the role of the QE2. On her return to Southampton, on May 3, the ship was requisitioned by the British government for service as a troop transport, echoeing the previous Cunard Queens' roles during World War II. Conversion work began immediately with the addition of helicopter flight decks and a modernized communications system. This involved cutting away the aft of the Upper and Quarter decks to provide space for the heli-pads.
The 5th Infantry Brigade, comprising the Scots and Welsh Guards and the Gurkhas, then boarded the ship and she set off for South Georgia on May 12. The QE2 arrived in the war zone on May 27 and disembarked the troops and also took on board the survivors of the sunk HMS Ardent.
It had become clear that the Argentinians were using air reconnaissance to try and locate the liner so she left the same day and headed north towards safety.
The QE2 returned to Southampton on June 11 and work began on restoring the ship for commercial service. During this time, she received a new paint job. Previously, her funnel-shaft had been black with a white outer jacket but that was finally changed to the traditional Cunard Line colors of black topping a red funnel with parallel black bands. Her black hull was also painted a striking powder gray, but this was changed back to black just a few years later.
"MISHAPS AND RECONDITIONING IN THE 80'S"
In November 1983, following her annual overhaul, the QE2 developed boiler problems. The following April, she suffered minor damage after colliding with a breakwater at Piraeus, the port for Athens, but repairs were carried out quickly. The October an electrical fire caused a complete loss of power and delayed the QE2 for two days.
On her return to Southampton it was decided that diesel engines would have to be fitted to the ship in order to increase efficiency. This was done by Lloyd Werfte at Bremerhaven and was expected to save the company £12 million a year in fuel costs. Nine diesel electric engines, new propellers, and equipment to capture heat expelled by the engines were fitted. The passenger accomodation was also extensively improved.
The work took the ship out of service from November 1986 to April 1987. The QE2 then underwent trials in the North Sea and returned to commercial service. With new motive power, new interiors, and a new funnel the QE2 looked better than ever before and certainly was more fuel efficient and faster. Over 1000 people worked on the liner during this time; it was the largest maritime conversion of all time.
"THE QE2'S NEW LOOK; 90'S MILESTONES"
In late 1994, it was decided that the Queen Elizabeth 2 was due for a new look. The ship was put in dry-dock for one month for a $45 million internal and external refurbishment that included the redesign of nearly every room aboard, the replacement of every bathroom (a huge job), as well as the addition of two new 45-foot catamaran lifeboats. The work took longer than expected and the ship sailed with some workers still aboard. However, all passengers were given a total refund.
In mid-1995, the QE2 made a historic voyage - her 1000th! She was greeted by tens of thousands of people when whe arrived after this voyage. Later that year, the ship made an around-the-UK voyage arriving at the port of her birth, Clydebank. Again, tens of thousands of people lined the shores. QE2 then went on to visit Liverpool for the first time with, again, tens of thousands of people lining the shores and docks - from every vantage point to see the ship.
In late 1996, the QE2 was treated to an $18 million refit, which included the relocation of the Caronia and Mauretania dining rooms. The only exterior change was the removal of the Trafalgar House logo from the aft of the Upper Deck. Cunard had been sold by Trafalgar to Kvaerner, a ship-building giant who wanted the title of Cunard Line's owners. The line changed hands again in 1998, when the world renowned Cunard was bought by the Miami-based shipping giant Carnival Corporation.
"THE QE2 ENTERS THE NEW MILLENNIUM"
Following its purchase by Carnival Corporation, the entire Cunard fleet was treated to a refit. QE2's cost $30 million and was undertaken at Bremerhaven's Lloyd Werfte. The refit included an internal re-design adding new carpets, wall coverings, suites, and the re-design of the Caronia Restaurant. It also included a world first: a complete hull strip and re-paint.
After a subsequent refit in 2001, the Berlitz Guide rated the QE2 at 5+ stars. The ship is more beautiful than ever and with the care she has been given since her maiden voyage thirty-four years ago, it is certain that we will see this great Queen reign for many years to come!
However, beginning in 2004, the QE2 will concentrate primarily on cruising. Currently under construction at St. Naziere in France, the 150,000-ton Queen Mary 2 will take over the QE2's transatlantic schedule beginning early next year. But history will be made in May 2004 when both Cunard Queens will depart New York together on a voyage across the Atlantic. I plan to be in New York then to witness this event.