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The S.S. Great Eastern as gargantuan advertising billboard at North Wall, Dublin.....Thanks to all for great research on this one, and to nintytwo ( http://www.flickr.com/photos/nintytwo/ ) for helping us uncover that this was taken at the North Wall in Dublin, and that our catalogue was incorrect in saying this had been taken at Arklow, Co. Wicklow...Date: Between 15 October 1886 and 3 April 1887..NLI Ref.: L_ROY_00426 ( http://catalogue.nli.ie/Record/vtls000326014 )

SS Great Eastern was the largest ship ever built at the time of her 1858 launch and had the capacity to carry 4,000 passengers. She was capable to sail from England to Australia without refueling. The steamship was designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel and built by J. Scott Russell & Co. at Millwall Iron Works on the River Thames, London. The ship's five funnels were rare and were later reduced to four. It also had the largest set of paddle wheels. On 25 March 1852, Brunel made a sketch of a steamship in his diary and wrote beneath it: "Say 600 ft x 65 ft x 30 ft" (180 m x 20 m x 9.1 m). These measurements were six times larger by volume than any ship afloat. Brunel realized that the ship would need more than one propulsion system; since twin screws were still very much experimental, he settled on a combination of a single screw and paddle wheels, with auxiliary sail power. Using paddle wheels meant that the ship would be able to reach Calcutta, where the Hooghly River was too shallow for screws. Brunel knew her affectionately as the "Great Babe". He died in 1859 shortly after her ill-fated maiden voyage, off Portland, when conducting trials, an explosion aboard blew off one of the funnels. The funnel was salvaged, purchased by the water company supplying Weymouth and Melcombe Regis in Dorset, and used as a filtering device. It was later transferred to the Bristol Maritime Museum close to Brunel's SS Great Britain then moved to the SS Great Britain museum. Her first voyage to North America began on 17 June 1860, with 35 paying passengers, eight company "dead heads" (non-paying passengers), and 418 crew. Among the passengers were the two journalists and engineers Zerah Colburn and Alexander Lyman Holley as well as three directors of the Great Ship Company. Upon Great Eastern's return to England, the ship was chartered by the British Government to transport troops to Quebec. 2,144 officers and men, 473 women and children, and 200 horses were embarked at Liverpool along with 40 paying passengers. The ship sailed on 25 June 1861 and went at full speed throughout most of the trip arriving at her destination 8 days and 6 hours after leaving Liverpool. Great Eastern stayed for a month and returned to Britain at the beginning of July with 357 paying passengers. However, the ship operation had a little commercial success. In 1865, after repairs, she plied for several years as a passenger liner between Britain and North America before being converted to a cable-laying ship and laying the first lasting transatlantic telegraph cable in 1866. At the end of her cable-laying career, she was refitted once again as a liner but once again efforts to make her a commercial success failed. She was used as a showboat, a floating palace/concert hall, and a gymnasium. She acted as an advertising hoarding—sailing up and down the Mersey for Lewis's Department Store. An early example of breaking-up a structure by use of a wrecking ball, she was scrapped at New Ferry on the River Mersey by Henry Bath & Son Ltd in 1889–1890—it took 18 months to take her apart.

Throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, the Royal Navy was the largest navy in the world and maintained ascendancy over its rivals through superiority in financing, tactics, training, organization, hygiene, dockyard facilities, logistical support, and warship design and construction. The French Revolutionary Wars and Napoleonic Wars saw the Royal Navy reach a peak of efficiency, dominating the navies of all adversaries, which spent most of the war blockaded in ports. Between 1815 and 1914, the Navy saw little serious action, owing to the absence of any opponent strong enough to challenge its dominance. Due to British leadership in the Industrial Revolution, unparalleled shipbuilding capacity, and financial resources, British naval warfare underwent a comprehensive transformation, brought by steam propulsion, metal ship construction, and explosive munitions. In 1859, the fleet was estimated to number about 1000 vessels. In 1889, Parliament passed the Naval Defence Act, which formally adopted the 'two-power standard', which stipulated that the Royal Navy should maintain a number of battleships at least equal to the combined strength of the next two largest navies. During the First World War, the British advantage proved insurmountable, leading the German navy to abandon any attempt to challenge British dominance. The Royal Navy had established a blockade of Germany, closed off access to the English Channel, and mined the North Sea. During the Dardanelles Campaign against the Ottoman Empire in 1915, the Royal Navy suffered heavy losses during an attempt to break through the system of minefields and shore batteries defending the straits. The most serious danger to the British Navy and merchant fleet came from the attacks of German U-boats. Unrestricted submarine warfare raised the prospect of Britain being starved into submission in 1917. The introduction of convoys brought the U-boat threat under control. In the inter-war period, the Washington and London Naval Treaties imposed the scrapping of some capital ships and limitations on new construction. The Royal Navy was stripped of much of its power. The re-armament of the Royal Navy restarted in 1932 - with the construction of new battleships and first purpose-built aircraft carriers. At the start of World War II in 1939, the Royal Navy was the largest in the world, with over 1,400 vessels, including 7 aircraft carriers, 15 battleships and battlecruisers. The Royal Navy suffered heavy losses in the first two years of the war with the most critical struggle of the Atlantic defending Britain's vital commercial supply lines against the U-boat attacks. The Navy was vital in guarding the sea lanes that enabled British forces to fight in North Africa, the Mediterranean, and the Far East. Naval supremacy was essential to amphibious operations such as the invasions of Northwest Africa, Sicily, Italy, and Normandy. By the end of the war the Royal Navy comprised over 4,800 ships, and was the second-largest fleet in the world. After the Second World War, the increasingly powerful United States Navy took on the former role of the Royal Navy as a global naval power and police force of the sea. The decline of the British Empire and the economic hardships forced the reduction in the size and capability of the Royal Navy. One of the most important operations conducted by the Royal Navy after the Second World War was the 1982 Falkland Islands War. Despite losing four naval ships, the Royal Navy fought and won a war over 8,000 miles (12,000 km) from Great Britain. The Royal Navy also took part in the Gulf War, the Kosovo conflict, the Afghanistan Campaign, and the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

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