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NAME

SS. VATERLAND (LEVIATHAN)  

CLASS

LINER

LAUNCHED

APRIL 3rd 1913

BUILT

BLOHM & VOSS SHIPYARDS / HAMBURG / GERMANY

WEIGHT

54,282 TONS

LENGTH

950 FEET

WIDTH

100 FEET

SPEED

25 KNOTS

PROPELLERS

4

ENGINES

4 - DIRECT ACTING STEAM TURBINES - 90,000 HP


Vaterland was the second of the Hamburg Amerika Line’s Big Three. She took the title of the world’s largest ship from the first of the Big Three, the 52,117-ton Imperator launched in 1912. Political tensions in Germany at that time forced the Hamburg Amerika Line to change her intended name of Europa to Vaterland. Although larger than Imperator, she was designed to carry fewer passengers, 780 1st, 535 2nd and 2,382 3rd class.

Vaterland

Vaterland set out on her maiden voyage from Cuxhaven - New York May 14th 1914. She only managed to complete seven of these crossings before being stranded in New York at the outbreak of World War One August 1st 1914. Vaterland lay idle in New York until America declared war on Germany April 6th 1917. This led to the United States Shipping Board seizing her to be operated as a troopship under the name Leviathan. At that time, her German crew of around 300 was offered American citizenship. Leviathan completed nineteen return crossings between America and Europe during the war. On one crossing alone, she managed to carry over 14,000 troops and by the last crossing; had successfully transported over 100,000 US servicemen to Europe. There were about 30 other German ships seized in American ports in 1917 to be used in the war against Germany.

Vaterland in port

Leviathan was again laid up at New York after completing her repatriation duties in September 1921. Following the Treaty of Versailles awarding her to the United States Line, she was put into Newport News Shipbuilding in February 1922 to undergo a refit. The engineer chosen to redesign her ‘William Francis Gibbs’ became America’s most famous ever ship designer. Born in Philadelphia 1868, the first high profile ship he designed was the most powerful fireboat ever built, New York’s famed ship Firefighter. Gibbs went on to work on over 6,000 ships including the Trans Atlantic liners America and United States.

Leviathan began her sea trials June 19th 1923 and entered service on the New York - Southampton run a few weeks later. At that time, Gibbs claimed Leviathan was the fastest liner in the world. These claims seemed to have been a publicity stunt, as she failed to take the Blue Riband from Cunard’s Mauretania. Leviathan never became very popular as European ships provided a superior service. Also, as a condition of the prohibition in America at that time, no alcohol could be sold on American ships. This ship regularly traveled with more crew onboard than passengers. Leviathan was laid up at New York from 1932 - 1934. After re-entering service, she only managed to complete four voyages between New York and Southampton before being taken out of service again. Leviathan set out on her final voyage from New York to the scrap yard at Rosyth/Scotland January 26th 1938.

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