In SS Great Britain, Helen Doe provides a narrative account of this famous and historically important ship. Experimental and controversial, Great Britain led the way for iron shipbuilding and screw propulsion. The book charts the ship’s brilliant design and construction, and the tribulations of her owners as they battled financial crises to turn Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s vision into reality. Brunel was passionate about this ship and was devastated when a navigational error stranded her in Dundrum Bay, Ireland. She was rescued in a great feat of salvage and went on to a long life at sea, carrying passengers to New York, troops to the Crimea and India, and thousands of emigrants to Australia.
Helen Doe highlights the contribution of the many individuals connected to the ship, ranging from crew members to passengers, at least one grand Victorian scandal, and the mysterious disappearance of her long-serving captain. In this way, the ship’s life and times are recreated and the history of a technical marvel is given a human face.
The ship was salvaged a second time, when she was rescued from the Falkland Islands and towed home across the Atlantic. She now sits in splendour in her original dock in Bristol and is one of the most visited attractions in Britain. This a compelling account of an iconic ship and of an important moment in industrial history.