SS Great Britain – Time and Space

The SS Great Britain’s impact on the notion of Time-Space Compression was quite substantial; it affected it from many different angles. Being the first Iron Steamer to cross the Atlantic Ocean The SS Great Britain had a significant impact on journey times.

When the ship first set sail it was from Liverpool to New York it did so as a passenger ship carrying a small number of 45 passengers in luxury conditions. For these passengers the main impact on them would be that of time; the speed of the ship has allowed them to cross the Atlantic ocean in a time period that wasn’t possible before hand. In under two weeks the trip would be complete before the introduction of the SS Great Britain this would have been considerably longer making it almost impossible to deliver the conditions of luxury that would have been experienced on the SSGB; these conditions obviously also had an impact on time and space. The globe with the introduction of such a ship would no be considered a lot smaller than it was before, travel periods would be slashed and places that passengers could only dream of visiting before were now not as far away. Living on a ship for two weeks with mostly strangers would be difficult and a relatively new experience for most as the only experience that comes close to this is Train Travel which of course wasn’t for such long periods of time. This would be made incredibly easier for passengers aboard the ship taking into the account the conditions they would be living in; fine dining, luxury cabins and the ships crew being a call away were all factors in making the experience one of great ease.

When visiting The SS Great Britain when exploring the accounts of the first class passengers to New York; there was no focus or accounts from that of the crew which I found very interesting. I imagine they would have been in very low standards of accommodation and had low standards of food, which would impact their notion of time and space for the worse. They journey for them in my opinion must have felt like an age; in cramped conditions much like that of the transportation of immigrants in the ships second life.

The Ships life carrying hundreds of immigrants to Australia was a lot different to its first one. The ships luxury dining areas and cabins were transformed into small tight beds and cabins; which carried 700 passengers. This would have been an incredibly different experience to that of the original first class passengers. The journey to Australia was significantly longer than the one two New York; 6 weeks was the time period, but with the cramped, dirty and unhygienic conditions with little privacy this would of felt like a lot longer. These passengers would have had no entertainment on the ship and would become incredibly bored; accounts of passengers upon the ship talk of drunken sing alongs and fights; which themselves entertained the ships 700 passengers.


One thought on “SS Great Britain – Time and Space

  1. This is a nice and thoughtful blog post, Patrick. I like your attention to the probable experiences of the different classes during the different phases of the ships existence. For the crew, it would also have been continual hard labour; unlike a sail ship, a steam engine has to be constantly fed with coal and so work is continuous in a new kind of way. A couple of things to note though. Firstly, do reference the sources of your information, if you can; it shows an attention to how such ‘facts’ reach us which is welcome in an exploration like this. I wonder: was there any evidence of the experience of time/duration/space/distance in those copies of ‘The Albatross’ that I gave out? (I haven’t thought about this myself! It’s not a loaded question!). Also, do make sure you read through and edit your work once you’ve drafted it. There’s even more typos here than in your last blog, so try and improve that a little. But this is a nice 2:1 level entry, if a little rough around the edges.

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