July 9, 2009
We Are Cunard
Posted in: Queen Elizabeth
Countdown to Queen Elizabeth – 425 days
As Queen Mary 2 sails across the Atlantic back to Southampton on her 12th crossing this year and Queen Victoria heads north for her maiden call to Iceland, the topic of the Blog this week is the second half of my report from Queen Elizabeth’s keel laying ceremony. Thank you for all the comments from part one and now that there’ll be more and more to see, I’ll do my best to keep you fully updated with her progress including lot’s more pictures. But as usual before we get to that second installment, here’s “This week in Cunard’s History” for the week, 10th to the 16th July:
July 11 2005
Queen Mary 2 carries the first U.S. signed copy of J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince”, from Southampton to New York.
July 13 1904
Caronia (sister ship to the Carmania) is launched and together they are known as “The Pretty sisters” The funnel colours are changed from 1/5th black to 1/4 black. She was the only ship to be named after an American – Caro Brown whose grandfather was Cunard’s New York agent at the turn of the century
July 14 1997
QE2 makes her maiden call at Dun Loaghaire, Ireland
July 15 1951
Caronia II makes her maiden call to Trondheim
So back to events in Monfalcone and after part one on Monday, we are now at the point where the actual ceremony began. The keel laying itself involves the placement in the dry dock of the first section of the ship’s hull. This section is made up of six pre-manufactured blocks and weighs a staggering 364 tons. This is a view looking forward from what will be the amidships section of the new liner’s hull, with the block suspended from a massive crane, ready to be lowered on to the supports below.
And this is a view looking aft where you can see the block from a different angle with the huge workshops in the background, which are busy building the next sections of the ship’s superstructure.
At 3.00pm, with everything in place and the media ready to record the event, Fincantieri’s Shipyard Director Paolo Capobianco, welcomed everyone and said “Building a new liner for Cunard is a special achievement for Fincantieri and takes us right to our roots, fostering both our determination to build once again a passenger ship of high technological content and unmistakable style, reflecting the best of the industry and tailored to the needs and requirements of the ship owner”.
Cunard’s President and Managing Director, Carol Marlow replied by saying; “We are delighted to be back here among our friends at Fincantieri so soon after we took delivery of Queen Victoria in 2007, the first Cunarder to be built in Italy. I am sure that Queen Elizabeth will be just as popular and successful as her two sisters. We at Cunard are always impressed by the commitment and enthusiasm of everyone at Fincantieri, and we look forward to the next year-and-a half of working closely with them on this ship, which will be nurtured by their skill and vision and built into a vessel equal in stature to the other great Cunard liners”.
In fact Carol impressed everyone, by delivering part of her speech in excellent Italian, much to the delight of our hosts. Before the block was lowered the shipyard’s chaplain Padre Gildo was invited to say a prayer to bless the successful construction of our new Queen.
Then it was time for Carol Marlow to push the big red button and start the lowering of the first block.
With that, the block lowered quite quickly in to place under the careful guidance of the crane operator and ship yard engineers in the dry dock itself, and you could just hear the sound as the block came to rest on the supports below which would hold it in place until the other sections are added and she finally meets water in less than 6 months time.
Although at first glances it looks like a snug fit, you may notice that there is actually quite a bit of space either side of the block, and that’s because the dry dock is designed to be able to accommodate wider ships. Despite Queen Elizabeth being Cunard’s second biggest liner ever built at 90,400 tons, (just a little larger than Queen Victoria), she will be able to fit in to the massive locks of the Panama Canal, unlike some of the ships that have been constructed in this dock.
With the ceremony complete, work could begin in the dry dock, marked with a toast, and here Paolo Capobianco celebrates with Carol Marlow with a glass of Prosecco.
You’ll have no doubt noticed that there appears to be some equipment already in the block. This is a normal part of the building process where the ship is literally built around some of the more substantial pieces of machinery. In fact within this first block there are an amazing 104 tons of pipes, cables, insulation and other equipment, some of which can be seen with this closer look at the inside of the block.
The next stage is to release the cables and then cut off the hooks that were welded to the metal to hold the cables carefully in place. And then it’ll be time to bring lighting and other equipment in to the block to continue work and prepare for the next block which will be lowered in just a few days. This view is looking forward with the block in place and a great view of more equipment in place.
I hope to go back again soon, where I know the progress will be very impressive. Over the coming months I’m also going to interview some of the people involved in the new build process such, engineers and interior designers. Many of you have also being asking about who the senior officers will be on Queen Elizabeth and I’m afraid we will have to wait a little longer for that news, but rest assured you’ll be the first to know!
I was hoping to bring you some video of the keel laying ceremony in this Blog, but that will now be posted on Monday along with the transcript of the blessing from Padre Gildo. In the meantime thanks again for logging on and please do keep those questions and comments coming in. Cheers Alastair