From The Neolithic To The Sea: A Journey From The Past To The Present
SS Great Britain
51°26′57.12″N 2°36′30.24″ W

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SS Great Britain is located in her birthplace, the dry dock in the Great Western Dockyard, Bristol.

The steam ship was launched in 1843, five years over due. Because of her extended construction and high cost, her owners were left in a difficult financial position, and they were forced out of business in 1846 after the ship was stranded by a navigational error.

The SS Great Britain was first used as a passenger ship and was very advanced for her time. She was the longest passenger ship in the world in 1845 and retained this distinction for 10 years.

The ship was designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel for the Great Western Steamship Company's transatlantic service, between Bristol and New York. While other ships had been built of iron or equipped with a screw propeller, the Great Britain was the first to combine these features in a large ocean-going ship. She was the first iron steamer to cross the Atlantic, taking 14 days, in 1845.

In 1846, the steam ship's captain made a series of navigational errors that resulted in her being run hard aground in Dundrum Bay, on the northeast coast of Ireland. She remained aground for almost a year, protected by temporary measures put in place by Brunel. In August 1847, she was floated free at a cost of £34,000 and taken back to Liverpool, but this expense exhausted the company's remaining reserves. After languishing at the North Dock for some time, she was sold to Gibbs, Bright & Co., former agents of the Great Western Steamship Company, for a mere £25,000.

She was refitted and went back into service on the New York run, but with only one round trip completed, she was sold again, to Antony Gibbs & Sons, who planned to place her into England-Australia service. Eventually she was converted to sail in 1881 and three years later, she was retired to the Falkland Islands where she was used as a warehouse, quarantine ship and coal hulk until scuttled in 1937.

In 1970, Great Britain was recovered and returned to the Bristol dry dock where she was built for restoration.