January 9

This Day in History

General Interest

Jan 9, 1972:

Queen Elizabeth destroyed by fire

In Hong Kong harbor, a fire breaks out aboard the Queen Elizabeth, and by the next morning the famous vessel lies in a wreck on the bottom of the sea floor.

The RMS Queen Elizabeth, boasting a 200,000-horsepower engine and an elegant art deco style, made its public debut in 1946, leaving Southampton, England, on its first luxurious run across the Atlantic. However, before her days as a lavish passenger liner, the Queen Elizabeth steamed across the ocean for another purpose--as a transport vehicle during World War II.

During the late 1930s, workers at a Scottish construction site began building a sea vessel for the Cunard Line ocean liner company that would be larger and more luxurious than anything the world had ever seen. However, the outbreak of World War II in 1939 prevented the completion of the Queen Elizabeth's finer points. The vessel was hastily made seaworthy for wartime service and was used as a transport vessel for the Allies, carrying massive amounts of supplies and several hundred thousand troops around the world until the war's end.

After her retirement from the Cunard Line in 1968, the Queen Elizabeth was auctioned off to the highest bidder, eventually being purchased in 1970 by C.W. Tung, a Taiwanese shipping tycoon. Tung renamed the vessel Seawise University and began work on converting the ship into a learning center that would tour the world. However, in early 1972, as the mobile university neared completion, a fire destroyed the pride of the Cunard Line.

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