Plan of the 'Great Eastern' steamship engines, c 1853.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
This famous steamship, designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel (1806-1859) for the Eastern Steam Navigation Company, was the largest vessel afloat until she was broken up in 1888. Built of iron at Millwall (London) in 1853-1858, she was 692 feet long, and had accommodation for 4000 passengers. Limitations of contemporary technology necessitated the employment of both paddle-wheels and a screw propeller. Originally designed with the passenger trade to Australia and the Far East in mind, the Great Eastern made her maiden voyage, across the Atlantic, in 1860. She was not a commercial success as a liner, but between 1865 and 1873, did valuable work laying submarine cables, including the first transatlantic telegraph link.