History Repeating?

In April 1875 Sir Henry Bessemer launched the Bessemer Saloon Ship, an experimental Victorian cross-channel passenger paddle steamer, intended to combat seasickness with a swinging cabin, a concept devised by the engineer and inventor that he patented in December 1869. The cabin was designed to pivot independently of the ship’s hull, suspended on a system of bearings and controlled by hydraulic mechanisms. This would theoretically allow the cabin to remain level even as the ship moved with the waves. The concept was akin to a gyroscope, maintaining orientation regardless of external motion, a brilliant innovative yet ultimately flawed attempt to change maritime travel.

By Creator:J. R. Brown (illustrator)Signed by a member of The Graphic staff – The Graphic, Public Domain

In May 1875, the SS Bessemer embarked on its maiden voyage across the English Channel from Dover to Calais, drawing considerable public and media attention due to its innovative design. Despite the high hopes and meticulous planning, the maiden voyage was fraught with difficulties. The swinging cabin, though theoretically sound, proved challenging to control in practice. The hydraulic system struggled to compensate for the rapid and unpredictable movements of the ship. Passengers reported feeling more disoriented and seasick by the cabin’s attempts to stabilize than by the ship’s natural motion.

Additionally, the weight and mechanical structure of the swinging cabin added significant strain to the ship’s hull. The constant adjustments required to keep the cabin level created additional stresses and potential points of failure. The ship’s crew also faced difficulties in managing and maintaining the complex system, further complicating operations. Finally the SS Bessemer ultimately failed to achieve its goal.

Beyond all doubt Bessemer’s invention is an excellent reminder of the importance of perseverance and the iterative nature of technological progress and remains an intriguing chapter in the history of maritime innovation, symbolizing both the potential and the pitfalls of pushing the boundaries of engineering. Looking at the shiplet’s first test runs the question may be raised: IS HISTORY REPEATING?

One of shiplet’s first test runs in June ’24. So good to have swimmies! 🙂