On July 7, 1952 - during her first Atlantic crossing, the SS United States crossed the finish line in the great race for the fastest Atlantic crossing ever. To this day, no other liner has ever come close to her speed record in that maiden crossing- nor is it likely that any ever will.
Bigger than the Titanic, the SS United States was 990 feet of steel with 2000 passengers and a crew of a 1000. She averaged 35.59 knots in an incredible crossing of the Atlantic in 3 days, 10 hours and 40 minutes - setting the world record, both east and west across the Atlantic.
How fast is fast? Imagine a city zooming along the water at the speed of a Jet Ski. This amazing ocean liner could effortlessly cut through the always challenging North Atlantic at 37 miles per hour. And that speed was her normal merchant speed. If pressed, she could easily accelerate to 44 miles per hour or possibly faster. Not only was she fast, she was safe and strong and as some described it, could maneuver like a Chris-Craft.
Some have hinted that the Big U could make nearly 45 knots (that's over 50 mph)! Amazing speed for a vessel with 3,000 souls aboard. Even at 32 knots (her normal service speed) the power to drive this giant liner so is nearly impossible to comprehend. Perhaps she was the 50's version of a space shuttle. And if you were on board - oh, baby - what a ride!
She could travel 10,000 miles without stopping for fuel, water or supplies. Hungry? Her galleys could whip up no less than 9,000 meals each day. Thirsty? She could turn salt water into fresh water - enough to meet the daily needs of 14,000 people! She had the latest electronics, phones in every room, even microwave ovens in the galleys! She had air-conditioning through out. She could even produce enough electricity to meet the needs of a community of 10,000 people. All this, and she never had an interruption of service due to a mechanical breakdown. Never.
Return to the Future
Pictured Above: The United States in the Sea of Tranquility. Always aim for the stars!
Knowledge Builder: The SS United States hull plating is just shy of two inches thick and made of strong high tensile steel. It was built 15% thicker than normal ship hulls for extra strength. Survey by ultrasound is used to check the thickness of plates. Up to 25% erosion is allowed before repair is necessary. When extensively surveyed after 28 years of service, only a few small areas of the hull showed any erosion and it was less than 12%.