I admit to a degree of preoccupation with the unpronounceable Icelandic volcano that has been spewing its ash all over European airspace, primarily because I'm planning a trip to Ireland this summer. That said, I was struck as I contemplated the alternatives to transatlantic flight--namely, ocean-going liners--by the fact that before the jet age, people took DAYS to cross the Atlantic! Granted, if you were an immigrant traveling in steerage class this would be a dubious honor, but for those lucky ones who were traveling with some degree of comfort and in relatively calm seas, you would be FORCED to enjoy day after day of leisure time! No satellite communications! No Internet access! Only a bit of telegraphy between you and the shores on either side!
Leaving aside the myriad advantages of airline travel (democratization of opportunity, ease of access, speed), the idea of several days' enforced leisure time sounds verrrry nice. Funny how we've spent centuries eagerly accelerating the speed of human life, only to long for the days when we had time to catch our mental, physical and spiritual breath.
In homage to the halcyon days of the ocean liner, a few fun facts about the Queen Mary, launched in 1934 and retired in 1967:
* overall length: 1,019.5 ft.
* passenger capacity: 1,957
* officers and crew: 1,174
* number of portholes: over 2,000
* weight of each anchor (there were 2): 16 tons
* height of each anchor: 18 feet
* weight of anchor chain: 45 tons
* weight of a single 2-foot link (can you tell I'm fascinated?): 224 pounds
* fuel consumption: 13 ft./gal. (!)
* crossing time on maiden voyage: 5 days, 5 hours and 13 minutes
* all-time greatest number of individuals on an ocean-going vessel (a 1943 transatlantic crossing while in wartime military service): 15,740 troops, 943 crew
Sources: http://www.queenmary.com/index.php?page=queenmarystats; http://www.queenmary.com/index.php?page=1936; http://www.queenmary.com/index.php?page=1943 (photo)