Transatlantic crossing

Transatlantic crossings are passages of passengers and cargo across the Atlantic Ocean between Europe or Africa and the Americas. The majority of passenger traffic is across the North Atlantic between Western Europe and North America. Centuries after the dwindling of sporadic Viking trade with Markland, a regular and lasting transatlantic trade route was established in 1566 with the Spanish West Indies fleets, following the Voyages of Christopher Columbus.

By sea

Prior to the 19th century, transatlantic crossings were undertaken in sailing ships, and the journeys were time consuming and often perilous. The first trade route across the Atlantic was inaugurated by Spain a few decades after the European Discovery of the Americas, with the establishment of the West Indies fleets in 1566, a convoy system that regularly linked its territories in the Americas with Spain for over two centuries. Portugal created a similar maritime route between its ports in Brazil and the Portuguese mainland. Other colonial powers followed, such as Britain, France and the Netherlands, as they colonized the New World.

Transatlantic crossings became faster, safer, and more reliable with the advent of steamships in the 19th century. Grand ocean liners began making regularly scheduled crossings, and soon it became a symbol of national and company status to build the largest, fastest, and most luxurious ocean liner for transatlantic crossings. The United States, United Kingdom, France, Germany and Italy built the most famous ocean liners. Examples of some famous transatlantic liners are RMS Titanic (had only made one voyage that was unsuccessful due to striking an iceberg), RMS Lusitania, RMS Mauretania, RMS Olympic, SS Rex, SS America, SS United States, RMS Queen Mary, SS Île de France, SS Normandie, RMS Queen Elizabeth, SS France, Queen Elizabeth 2, and RMS Queen Mary 2.

The Blue Riband is awarded for the record fastest crossing by transatlantic liner. The current eastbound record was set by the American ocean liner United States in July 1952: the ship made the crossing in 3 days, 10 hours, 40 minutes. Guinness Book of World Records has awarded world records to various classes such as luxury liners, sail boats, and rowing boats. Because of the shape of the continents and the assistance (or resistance) of ocean currents, the Eastbound crossing is quicker than the Westbound crossing.

During World War II the transatlantic crossing was very important for the United Kingdom as much of Europe had been taken over by Germany and its allies preventing trade and supplies; the struggle is known as the Battle of the Atlantic.

Crossings in small vessels


In 1952, Alain Bombard crossed the Atlantic from East to West, spending 113 days adrift in a Zodiac, L'Hérétique.[1]


In 1956, Henri Beaudout crossed the Atlantic from West to East, from Halifax to Falmouth, on a raft of wood and rope, L’Égaré II, in 88 days.[2]

In 1988, the junk raft, Son of Town Hall, crossed the North Atlantic Ocean.[3]

In 2011, Anthony Smith and the Antiki crossed the Atlantic.[4]

Rowing and paddling

On June 13, 2003, the French rower Maud Fontenoy started an eastward crossing of the Atlantic from Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon. She reached A Coruña in Spain on October 10, becoming the first woman to accomplish this feat.[5]

On October 26, 2010, the Polish sexagenarian Aleksander Doba was the first recorded individual to complete a non-stop transatlantic crossing by kayak. He departed Dakar, Senegal and arrived in Brazil 99 days later.[6]

In 1997, the first East–West Atlantic Rowing Race took place, running from the Canary Islands to the Caribbean. It now runs once every two years or so.

In 2006, the first West–East North Atlantic Rowing Race took place, running from New York City to Falmouth, Cornwall in the UK.

Transatlantic flights

Transatlantic flight surpassed ocean liners as the predominant mode of crossing the Atlantic in the mid 20th century. In 1919, the American NC-4 became the first airplane to cross the Atlantic (but in multiple stages). Later that year, a British Vickers Vimy piloted by Alcock and Brown made the first non-stop transatlantic flight from Newfoundland to Ireland. Also in 1919, the British were the first to cross the Atlantic in an airship when the R34 captained by Major George Herbert Scott of the Royal Air Force with his crew and passengers flew from East Fortune, Scotland to Mineola, Long Island, covering a distance of about 3,000 statute miles (4,800 km) in about four and a half days; he then made a return trip to England, thus also completing the first double crossing of the Atlantic (east–west–east). In 1927, Charles Lindbergh made the first solo non-stop transatlantic flight in an airplane (between New York City and Paris). The second solo piloting, and the first to carry a passenger, was Clarence Duncan Chamberlin on June 6, 1927. Edward R. Armstrong proposed a string of anchored "seadromes" to refuel planes in a crossing.

The first serious attempt to take a share of the transatlantic passenger market away from the ocean liners was undertaken by Germany. In the 1930s, Germany crossed the Atlantic with Zeppelins that could carry about 60 passengers in a similar luxurious style to the ocean liners. However, the Hindenburg disaster in 1937 put an end to transatlantic Zeppelin flights.

On June 1, 1944, two K-class blimps from Blimp Squadron ZP-14[7] of the United States Navy (USN) completed the first transatlantic crossing by non-rigid airships. The two K-ships (K-123 and K-130) left South Weymouth, MA on May 28, 1944 and flew approximately 16 hours to Naval Station Argentia, Newfoundland. From Argentia, the blimps flew approximately 22 hours to Lajes Field on Terceira Island in the Azores. The final leg of the first transatlantic crossing was about a 20-hour flight from the Azores to Craw Field in Port Lyautey (Kenitra), French Morocco.[8][9]

Beginning in the 1950s, the predominance of ocean liners began to wane when larger, jet-powered airplanes began carrying passengers across the ocean in less and less time. The speed of crossing the ocean therefore became more important than the style of crossing it. The maturing passenger Jet Age starting with the Boeing 707 reduced the typical crossing time between London and New York City to between 6.5 and 8 hours, depending on weather conditions. By the 1970s, supersonic Concorde airplanes could connect the two cities in less than 4 hours, and only one ocean liner, Queen Elizabeth 2 remained on the transatlantic route for those who favored the slower style of travel.

The economics of commercial transatlantic flying have evolved markedly since the 1950s; the introduction of widebody airliners (such as the Boeing 747 and Douglas DC-10) in the early 1970s made affordable transatlantic travel to the masses a reality. Since the 1990s, the high reliability of modern jet engines has meant that twin engine jet aircraft such as the Boeing 767, Boeing 777 and Airbus A330 have largely taken over on transatlantic routes from quad-engine jets, whilst the supersonic Concorde was ultimately doomed by its high running costs, leading to its retirement in 2003.

Transatlantic cables

Transatlantic cables are cables that have been laid along the ocean floor to connect North America and Europe. Before the advent of radio, the only means of communication across the Atlantic Ocean was to physically connect the continents with a transatlantic telegraph cable, the first of which was installed from Valentia, Ireland to Heart's Content, Newfoundland in 1858. The first transatlantic telephone cable, TAT-1, was installed in 1955. The first transatlantic fiber optic cable, TAT-8, was installed in 1988. The exchange rate between the United States dollar and British pound is still colloquially known as "cable" by financial marketeers, from the early use of the transatlantic cable for this purpose.

Transatlantic radio

Transatlantic radio communication was first accomplished on December 12, 1901 by Guglielmo Marconi who, using a temporary receiving station at Signal Hill, Newfoundland, received a Morse code signal representing the letter "S" sent from Poldhu, in Cornwall, United Kingdom.[10] Guglielmo Marconi initiated commercial transatlantic radio communications between his high power long wave wireless telegraphy stations in Clifden Ireland and Glace Bay, Nova Scotia on 17 October 1907.

Amateur radio operators are usually credited with the discovery of transatlantic radio communication in the shortwave bands. The first successful transatlantic tests were conducted by radio amateurs in December 1921 operating in the 200 meter medium-wave band, the shortest wavelength then available to amateurs. In 1922 hundreds of North American amateurs were heard in Europe at 200 meters and at least 20 North American amateurs heard amateur signals from Europe. The first two way transatlantic shortwave radio contacts were completed by radio amateurs in November 1923, on 110 meters.

Marconi initiated the first commercial shortwave transatlantic radio communication between the UK to Canada using his Beam Wireless Service which went into commercial operation on 25 October 1926. Shortwave radio vastly increased the speed and capacity of transatlantic communications at dramatically reduced cost compared to telegraph cable and long wave radio.

Telstar was the first communications satellite to provide commercial transatlantic communications. It was launched by on July 10, 1962, the first privately sponsored space launch. Communications satellites vastly increased the speed and quality of transatlantic communication, but transatlantic fiber optic cables have carried the vast majority of transatlantic communications traffic since the early 1990s.

Transatlantic tunnel

A Transatlantic Tunnel is a theoretical structure proposed several times since the late 19th century. It would be a tunnel that spans the Atlantic Ocean between New York City and the United Kingdom or France.

See also


  1. ^ Bombard, Alain (1953). The Voyage of the Heretique. Simon and Schuster.
  2. ^ Wadden, Marie (3 August 2012). "Three Canadians, two kittens, one raft: A little-known journey across the Atlantic". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 19 May 2014.
  3. ^ "Son of Town Hall, First Raft made of Scrap to Cross the North Atlantic Ocean". The Floating Neutrinos. May 30, 2006. Retrieved Sep 30, 2010.
  4. ^ "Across the Atlantic - in a garden shed". Retrieved Mar 2, 2015.
  5. ^ "Ses-traversees-et-son-tour-du-monde". Fontenroy Foundation.
  6. ^ "64-Year-Old Kayaker Completes Trans-Atlantic Voyage". Wired. February 10, 2011. Retrieved July 2, 2012.
  7. ^ "Blimp Squadron 14".
  8. ^ Kline, R. C. and Kubarych, S. J., Blimpron 14 Overseas, 1944, Naval Historical Center, Navy Yard, Washington, D. C.
  9. ^
  10. ^ "Milestones:Transmission of Transatlantic Radio Signals, 1901". IEEE Global History Network. IEEE. Retrieved 29 July 2011.

Further reading

  • Fowler Jr., William M. Steam Titans: Cunard, Collins, and the Epic Battle for Commerce on the North Atlantic (London: Bloomsbury), 2017. 358 pp

External links

1838 in the United Kingdom

Events from the year 1838 in the United Kingdom.

Aero A.35

The Aero A.35 was a Czechoslovakian airliner of the 1920s and 1930s. Designed by Aero for long-range flight, with a transatlantic crossing in mind, it saw service with CSA although no such crossing was ever attempted. A conventional high-wing monoplane, it was a very modern design for its day in all but one respect – the cockpit still had open sides. An extra passenger could also be accommodated here, beside the pilot.

Ben Carlin

Frederick Benjamin "Ben" Carlin (27 July 1912 – 7 March 1981) was an Australian adventurer who was the first and only person to circumnavigate the world in an amphibious vehicle. Born in Northam, Western Australia, Carlin attended Guildford Grammar School in Perth, and later studied mining engineering at the Kalgoorlie School of Mines. After qualifying as an engineer, he worked on the Goldfields before in 1939 emigrating to China to work in a British coal mine. In the Second World War, Carlin was posted to the Indian Army Corps of Engineers, serving in India, Italy, and throughout the Middle East. After his discharge from service in 1946, he emigrated to the United States with his American wife, Elinore (née Arone).

Sparked by an idea he had had whilst in the military, Carlin proposed that the couple honeymoon by crossing the Atlantic Ocean in a modified Ford GPA (an amphibious version of the Ford GPW Jeep), which they named the Half-Safe. Beginning their trip in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, the Carlins finally completed the transatlantic crossing in 1951, after unsuccessful attempts. From there, they travelled to Europe, temporarily settling in Birmingham to raise more money. They resumed their journey in 1954, travelling overland through the Middle East before arriving in Calcutta. After a short fundraising trip to Australia, Carlin's wife left to return to the United States. He resumed the journey with new partners, travelling through South-East Asia and the Far East to the northern tip of Japan, and then to Alaska. After an extended tour through the United States and Canada, he and Half-Safe finally returned to Montreal, having travelled over 17,000 kilometres (11,000 mi) by sea and 62,000 kilometres (39,000 mi) by land during a ten-year journey. Following Carlin's death in 1981, Half-Safe was acquired by Guildford Grammar, his old school, where it remains on display.

Bernard 18

The Bernard 18 was a prototype airliner developed in France in the 1920s. One of the two prototypes built was used in an abortive transatlantic crossing attempt and a number of failed attempts for aerial records.

Black turkey

The Black, sometimes referred to as the Black Spanish or the Norfolk Black, is a breed of domestic turkey. The Black was developed in Europe from the Aztec turkeys originally brought from Mexico by Spanish explorers. Despite the monikers of “Spanish and “Norfolk” (England), birds of this type live in many European nations. Originally, black colored turkeys were a relative rarity among New World flocks, but Europeans heavily selected for this trait until it became predominant.

The "Norfolk Black" is generally considered the oldest turkey breed in the UK

Black turkeys were sent in the holds of ships on the transatlantic crossing from Europe to the New World, and were raised by early colonists. Ironically, it is likely that the turkey consumed at the first Thanksgiving meal may have actually been from European birds, rather than wild turkeys native to the continent, though these descended from same bird.Later, Blacks were crossed with the wild turkey to help produce breeds such as the Bronze, Narragansett, and Slate. They remained a commercially farmed variety in the U.S. until the early 20th century, but fell out of favor after the development of the Broad Breasted Bronze and Broad Breasted White. Fairly common in Europe, they are considered an endangered variety of heritage turkey today by the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy, and are also included in Slow Food USA's Ark of Taste, a catalog of heritage foods in danger of extinction.

Blue Riband (disambiguation)

The Blue Riband is an accolade given to the passenger ship that held the fastest record for transatlantic crossing.

Blue Riband may also refer to:

Blue Riband (biscuits), chocolate biscuits made by Nestlé

Blue Riband gin, an Indian gin made by United Spirits Limited

Felicity Ann

Felicity Ann is the 23-foot (7.0 m) wooden sloop sailed in 1952–1953 by Ann Davison in the first singlehanded transatlantic crossing by a woman. The vessel was designed and built by Mashfords Brothers Ltd at the Cremyll Shipyard in Cornwall, England.

When construction commenced in 1939 the boat was originally built under the name Peter Piper, but, delayed by World War II, it was launched in 1949 as Felicity Ann. It was purchased by Ann Davison in 1952, using funds from her book detailing the sailing misadventure that resulted in her husband's death, Last Voyage. In 1956 her story of the 254-day transatlantic crossing in Felicity Ann was published as My Ship is So Small.

In 2007 Felicity Ann was in private possession in Haines, Alaska, and it underwent some restoration. Felicity Ann left Alaska in 2009 and is now in the hands of the Northwest School of Wooden Boatbuilding at Port Hadlock, Washington, where she was restored and launched in May 2018.

Harold Hales

Sir Harold Keates Hales MP (22 April 1868 - November 1942) was an eccentric British shipping magnate, politician and founder of the Hales Trophy for the Blue Riband award for the ship with the record for the fastest transatlantic crossing. He claimed to be the inspiration for the title character of Arnold Bennett's The Card. He was the sole proprietor of Hales Brothers, an export and import shipping line.

He was born in Manchester in 1868. Hales worked in the pottery and china business in the Stoke-on-Trent area, founding "Hales Brothers", an export and import shipping line, of which he was the sole proprietor.

He first owned a car in 1897, and later bragged that he had never blown his horn, and tried to make it illegal for anyone else to blow theirs. He flew an airship around St. Paul's Cathedral in 1908. In 1910, he was one of the first people to survive an airplane crash.

After serving in Turkey during World War I, he travelled the world promoting British industry.

He was Conservative MP for Hanley from 1931–1935. He enlivened a House of Commons debate on the herring industry by gesturing with a dead herring as he argued.

In 1935, he inaugurated the "Hales Trophy" for the Blue Riband award for the ship with the record for the fastest transatlantic crossing. It was commissioned in 1933 and designed by Charles Holliday, designer for the firm of James Dixon and Sons, silversmiths of Cornish Place Sheffield. Hales gave the firm very specific instructions of what to include in the design so the completed piece as described below was made to fulfil those criteria. The Hales Trophy is almost four feet tall, weighing nearly 100 pounds, made of solid silver, onyx and heavy gilt, showing Victory, Neptune and Amphitrite upholding a globe and topped by a figure called Speed urging a liner into the face of a figure called The Force of the Atlantic. An enamelled blue ribbon surrounds the middle of the prize, and there are memorials to past record-holders, with Harold Hales's name at the base.

He died in 1942 aged 74, accidentally drowning in the Thames, near Shepperton.

His only son, Ormonde Keates Hales (1915–1979) was a businessman and archaeologist.

Hugo Vihlen

Hugo Vihlen (born November 13, 1931) is a single-handed sailor who set world records by crossing the Atlantic Ocean in two tiny sailboats in 1968 and 1993.

Hypnotized (1932 film)

Hypnotized is a 1932 American comedy film directed by Mack Sennett. The film presents various comic plotlines about a group of circus performers on a transatlantic crossing. The plots include a prize ticket winner being hoodwinked by a crooked hypnotist and his attempts to recover the winning ticket.

Lloyd W. Bertaud

Lloyd Wilson Bertaud (September 20, 1895 – September 6, 1927) was an American aviator. Bertaud was selected to be the copilot in the WB-2 Columbia attempting the transatlantic crossing for the Orteig Prize in 1927. Aircraft owner Charles Albert Levine wanted to fly in his place, and an injunction by Bertaud against Levine prevented the flight. The prize was won by the aviator Charles Lindbergh.

MS Rotterdam

MS Rotterdam is the lead cruise ship of the Rotterdam class (R class) in the Holland America Line. Built in Italy in 1997, she is the sixth Holland America vessel to bear the name. She is named for SS Rotterdam of 1959, and also named after the city of Rotterdam, Netherlands. MS Rotterdam and her sister ship MS Amsterdam are loosely based on the original ship. Amsterdam and Rotterdam were co-flagships of Holland America Line (HAL).

Rotterdam carries an art collection onboard worth over US$2 million and features fine art and antiques.

During the summer of 2011, Rotterdam conducted Holland America Line's first standalone transatlantic crossing since 1971, making a single trip both eastbound and westbound. In the Fall of 2014, Rotterdam sailed around South Africa for 88 days. From Nov. 12 to Dec. 20, 2014, the last segment of the cruise went from Cape Town, South Africa to Southampton, England. The ports of call were: Cape Town, Lüderitz and Walvis Bay in Namibia, Luanda in Angola, two islands in Cape Verde, three islands in the Canary Islands, Agadir, Casablanca and Tangier in Morocco, then on to Cádiz and Vigo in Spain, and Lisbon, Portugal.Rotterdam sails around Europe during the summer and South America in the winter. Commencing in 2012, she was based year-round in Rotterdam, Netherlands. Holland America said it wanted to reconnect with its roots there.

PS Accommodation

The Canadian paddlewheeler Accommodation was the first successful steamboat built entirely in North America.Financed by brewer John Molson, she was constructed by John Jackson and John Bruce in Montréal in 1809, using engines built in Forges du Saint-Maurice, Trois-Rivières (long known for ironmongery). At a cost of ₤2000 she had two open-faced paddle wheels and an optional sail.Her maiden voyage was a thirty-six-hour run from Montréal to Québec City on November 3, 1809.She was not a commercial success; by 1810, Molson had lost ₤4000 on her, and she was broken up for scrap. She nevertheless pioneered steam packets on the St. Lawrence River and Great Lakes; by 1819, there were seven in regular service on the river, while the lakes featured Frontenac on Lake Ontario, General Stacey Smyth on the Saint John River, and Royal William (famous for making the first transatlantic crossing under steam in 1831) on the Québec City-Halifax run.

Rolls-Royce Avon

The Rolls-Royce Avon was the first axial flow jet engine designed and produced by Rolls-Royce. Introduced in 1950, the engine went on to become one of their most successful post-World War II engine designs. It was used in a wide variety of aircraft, both military and civilian, as well as versions for stationary and maritime power.

An English Electric Canberra powered by two Avons made the first un-refuelled non-stop transatlantic flight by a jet, and a BOAC de Havilland Comet 4 powered by four Avons made the first scheduled transatlantic crossing by a jet airliner.

Production of the Avon aero engine version ended after 24 years in 1974. Production of the derived Avon industrial version, currently produced by Siemens, continues to this day.

The current version of the Avon, the Avon 200, is an industrial gas generator that is rated at 21–22,000 shp. As of 2011, 1,200 Industrial Avons have been sold, and the type has established a 60,000,000 hour record for its class.

Ryan Foursome

The Ryan C-1 Foursome, also known as the "Baby Brougham" was a single-engine, four-seat light aircraft built in the United States in 1930 as an executive transport. It was a high-wing, braced monoplane based on Ryan's highly successful Brougham design, but substantially smaller. The interior was luxuriously furnished, with deeply upholstered seats, and an oversize cabin door was fitted to ease boarding and disembarking for the three passengers.

Only three examples were built before deteriorating economic conditions led to the sale of the Ryan factory in October 1930. One of the three machines was fitted with a Packard DR-980 diesel engine and designated the C-2. This latter aircraft was lost during an attempted transatlantic crossing by Alex Loeb and Richard Decker in August 1939. They were en route to Ireland with Palestine perhaps their intended final destination.

SS Black Osprey

SS Black Osprey was a cargo ship for the American Diamond Lines and the British Cairn Line. She was formerly known as SS West Arrow when she was launched for the United States Shipping Board (USSB) during World War I. The ship was inspected by the United States Navy for possible use as USS West Arrow (ID-2585) but was neither taken into the Navy nor ever commissioned under that name.

West Arrow was built in 1918 for the USSB, as a part of the West boats, a series of steel-hulled cargo ships built on the West Coast of the United States for the World War I war effort. Information about her early career is largely absent, but by the 1920s, news reports revealed that the ship was sailing on the North Atlantic. By the mid-1920s, West Arrow was sailing for American Diamond on their cargo service to Rotterdam and Antwerp. In 1935, American Diamond changed the ship's name to Black Osprey and the ship continued in Rotterdam service.

After the outbreak of World War II, Black Osprey, still under the registry of the still-neutral United States, was detained twice by British authorities, before the U.S.-established "Neutrality Zone" ended Black Osprey's Dutch service in late 1939. Sailing under charter to the Isthmian Line in 1940, Black Osprey called at various ports in the Pacific Ocean. American Diamond sold Black Osprey to the British Ministry of War Transport in late 1940. During the ship's first transatlantic crossing under the British flag, she was sunk by German submarine U-96 on 18 February 1941, with the loss of 25 men. The 11 survivors were picked up by a Norwegian ship and landed in at Barry.

SS Saale

SS Saale was an ocean liner for North German Lloyd in the late 19th century, which was severely damaged in the 1900 Hoboken Docks Fire. On 30 June 1900, Saale was moored at the North German Lloyd piers in Hoboken, New Jersey, preparing to depart on a transatlantic crossing when some cotton on a nearby pier caught on fire and spread to the ship. Saale and several other ships were soon engulfed in flames; 99 passengers and crew on Saale were killed in the fire and subsequent sinking.

The ship was raised, sold, rebuilt, re-engined, and renamed SS J. L. Luckenbach in 1901–02. The ship served as a cargo ship for the Luckenbach Line. In October 1917, during World War I, the Luckenbach came under attack by German submarine U-62, which damaged the ship and set her cargo of cotton on fire. but the ship was able to eventually make port in France. The ship was renamed SS Princess in 1922 and SS Madison in 1923. She was broken up at Genoa in June 1924.

Son of Town Hall

Son of Town Hall was a junk raft which made a Transatlantic crossing in 1998, built by Poppa Neutrino.

Writer Alec Wilkinson gave a vivid description of Son of Town Hall in his book The Happiest Man in the World, saying: "The raft looked like a specter, a ghost ship, as if made from rags and rope and lumber, a vessel from the end of the world, or something medieval, a flagship of nothingness, the Armada of the Kingdom of Oblivion."


TAT-8 was the 8th transatlantic communications cable and first transatlantic fiber-optic cable, carrying 280Mbits (40,000 telephone circuits) between the United States, Great Britain and France. It was constructed in 1988 by a consortium of companies led by AT&T Corporation, France Télécom, and British Telecom. AT&T Bell Laboratories developed the technologies used in the cable. It was able to serve the three countries with a single transatlantic crossing with the use of an innovative branching unit located underwater on the continental shelf off the coast of Great Britain. The cable lands in Tuckerton, New Jersey, USA, Widemouth Bay, England, UK, and Penmarch, France.

The system was built at a cost of US$335 million in 1988 and was retired from service in 2002.

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