She was launched in 1940 as the SS America. At the time, she was the world’s fastest ocean liner.
But the second world war had broken out. By December 1941, the US joined the war effort explicitly as a result of the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbour in Hawaii. The SS America was converted to a troop carrier.
After the war, she returned to the Atlantic route, with speed; and society; and glamour.
In 1964, she was sold to a Greek shipping company and spent the next 15 years circling the world: England to Australia and back to England. This was an emigrant’s route, not a cruise route. If the Suez Canal was open the route was Southampton, Crete, Port Said, Djibouti, Fremantle, Melbourne, Sydney on the way out. Then Auckland, Panama, Florida Keys, Southampton on the return. Under the ownership of the Greek shipper Chandris Lines, the ship was renamed the SS Australis.
Here she is at Crete, February 1976. I was on that southern outbound trip. Crete was the first stop out of Southampton.
Eventually, she would arrive at Station Pier, Melbourne.
Before the final outward bound stopover in Sydney.
The emigration route came to a natural end in the late 1970s. By this time, the ship was 40 years old. She deteriorated under various subsequent owners. Plans amounted to nothing. She had spent years at dock in Italy before being sold again to a venture that was to turn her into a floating hotel in Thailand. She never made it.
SS America was to be towed from Italy to Thailand, via the Atlantic in 1993. A storm off the Canary Islands intervened.
And there she remained.
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