s.s. Southern Cross, built by Harland & Wolff in Belfast in 1955 for the Shaw, Savill and Albion Line, measured 184.5m and 20,200 tons. The twin screws were powered by steam turbines.
When the Southern Cross arrived at Melbourne on May 11, 1955, on her maiden voyage, she was the only passenger liner with her engines at the stern. She was also different in that no cargo except that of the passengers was carried, and all accommodation was ‘Tourist class’.
Almost all modern cruise ships now have their engines aft, but before 1955, and except for tankers and a few smaller vessels, ships had their engines placed about the mid-point of their length. Placing the engines at the stern made available all of the centre of the ship for accommodation and for public spaces. Anyone who has travelled aboard a cruise ship will be aware of the impressive open spaces that are placed in the centre of ships nowadays.
Built in Belfast and launched by Queen Elizabeth II in August 1954, Southern Cross was the first passenger liner to be launched by a reigning British monarch. Southern Cross was a beautiful ship. From her curved round bow to her cruiser stern, she presented a sleek, streamlined profile. Her hull was painted a light shade of grey, her superstructure was pale green and her funnel was dark-buff with a black top. On her arrival in Melbourne, The Argus described the new ship as “A Floating Dream Come True”.
The hundreds of sightseers who visited the ship during her 13-hour stay were impressed by the modern lightwood furnishings and panelling. Airconditioning was provided to all cabins and public spaces, which included a two-deck-high cinema, two large public lounges, two restaurants, a writing room/library and a smoking room. Wood panelling was widely used in the interior decorations, which were designed to be light, airy, and modern and also to be comfortable in oppressive tropical climates.
Until 1971, Southern Cross, which was extremely popular with passengers, made round-the-world passages from the UK via many ports, and most often on a westerly route. She was sold in 1973, converted into a cruise ship and for the following 30 years sailed under the names Calypso, Azure Seas and Ocean Breeze. She was scrapped in 2003.
BY MAURIE HUTCHINSON
President, Peninsula Ship Society