SS Great Britain, designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel, was the world’s first ocean liner. Launched in 1843 she was the largest ship in the world with the most powerful engines. She also employed the highly innovative screw propeller system, rather than the conventional paddle wheels. She sailed from Bristol, a major terminus on Brunel’s Great Western Railway across the Atlantic to the USA. However, this was short-lived and the costs of running the ship and of refloating her after she ran aground off Northern Island in 1846 caused the owners to reconsider the whole project. Unable to afford the costs of repair they sold her.
From 1852 she carried emigrants travelling from the UK to Australia, carrying 700 passengers per trip, and in 1881 was converted from Steam and Sail power to a Sail only ship and used as a cargo vessel, plying between Bristol and the west coast of the USA. In 1886, having been damaged as she rounded Cape Horn, she sought refuge in Stanley Harbour in the Falkland Islands. The ship’s owners decided that the cost of repairs were too high and so they sold her to the Falkland Islands Company to be used as a floating Warehouse and later a coal bunker. In 1937 she was suttled and sunk.
In 1970 a project financed by Sir Jack Arnold Hayward was started to raise the ship. Repairs were carried out to make her sea-worthy enough to be towed back to Bristol, where she was placed in dry-dock, the same one she had been built in, and restoration commenced.