Ten years ago during a visit to Philadelphia, I passed a large ship docked at a pier on the Delaware River. The ship looked like an ocean liner and though I sped by in a car, I noticed the faded name "United States" on the bow. I wondered, could it be the same revolutionary passenger liner that still holds an Atlantic speed record a half a century after its speedy voyage? As it turns out, it was.
The SS United States has been moored in Philadelphia since 1994, but now it appears that its days could finally be numbered. The Philadelphia Inquirer reported today that the ship's owner, Norwegian Cruise Lines, is seeking to sell the United States for scrap. Norwegian bought the liner in 2003 with the intention of refurbishing and returning it to service in Hawaii as part of NCL America. But as the Hawaii cruise market began to lose money, NCL kept the ship in Pennsylvania.
If the United States ends up in the scrap yard, it will be a sad end to a short, but spectacular, career. When the liner was launched in 1952, it was a technological breakthrough of its time. Thanks to a sharp-edged stern, a bulbous prow, powerful engines, and unique propellers--the design of which was kept secret for many years--the United States was very fast. Its top speed was 43 knots (49.5 miles per hour), but even its typical voyage speed of 34 knots (39.1 miles per hour) was enough to win it attention. … Read more