Sunday, June 19, 2011

Size Matters - Comparison of Naval and Commercial Ships in the 20th Century

A friend and I were talking recently and he made an observation about how large and impressive battleships and aircraft carriers were. I thought about that for a while and, although I admit battleships and carriers are very impressive ships, during the course of the 20th Century they have generally not been as large as contemporary merchant ships. Therefore I've trotted out a few models to help me prove my point. From the foreground of the picture is the HMS Tiger, a battle cruiser of 35,710 tons full load and a length of 704', built in 1914. As a comparison I present the RMS Titanic which, along with her two sister ships, was the largest ship afloat when she was built in 1912 at 52,310 tons and a length of nearly 883'. Next up is the giant Japanese super battleship Yamato, completed in December 1941 and weighing in at 69,990 tons full load and nearly 863' long she was the largest battleship ever built. But she did not measure up to the RMS Queen Mary, completed in 1936, with a displacement of 81,961 tons and a length of almost 1,120'. Next up is the mighty USS Enterprise, which was completed in 1961 and in 1969 was referred to as "The largest moving structure ever built by man....." It was 83,300 tons full load, 1,123' long and the hull was 133' wide. But Enterprise would not retain that largest distinction very long because in 1967, during the 6-Day War, the Suez Canal had been closed and would not be reopened until 1975. Oil companies realized they would be better off building really big tankers so they could carry more crude from the Persian Gulf to refiners around the world. That resulted in a big tanker building boom that produced ships like the Esso Atlantic at the front of the ship models. The Esso Atlantic and Pacific, completed in 1977, weighed in at a whopping 590,308 tons, with a length of 1,333' (by comparison The Empire State Building is 1,250' high), a beam of 233' and a draft of 82' - almost like the iceberg that sank the Titanic there's more of it below the water than there is above. Enterprise by comparison only has a draft of about 37'. Many of the really large tankers have been retired but now the newer cruise liners like the Oasis of the Seas and it's sister ship Allure of the Seas, completed in 2009 and 2010, respectively, (of which, unfortunately, I do not have models) are about 225,282 tons and 1,187'. They are thus carrying on a tradition of really large liners plying the oceans of the world. Larger even than any contemporary warships.


  1. The large 1930s liners in my (mostly warships) collection always get comments when people see them. I also particularly like to trot them out alongside Olympic when the Titanic fans of my acquaintance get going.

  2. I like the liners as well. Viking Forge has recently added a USS West Point/SS America to their line. I have done eight versions of the liner in different configurations during her career, which I hope to feature (somewhere) soon. I seem to be out of bandwidth here.