20.06.

1819: Could the first transatlantic steamship rescue Napoleon from captivity?

1819: Could the first transatlantic steamship rescue Napoleon from captivity?
Photo Credit To Wikipedia Commons/Savannah

Story Highlights

  • Historical event
  • 20 June 1819
  • It is curious that no other American steamer has crossed the Atlantic in the next nearly 30 years. The interest in the ship was enormous. Some have speculated that the SS Savannah could be used to rescue Napoleon Bonaparte, who was at that time in British captivity on the island of St. Helena, in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.

On this day, back in 1819, a steamship crossed the Atlantic Ocean for the first time.

Of course, in those days, it was a great sensation, and is still interesting and unusual that, after this successful venture, no other American steamer has crossed the Atlantic in the next nearly 30 years.

The ship was named SS Savannah and had a hybrid drive – sails and steam engine – which was characteristic for the first steamboats.

Under normal conditions, SS Savannah was supposed to use sails in order to preserve fuel. Only in cases where there would be no wind should the ship employ the engine.

The dimensions of her steam engine were considerable. The cylinder was 1 meter in diameter with a 152 cm stroke. It produced about 90 horsepower. Due to the size of the engine and the boiler, the mainmast of the ship had to be positioned further astern than it was usual.

The ship was carrying as much as 75 tons of coal and 90 cubic meters of wood. The steam engine did not turn the propeller, but a paddlewheel nearly five meters in diameter.

SS Savannah was American made and she set sail from the United States in May 1819.

On this day, after 29 days and 11 hours of travel, she made anchor at the English city of Liverpool. The interest in the ship was enormous.

Some have speculated that the SS Savannah could be used to rescue Napoleon Bonaparte, who was at that time in British captivity on the island of St. Helena, in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.

Precisely at that time Napoleon’s brother Jerome Bonaparte supposedly offered a large reward to anyone who succeeds in rescuing the former emperor.

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