SS Laurentic (1908)
SS Laurentic (1908)
|Owner:||White Star Line|
|Builder:||Harland and Wolff|
|Maiden voyage:||29 April 1909|
|Fate:||Struck two mines and sank, 25 January 1917|
|Tonnage:||14,892 Gross Register Tonnage|
|Length:||565 ft (172 m)|
|Beam:||67 ft 3 in (20.50 m)|
|Installed power:||Triple-expansion steam engines driving outboard propellers, with low-pressure turbine driving the centre propeller. Total 11,000 indicated horsepower.|
|Propulsion:||Triple propeller installation|
|Speed:||16 kn (30 km/h; 18 mph)|
|Capacity:||1st Class: 230; 2nd Class: 430; 3rd Class; 1,000|
The Dominion Line steamship company operated a successful passenger service on their Liverpool-Canada route in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Their ships had become outdated, so in 1907 two new liners were ordered from Harland and Wolff, the SS Alberta and SS Albany. However, during their construction they were transferred to the White Star Line and with them the White Star Line itself began the process of entering the Canadian passenger trade.
The Alberta was renamed the Laurentic and her sister Albany became the Megantic. At the time, the two were the largest ships yet built for Canadian service and they were used as a form of full-scale experiment to decide on the machinery for the White Star Line's future Olympic-class liners. The Megantic was built as a conventional twin-screw ship with conventional quadruple expansion engines, while the Laurentic, with the same hull and boiler power, was given an experimental configuration consisting of three screws: The two wing propellers were driven by triple expansion engines, while the third centre propeller was driven by a low pressure steam turbine, utilising the exhaust steam from the first two engines. This arrangement was found to produce significant improvements in efficiency and economy over the conventional engines of Megantic, and was chosen for use in the three Olympic-class liners 
Laurentic was launched in 1908 and entered service between Liverpool and Quebec City on 29 April 1909. She normally served on the Liverpool-Canada route, and gained notoriety in the capture of murderer Hawley Harvey Crippen, in which Chief Inspector Walter Dew of the Metropolitan Police used the Laurentic's speed to arrive in Canada before the fleeing suspect on the SS Montrose.
Being in Montréal when the Great War began, Laurentic was immediately commissioned as a troop transport for the Canadian Expeditionary Force. After conversion to armed merchant cruiser service in 1915, she struck two mines off Lough Swilly in the north of Ireland on 25 January 1917 and sank within an hour. Only 121 of the 475 aboard survived.
In addition to her passengers and crew, the ship was carrying about 43 tons of gold ingots stowed in its second class baggage room. At the time the gold was valued at £5 million, approximately £250 million in 2007. Royal Navy divers made over 5,000 dives to the wreck between 1917 and 1924 and recovered all but about 1% of the ingots. Still to this day 22 bars of gold remain on the sea bed, perhaps under parts of the hull, the last of the gold recovered by the Royal Navy was some 10 metres (33.8 feet) under the sea bed, thus the remaining gold would be difficult to reach. Several advocacy groups have protested any efforts by salvage specialists to return to the liner under any conditions out of respect for those who lost their lives in 1917. The liner is considered an official war grave under international law.