Prior to the 19th century, transatlantic crossings were undertaken in sailing ships, and the journeys were time consuming and often perilous. Transatlantic crossings became faster, safer, and more reliable with the advent of steamships. Grand ocean liners began making regularly scheduled crossings, and soon it became a symbol of national and company status to build the largest, fastest, and most luxurious ocean liner for transatlantic crossings. The United States, United Kingdom, France, Germany and Italy built the most famous ocean liners. Examples of some famous transatlantic liners are RMS Lusitania, RMS Mauretania, RMS Olympic, RMS Titanic, SS Rex, SS United States, RMS Queen Mary, SS Normandie, SS Andrea Doria, SS France, Queen Elizabeth 2, and RMS Queen Mary 2.
The Blue Riband is awarded for the record fastest crossing by transatlantic liner. The current eastbound record was set by the American ocean liner United States in July 1952: the ship made the crossing in 3 days, 10 hours, 40 minutes.
Guinness Book of World Records has been tracking all vessels making the passage and has awarded world records to luxury liners, sail boats, and rowing boats.
During World War II the transatlantic crossing was very important for the United Kingdom as much of Europe had been taken over by Germany and its allies preventing trade and supplies; the struggle is known as the Battle of the Atlantic.
Transatlantic flight surpassed ocean liners as the predominant mode of crossing the Atlantic in the mid 20th century. In 1919, the American NC-4 became the first airplane to cross the Atlantic (but in multiple stages). Later that year, a British Vickers Vimy piloted by Alcock and Brown made the first non-stop transatlantic flight from Newfoundland to Ireland. Also in 1919, the British were the first to cross the Atlantic in an airship when the R34 captained by Major George Herbert Scott of the Royal Air Force with his crew and passengers flew from East Fortune, Scotland to Mineola, Long Island, covering a distance of about 3,000 statute miles (4,800 km) in about four and a half days; he then made a return trip to England, thus also completing the first double crossing of the Atlantic (east–west–east). In 1927, Charles Lindbergh made the first solo non-stop transatlantic flight in an airplane (between New York City and Paris). The second solo piloting, and the first to carry a passenger, was Clarence Duncan Chamberlin on June 6, 1927. Edward R. Armstrong proposed a string of anchored "seadromes" to refuel planes in a crossing.
The first serious attempt to take a share of the transatlantic passenger market away from the ocean liners was undertaken by Germany. In the 1930s, Germany crossed the Atlantic with Zeppelins that could carry about 60 passengers in a similar luxurious style to the ocean liners. However, the Hindenburg disaster in 1937 put an end to transatlantic Zeppelin flights.
On June 1, 1944, two K-class blimps from Blimp Squadron ZP-14 of the United States Navy (USN) completed the first transatlantic crossing by non-rigid airships. The two K-ships (K-123 and K-130) left South Weymouth, MA on May 28, 1944 and flew approximately 16 hours to Naval Station Argentia, Newfoundland. From Argentia, the blimps flew approximately 22 hours to Lagens Field on Terceira Island in the Azores. The final leg of the first transatlantic crossing was about a 20-hour flight from the Azores to Craw Field in Port Lyautey (Kenitra), French Morocco.
Beginning in the 1950s, the predominance of ocean liners began to wane when larger and larger passenger airplanes began carrying passengers across the ocean in less and less time. The speed of crossing the ocean became more important than the style of crossing it. By the 1970s, supersonic Concorde airplanes could cross the Atlantic in under four hours and only one ocean liner remained on the transatlantic route for those who favored the slower style of travel.
Transatlantic cables are cables that have been laid along the ocean floor to connect North America and Europe. Before the advent of radio, the only means of communication across the Atlantic Ocean was to physically connect the continents with a transatlantic telegraph cable, the first of which was installed from Valentia, Ireland to Heart's Content, Newfoundland in 1858. The first transatlantic telephone cable, TAT-1, was installed in 1955. The first transatlantic fiber optic cable, TAT-8, was installed in 1988. The exchange rate between the United States dollar and British pound is still colloquially known as "cable" by financial marketeers on account of the fact the rate of exchange was one of the early uses of the transatlantic cable.
Transatlantic radio communication was first accomplished on December 12, 1901 by Guglielmo Marconi who, using a temporary receiving station at Signal Hill, Newfoundland, received a Morse code signal representing the letter "S" sent from Poldhu, in Cornwall, United Kingdom. Guglielmo Marconi initiated commercial transatlantic radio communications between his high power long wave wireless telegraphy stations in Clifden Ireland and Glace Bay, Nova Scotia on 17 October 1907.
Amateur radio operators are usually credited with the discovery of transatlantic radio communication in the shortwave bands. The first successful transatlantic tests were conducted by radio amateurs in December 1921 operating in the 200 meter mediumwave band, the shortest wavelength then available to amateurs. In 1922 hundreds of North American amateurs were heard in Europe at 200 meters and at least 20 North American amateurs heard amateur signals from Europe. The first two way transatlantic shortwave radio contacts were completed by radio amateurs in November 1923, on 110 meters.
Marconi initiated the first commercial shortwave transatlantic radio communication between the UK to Canada using his Beam Wireless Service which went into commercial operation on 25 October 1926. Shortwave radio vastly increased the speed and capacity of transatlantic communications at dramatically reduced cost compared to telegraph cable and long wave radio.
Telstar was the first communications satellite to provide commercial transatlantic communications. It was launched by on July 10, 1962, the first privately sponsored space launch. Communications satellites vastly increased the speed and quality of transatlantic communication, but transatlantic fiber optic cables have carried the vast majority of transatlantic communications traffic since the early 1990s.
The Transatlantic Tunnel is a theoretical structure proposed by one of the engineers involved in the construction of the Channel Tunnel beneath the English Channel. It would be a tunnel that spans the Atlantic Ocean between New York City and the United Kingdom or France.
Crossings in small vessels
Rowing and paddling
On June 13, 2003, the French rower Maud Fontenoy started an eastward crossing of the Atlantic from Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon. She reached A Coruña in Spain on October 10, becoming the first woman to accomplish this feat.
The Polish sexagenarian Aleksander Doba was the first recorded individual to complete a non-stop transatlantic crossing by kayak. He departed Dakar, Senegal on October 26, 2010 and arrived in Brazil 99 days later.
Transatlantic rowing race
- Kline, R. C. and Kubarych, S. J., Blimpron 14 Overseas, 1944, Naval Historical Center, Navy Yard, Washington, D. C.
- "Milestones:Transmission of Transatlantic Radio Signals, 1901". IEEE Global History Network. IEEE. Retrieved 29 July 2011.
- "Son of Town Hall, First Raft made of Scrap to Cross the North Atlantic Ocean". The Floating Neutrinos. May 30, 2006. Retrieved Sep 30, 2010.
- Fontenroy Foundation
- "64-Year-Old Kayaker Completes Trans-Atlantic Voyage". Wired. February 10, 2011. Retrieved July 2, 2012.
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