It will be interesting to chronicle here some of the characteristics of the most modern of ocean steamships, and to show by the use of some figures, the enormous proportions to which their business has attained. For this purpose it will be necessary to use figures drawn from the records of foreign lines, and from such vessels as the “Deutschland” and the “Celtic,” although the purpose of this book is to tell the story of the American merchant marine. But the figures given will be approximately correct for the great American ships now building, while there are not at present in service any American passenger ships which are fairly representative of the twentieth century liner.
The “Celtic,” for example, will carry 3,294 persons, of whom 2,859 will be passengers. That is, it could furnish comfortable accommodations, heated and lighted, with ample food for all the students in Harvard University, or the University of Michigan, or Columbia University, or all in Amherst, Dartmouth, Cornell, and Williams combined. If stood on end she would almost attain the height of the Washington monument placed on the roof of the Capitol at Washington. She has nine decks, and a few years ago, if converted into a shore edifice, might fairly have been reckoned in the “skyscraper” class. Her speed, as she was built primarily for capacity is only about seventeen knots, and to attain that she burns about 260 tons of coal a day. The “Deutschland,” which holds the ocean record for speed, burns nearly 600 tons of coal a day, and with it carries through the seas only 16,000 tons as against the “Celtic’s” 20,000. But she is one of the modern vessels built especially to carry passengers. In her hold, huge as it is, there is room for only about 600 tons of cargo, and she seldom carries more than one-sixth of that amount. One voyage of this great ship costs about $45,000, and even at that heavy expense, she is a profit earner, so great is the volume of transatlantic travel and so ready are people to pay for speed and luxury. Her coal alone costs $5,000 a trip, and the expenses of the table, laundry, etc., equal those of the most luxurious hotel.
But will ever these great liners, these huge masses of steel, guided by electricity and sped by steam, build up anew the race of American sailors? Who shall say now? To-day they are manned by Scandinavians and officered, in the main, by the seamen of the foreign nations whose flags they float. But the American is an adaptable type. He at once attends upon changing conditions and conquers them. He turned from the sea to the railroads when that seemed to be the course of progress; he may retrace his steps now that the pendulum seems to swing the other way. And if he finds under the new regime less chance for the hardy topman, no opportunity for the shrewd trader to a hundred ports, the gates closed to the man of small capital, yet be sure he will conquer fate in some way. We have seen it in the armed branch