Maiden Voyage 1961:
1961-1973: 548 First class, 1,690 Tourist class, 960 officers and crew
1973-1997: 1,737 passengers, 795 officers and crew
Waving off on maiden voyage to Australia from Southampton 1961
First arrival in Sydney
Military refurbishment for service in the Falklands
This is how the Carter family saw the SS Canberra as they left England for Australia in February 1972.
P&O commissioned the Canberra to operate the combined P&O-Orient Line service between the United Kingdom and Australia. The arrival of the jet airliner had already caused a drop in demand for this service; a reduction in emigration to Australia and wars forcing the closure of the Suez Canal saw the route become unprofitable. However a refit in 1974 saw the Canberra adapted to cruising. Unusually, this transition from an early life as a purpose-built ocean liner to a long and successful career in cruising, occurred without any major external alterations, and with only minimal internal and mechanical changes over the years.
Arguably the single most remarkable feature of Canberra's design was her turbo-electric propulsion system. Instead of being mechanically coupled to her propeller shafts, Canberra's steam turbines drove large electric alternators, which provided power to electric motors, which, in turn, drove the vessel's twin screws. They were the most powerful steam turbo-electric units ever installed in a passenger ship; at 42,500 hp (31,700 kW) per shaft, they surpassed SS Normandie's 40,000 hp (30,000 kW) on each of her 4 shafts. There are several operational and economical advantages to such electrical de-coupling of a ship's propulsion system, and it has become a standard element of cruise ship design during the 1990s, over 30 years after Canberra entered service. However diesel engine and gas turbine driven alternators are the primary power source for most modern electrically propelled ships.
After the Argentine invasion of the Falkland Islands in 1982, which initiated the Falklands War, the Ministry of Defence requisitioned the Canberra as use as a troopship. Nicknamed the Great White Whale, the Canberra proved vital in transporting the Parachute Regiment and Royal Marines to the islands more than 9,000 miles (14,000 km) from the UK. Whilst the Queen Elizabeth 2 was held to be too vulnerable to enter the war zone, Canberra was sent to the heart of the conflict.
Canberra anchored in San Carlos Water on 21 May as part of the landings by British forces to retake the islands. Although her size and white colour made her an unmissable target for the Argentine Air Force, the Canberra, if sunk, would not have been completely submerged in the shallow waters at San Carlos. However, the liner was not badly hit during the landings as the Argentine pilots tended to attack the Royal Navy frigates and destroyers instead of the supply and troop ships. After the war, Argentine pilots claimed they were told not to hit the Canberra, as they mistook her for a Hospital Ship.
When the war ended, Canberra was used to repatriate the Argentine Army, before returning to Southampton to a rapturous welcome. After a lengthy refit, Canberra returned to civilian service as a cruise ship. Her role in the Falklands War made her very popular with the British public, and ticket sales after her return were elevated for many years as a result. Age and high running costs eventually caught up with her though, as she had much higher fuel consumption than most modern cruise ships. She was withdrawn from service in September 1997 and sold to ship breakers for scrapping, leaving for Gadani Beach, Pakistan the next month. The breakers paid $5,640,818 for the ship. She did not give up without a fight however; her deep draft meant that she could not be beached as far as most ships, and due to her solid construction the scrapping process took nearly a year instead of the estimated three months, and it is believed that the yard lost great deal of money trying to scrap her.
For more information on the SS Canberra try this website http://www.sscanberra.com/hist1constr.htm
(the photo’s of the SS Canberra mostly came from this website).
The Original Carter Immigrants (2002) Celebrating 30 Years in Australia
Crossing the Equator Certificate
Crossing the Equator Certificate
All suited up for ship board life
Mementoes of the Trip on the SS Canberra