SS L'Atlantique

SS L'Atlantique, owned by the Compagnie de Navigation Sud Atlantique (a subsidiary of the Compagnie Générale Transatlantique or French Line) was the largest and most luxurious ocean liner on the Europe-South America run until her untimely destruction by fire.

Owner: Compagnie de Navigation Sud Atlantique
Builder: Ateliers et Chantiers de Saint-Nazaire Penhoët Shipyards
Laid down: 28 November 1928
Launched: 15 April 1930
Maiden voyage: 29 September 1930
In service: 1930
Out of service: 1933
Fate: Damaged by fire, January 1933; scrapped 1936
General characteristics
Tonnage: Around 40,000 gross tons
Length: 733 ft (223 m)
Beam: 92 ft (28 m)
Draft: 29 ft (8.8 m)
Propulsion: Four sets of triple-expansion steam turbines; quadruple propellers; 45,000 SHP
Speed: 21 knots
Capacity: 1,238 passengers
Complement: 663


L'Atlantique's keel was laid on 28 November 1928 at the Ateliers et Chantiers de Saint-Nazaire Penhoët shipyards in St. Nazaire, France for service between France and South America.[1] She was launched on 15 April 1930, making her maiden voyage between 29 September and 31 October of the same year.[1][2] In 1932, her funnels were raised by 16.5 feet (5.0 m).[1]


In early January 1933, while traveling between Bordeaux and Le Havre to be refitted, the liner caught fire around 25 miles (40 km) from the Isle of Guernsey.[1][2] The blaze was believed to have started in a first class stateroom, and was discovered by the ship's crew at around 3:30 in the morning.[2] The fire spread rapidly, and by early morning the ship's captain, Rene Schoofs, ordered the crew of 200 to abandon ship.[2] Four freighters responded to the ship's distress call, one of which, the SS Achilles, a Dutch steamship, rescued the entire crew.[2] During the afternoon, L'Atlantique began listing to port, and on 5 January the French Ministry of Marine issued a statement saying the ship was considered a total loss.[2]

The Sunderland Echo and Shipping Gazette, (6 Jan 1933), reports that on 4 January 1933 Thomas Henry Willmott, of Sunderland, first mate of the SS Ford Castle collier, was in charge of the lifeboat which went alongside the burning liner at considerable risk to pick up survivors which had been overlooked by the other rescuing ships. For this exploit he was awarded the Medaille de Sauvetage by the French Ministry of Merchant Marine and presented with a gold watch by the owners of the L'Atlantique.

The liner was towed to Cherbourg, where the fire was extinguished on 8 January, and she remained docked while the ship's owners and insurers debated her demise, eventually resulting in the payment of US$6.8 million to Compagnie de Navigation Sud Atlantique for the loss.[2] In February 1936, she was sold for scrap, and broken up by the firm of Smith & Houston in Port Glasgow.[2]


L'Atlantique displaced between 40,000[1] and 42,500[2] gross tons, and was 733 feet (223 m) long, with a beam of 92 feet (28 m) and a draft of 29.5 feet (9.0 m).[1] She was powered by four triple-expansion steam turbine engines with a total of 45,000 shaft horsepower driving four propellers at a speed of 21 knots (24 mph).[1] She could carry 1,238 passengers, of which 488 were in first class, 88 in second class and 662 in third class, and 663 crew.[1] Unusual for the time, she was built with very little sheer and camber.[1]


The ship was built with a largely art deco interior built on an unusual axial floor plan with a wide hallway up to 20 feet (6.1 m) in width on each of the passenger decks[3] and a foyer at the center of the ship three decks high.[1] Interior decorations were largely made of glass, marble, and various woods, making for a more subdued atmosphere than was present in other Compagnie Générale Transatlantique ships like the SS Ile de France.[1] The interior furnishings were designed by Albert Besnard and Pierre Patout et Messieurs Raguenet et Maillard.[1]


  1. Dawson, Philip (2005). The Liner. WW Norton & Company. ISBN 0-393-06166-3.
  2. "SS L'Atlantique of the Cie de Navigation Sud-Atlantique was an unique example for the next ocean liners of the 1930s". Cruise Line History. 18 March 2010. Retrieved 10 December 2010.
  3. "Liner Built Like City Has Its Own Main Street" Popular Mechanics, August 1932

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