The Great Eastern was a giant steam ship designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel (1806-59) At the time of its launch in 1858 it was the largest ship in the world. Although the design of the Great Eastern was groundbreaking, Brunel’s mighty vessel was considered a commercial failure as a passenger liner. After being laid up in 1864, the Great Eastern was sold for £25,000 (the equivalent of about £1.3 million today), a fraction of its original cost, to a Greenwich-based cable-laying company. This next stage of her career was by far the most successful. From 1865-72 she laid four telegraph cables under the Atlantic, and others to link Bombay and Aden.
|The Great Eastern cable ship in 1869. © NMM|