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The Industrial Revolution had progressed far enough by the 1830's to make the idea of transatlantic communication by means of a fleet of steamships plausible. The desire for dependable delivery of the mail on which imperial communication and commerce depended prompted the government of Her Majesty Queen Victoria to invite interested parties to bid for a contract to provide this service. Samuel Cunard of Halifax, Nova Scotia, was the successful contender. His contract to deliver the mail across the Atlantic from Great Britain to North America was signed on May 4, 1839, and originally involved a commitment to provide three steamships of 800 tons and 300 horsepower. Samuel Cunard was a highly successful and enterprising Canadian businessman and one of a group of twelve individuals who directed the affairs of Nova Scotia. Cunard had the reputation for being not only a very astute businessman but also an individual with exceptional diplomatic ability.

In order to successfully carry out his contract, Cunard solicited the assistance of Robert Napier, an engineering genius who was responsible for creating the engines of some of the best new ships of his day. Cunard also need financial backing and received it from three accomplished businessmen: James Donaldson, George Burns and David Maclver. These five men founded the British and North American Royal Mail Steam Packet Company, later known as "Cunard Line".

Cunard currently operates two ships: the Queen Elizabeth 2, which is the only ship offering regular transatlantic passenger crossings and the Caronia. In January 2004 the Queen Mary will enter service as a replacement for the aging QE2.

Queen Elizabeth 2

The QE2 displaces 70,327 tons, is 963 feet long, 105 feet wide and has a draft of 32 feet. Her maximum speed is 32.5 knots and at full occupancy she can carry 1,791 guests and 921 crew.


The Caronia weighs in at 24, 492 tons, is 627 feet in length, 82 feet wide nad has a draft of 27 feet. she has a top speed of 20 knots and can carry 668 passengers

Queen Mary

Sources: www.cunard.com

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