Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Queen(s) Cometh

Listening to: I believe you are a Star - Dimmer (2001). So the day before I did the Tongariro Crossing I was up at an unseemly hour for a Saturday to catch the Cunard Line's Queen Elizabeth entering Wellington Harbour at daybreak on her maiden voyage. It was a weekend of long days and little sleep. I like ships (for a bunch of reasons, although the classic guy fascination with large moving objects might have something to do with it), and ones this classy aren't in Wellington that often. The usual array of cruise liners that visit over the summer just don't have the same air of history and sheer presence that something with 'Cunard' written on the side of it in big red letters does. Plus they aren't here that often or regularly, so are worth checking out.
On a calm morning she caught the rising sun perfectly.

Since the visit coincided with an open day at the port, we hopped on a harbour tug for a joy-ride, mainly because it is something you don't get to do very often.
Charlotte found a perch on the enclosed bridge, and seemed quite at ease with the novelty.

While the Queen Elizabeth was one of the bigger ships to have visited Wellington, any records she may have set were eclipsed a week later when her truly gargantuan cousin (they can't technically be called sisters) and fellow Cundarder the Queen Mary 2 arrived on the 26th of Feb, after being diverted from her original destination of Christchurch due to the earthquake. Compared to a week before the weather wasn't quite so good as she made her entrance, although arriving an hour later it wasn't quite as unseemly.
At 1100 feet long, and weighing in at over 150,000 gross tons, she is quite comfortably the biggest passenger ship to have visited Wellington (by comparison the biggest Cook Strait ferry, the Kaitaki, only measures 595 feet long and 22,300 gross tons), and definitely in the running for biggest ship ever seen in the harbour.

When she was launched in 2004 she was the largest passenger ship ever built. Bigger cruise liners have since been launched, but she remains the largest true ocean liner ever constructed. Putting it another way, the Titanic could almost fit entirely inside her, with room for a Cook Strait ferry or two as well. She isn't quite in the same league as the true supertanker style biggest ships in the world, but is quite big enough to appear out of scale to anything you can put next to her, like say Westpac Stadium.
One of the things I like about living in Wellington is the way passing ships occasionally loom over the end of Waterloo Quay. The Queen Mary 2 loomed more than most.

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