National Geographic : 1963 Apr
Cheering Bostonians chopped a seven-mile channel from dock to open sea in 1844 to free still arguing that steamers on the North At lantic were impossible. You might as well, they said, try to send a ship to the moon. While American development was restrict ed to lakes and rivers, the evolution of the ocean-going steamship was left to Europe, especially Britain. On an island such as Britain, the sea and ships mattered above all else. The opportunities in speeded-up communications and trade were obvious. Cunard Started in Canada In much the same position as Britain was Nova Scotia in the early 1800's. Here, by 1830, Samuel Cunard was already contem plating a transatlantic service. Three years later the Royal William crossed the Atlantic under steam, and Mr. Cunard was not far 538 behind her. Obtaining support in Glasgow and Liverpool, he founded the great Cunard Line, which was in operation on the North Atlantic by 1840 with dependable passenger steamers, and has remained so ever since. Payment for carrying the mails helped, but Cunard had to earn such payments. France had a successful steamship by 1823. Holland used the British-built auxiliary Curacao in the Dutch trade to the West In dies a few years later. By 1838, Britain's Sirius pushed herself westward over the North Atlantic, against Gulf Stream drift and the permanent wind system, under pow er alone. She was only 178 feet long, designed for the short run between Cork and London. She reached New York burning her own wooden fittings to keep the boilers going.