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QUEEN ELIZABETH I – FOR THE RECORD

 

The Last Voyage of the SS Queen Elizabeth I took place in November, 1968.  The fate of the second of the two “Queens of the Sea” was sealed when the QE I was sold to Hong Kong investors for conversion as Seawise University.

 

With his intimate knowledge of the QE I ‘s sister ship the Queen Mary, Romm was retained by Cunard Lines to produce an archival record in motion pictures and audio during the QE I’s final four-day crossing of the North Atlantic Sea from New York’s Pier 52 to its home port at Southampton.

 

Romm and his production team were given unprecedented full access to all of the ship’s most secret areas, from the bridge to shaft alley.  They spent an evening in the rough and tumble Black Gang’s off limits recreation area over the rudder, known as the pig and whistle.  Romm climbed to the crow’s nest, which rose 147’ above the forward main deck.  Romm may have well been the last person to see the QE I from this unique vantage point as the need for the crow’s nests had long passed into history.  Sensing the moment, he etched his name in the thick coats of paint with those other foolhardy souls who had preceded him. Much of the journey took place in heavy seas with unusually severe gale force winds in progress.

 

Every aspect of the ship's journey, from weighing anchor upon departure, to dropping anchor upon arrival, right down to the tolling of the ship’s bell, whose sound is used to this day in the new Cunard “Queens” to report the time.  Romm made a sound recording of his interviews with the ship’s social and staff captains and other key officers, plus those of the ship’s company who had sailed with the Queen Elizabeth I since her commissioning in 1940.  This proved to be the highlight of his assignment, as each man had a unique story to tell about his life on The Queen.

 

After hundreds of safe crossings, and hundreds of thousands of sea miles, the SS Queen Elizabeth I caught fire during her refitting in 1972 and sank in Hong Kong Harbour.  The most minuscule sounds and imagery remains in Cunard’s historic film archives, but the great era of elegant, ocean borne travel is no more.

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