From The Weekly Pioneer and Democrat, September 30, 1859

From the London Times.

Nore Light, Thursday, Sept. 8.

After her first short run the Great Eastern remained at her anchor off Purfleet for the rest of the night, and slowly resumed her progress down the river at a quarter to 9 o’clock this morning. Her stoppage at Purfieet was a sad disappointment to many thousands who had been collecting at Gravesend all day in the firm belief that she could or would stop nowhere else. Her slight detention at Blackwall point, however, prevented this, and it became absolutely necessary from the state of the tide to bring up at once at Long Reach. The distinguished arrival threw Purfleet into a state of uncommon excitement. Every one within moderate reach of it by road or rail hurried to the little village till it was thronged to the water’s edge. Gravesend, also, seemed most unwilling to yield up its share in the great occasion without an effort, and before long crowded boats steered round and round the ship, the passengers cheering themselves till they were hoarse again, while the bands played “See the Conquering Hero Comes,” “Rule Britannia,’’ and ail sorts of musical welcomes. For the rest of the evening there was a constant repetition of such visits. Not a vessel passed that did not turn up hands to cheer, while many, as they came down the river, dressed in flags from stem to stern. It was not till night had fallen that the great ship was fairly left alone, and began swinging round to her anchor with the rising tide. The night was a little puffy, and seemed inclined to come more so, but the wind fell as the moon rose, and the weather eventually settled down into a dead calm, it took upwards of an hour for the tide to turn the ship fully round, and at low water, as she lay across the river for a short time in turning, she might almost be said to have stopped the navigation with her colossal bulk. During the night she swung twice again, and by daylight was lying with her head fair for the resumption of her course down the river.

It seems almost incredible that a ship of such size could have swung in any part of the Thames, but only nautical men can appreciate the fact of her doing so in a strong tide way with a single six-ton anchor, which was crossed and recrossed no less than three times without the chain fouling it or the anchor being disturbed in its hold. At half-past eight this morning the vessel was again under way. The Marquis of Stafford had joined during the night, having traveled all the way from Scotland to witness the great ship’s first efforts. Lord Alfred Paget also came on board before starting. One turn a little below Long Reach required to be carefully rounded, but with the depth of the water and greater breadth of the river this was accomplished with comparative ease. Just after passing it, a little brig, which was quite safe when she was sailing up, appeared frightened at the sight of the the huge vessel, and, altering her course, stood almost across the path of the Great Eastern, and was within an ace of being run down. As the vessel approached Gravesend multitudes of people could be distinguished along the shore. Gradually as she came nearer and nearer the air rung with their cheers, and the river was covered with boats of every shape and size crowded with people, all shouting or waving hats and handkerchiefs. There was something almost affecting in the spontaneous enthusiasm and delight with which all seemed to hail the release of the noble ship from her long thraldom [sic] in the river. No matter whether it was a Hamburgh or Rotterdam steamer with half foreigners on board, or a fishing smack with a few men in the bows, none seemed too high or too low to do her honor, and her voyage down the river was one continued scene of vociferous welcome. Off Gravesend and in front of the thronging piers and terraces were several large troopships with detachments on board for India. The crews were in the shrouds of these ; the soldiers, grouped in picturesque masses, stood on deck. From all, the great ship got a welcome which was worth a long journey to see, and which, triumphant as may be her reception in the States, is never likely to be surpassed, nor even equalled. With the parting cheers still floating across the water Gravesend was left behind, and the two dugs [sic] ahead began to go at greater speed as the Lower Hope was passed. Soon the water began to change its tint from dirty black to muddy green, and cool air came fresher across the reaches, and those on board rejoiced at last at the long wished for approach of sea water. The transition was marked in the usual disagreeable manner by the the boilers “priming,” as it is termed, and throwing showers of muddy water from the steam pipes over all the deck. This unpleasant inauguration, however, was soon over as sea water was fairly gained, and preparations were made for casting off the tugs and leaving the Great Eastern for once and for all upon her own resources.

The change, as may be readily imagined, made no difference, the wanderer thus cast adrift being better able to take care of herself than any vessel that has ever yet floated or the world seen. Still, as the event marked the commencement of what we believe will be a long and triumphant career, and one which will inaugurate a new era in ocean steamships and ocean navigation, it deserved to be marked. The tugs were cast off the Chapman’s Head, at the top of Sea Reach, the passengers with the ship’s band being assembled aft and the crew forward. The National Anthem was played as the smoky auxiliaries left her head to her own control—the passengers cheering from one end of the vessel, while the crew swarmed into the shrouds forward to return the compliment. Thus the tugs were let go, after having performed their arduous duty under the most difficult circumstances in a way that commanded the admiration of the most experienced pilots on board. As soon as the vessel was left to herself an increased amount of speed was got on her. This was done, not in the least with a view of testing her power, but literally only to give her good steerage way and move her engines easily. Throughout the whole course down the river the paddle engines had never been moved at a greater speed than from four to six revolutions per minute, and the screw at from 12 to 18. In fact, neither engine was moved till it became actually necessary to assist the tugs. Yesterday, however, when our valuable little aids, which had realized the fable of the Mouse and the Lion, and freed the Great Eastern from all her river toils, were cast adrift at Chapman’s head, more speed was put upon the vessel, and in 10 minutes she set at rest forever all doubt as to her being the fastest vessel beyond comparison in the world. It has already been stated that the proper seagoing trim of the Great Eastern is a little over four feet down by the stern. Instead of this she is at present six inches down by the head, while her whole draught of water is too light to allow the proper immersion to her paddle floats, and no less than four feet of her screw blades are out of water.

Any one at all acquainted with steamships will see that an attempt at the real speed under such circumstances was out of the question. Yet even in this trim, enough was done to show the marvellous [sic] power which this vessel will possess when fully ready for sea. At sea the Great Eastern is intended to work at 25 lb. of steam, the paddles going 14 revolutions and the screw 53. To-day the pressure of steam was under 17 lb., the paddles never actually reached nine revolutions, and the screw only 27. Yet, even when not employing two-thirds of her power, and in the worst trim against a strong tide, she ran from the Lower Hope point to the Nore light ship, a distance of 15 statute miles, in two minutes under the hour. Calculating from this data, it will be found that working to her ordinary sea going power will give her, even in her present trim, an average of from 18 to 19 miles an hour. During the time that the vessel was going at this speed of 13 knots, or 15 miles, the engines worked with an ease that, when their size and power are considered, was perfectly astounding. There was scarcely any vibration on the vessel, and, as far as could be gathered from outward objects, one might much easier have imagined one’s self writing in a Parisian salon than in the state cabin of the Great Eastern flying down to the Nore. One thing connected with the vessel is as remarkable as her other characteristics. Even when going 13 knots an hour, there was an utter absence of “swell” in her wake—even less, as far as could be judged from the deck, than is made by the ordinary penny steamers, and not one-half as much as was thrown up by our own tugs.

The Nore Light was reached at half past 12 o’clock to-day, and the anchor let go in 8 fathoms, with 45 fathoms from the horse-hole. Before anchoring the vessel was put about, and went completely round under steam in less than three quarters of a mile. In a few minutes afterwards Admiral Harvey came alongside in his yacht, dipping his ensign as he approached, as every single vessel, man of war or merchantman, which has yet met met the Great Eastern has hitherto done. In an hour afterwards the ship was surrounded with yachts and sailing boats of all kinds. During the run down from Gravesend, the fixing of Mr. Langley’s steering apparatus was completed, and worked to perfection. Captain Comstock was on the previous day, at his post on the bridge, directing the steering by the signal indicator. Capt. Harrison and the pilot were on the starboard paddlebox, and Mr. Scott Russell directed the engines. Mr. Campbell, the indefatigable managing director, as usual, was everywhere. Among the passengers who started with the vessel were Mr. Penn, jr., Mr. H. Ingram, M. P., Sir R. W. Carden, Mr. Appold, Mr. Oakford, Mr. Hobbs, Mr. Ayrton, M. P., Mr. Smith (the originator of the screw propeller), Mr. John Dilion, Sir John Burke, and two of the ablest of the company’s officers, Mr. Leverson the solicitor, and Mr. John Yates, the secretary.

It is arranged that the Great Eastern is to leave her present moorings at 7 o’clock to-morrow and steam away easily to sea. It is probable, if the weather permits, that she may swing at the Foreland to adjust compasses, but Mr. Gray, has already effected so much towards rectifying their slight deviation that it is scarcely necessary for the run to Portland. As matters are arranged at present, it is expected that the Great Eastern will enter Portland harbor between seven and eight o’clock on Saturday morning.

Source: The weekly pioneer and Democrat. [volume] (Saint Paul, Minn. Territory), 30 Sept. 1859. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <>