January 9, 2005
QUEEN ELIZABETH: FIRE DESTROYED 32 YEARS AGO TODAY
It is the 33rd anniversary today (9 January) that the old Queen Elizabeth was set alight by an aronist during her refit from a passenger ship into a floating university.
This is an overview of what happened from the site called Classic Liners :
"In 1967, the decision was made to retire both Queens. The Queen Mary was withdrawn in September 1967, and then a year later, in October 1968, the Queen Elizabeth was withdrawn.
As with the Queen Mary in Long Beach, the Queen Elizabeth went to America to be a floating hotel, convention center, and museum in Port Everglades, Florida. Her buyers (note that Cunard still had an 85% interest in her) proposed that she could be the Atlantic end of the "matching pair", with the Mary in California, and the Elizabeth in Florida. While it was thought that she would become quite a tourist bonanza, the venture became a disaster. After two years, the financial situation was grim, and the Queen Elizabeth was deteriorating. She was rusting, sun-scorched, and all in all neglected. As a result, she was placed on auction, and sold to the highest bidder.
The lucky buyer was the Taiwanese shipping giant C.Y. Tung. He had big plans for the Queen Elizabeth...
Tung's big plan for the Queen Elizabeth was to rebuild her as a floating university that sailed around the world. The first step towards this goal, though, was giving the Queen Elizabeth a new name. She was renamed Seawise University ("Seawise" was a play on the owner's initials), and was registered under the Bahamian flag.
She only made one voyage as the Seawise University. With the large letters that read "Queen Elizabeth" removed, and smaller letters reading "Seawise University" installed on her bow, she made for Hong Kong. However, the voyage was not without its problems, with her breaking down on several occasions. One of these breakdowns left the Seawise University anchored off of Aruba for two months while repairs were made.
Once on Hong Kong, workers descended on her to convert her from luxury liner to an institute of higher education. She was essentially stripped down and built back up. She was fitted with new equipment in order to bring her up to code, and her interiors were rebuilt with a very oriental look to them.
On January 9, 1972, as she was nearing completion, and would soon sail to Japan to be dry-docked and begin her maiden voyage, an arsonist was able to gain access to the ship, and set her on fire. The fire spread rapidly on that fateful day, and with her fire-suppression systems still incomplete, there was nothing to stop the fire from consuming the luxurious wooden interiors, and causing her superstructure to melt and cave in on itself. Fireboats did their best to try to put the fire out, but with the same careless miscalculation that put the Normandie on her side on the bottom of New York Harbor, so was the Seawise University in Hong Kong Harbor. As more water was poured on her to try and extinguish the blaze, she started to list to starboard, and then the next morning, she was on her side in Hong Kong Harbor.
In her capsized state, she was considered a total loss. Talk of salvage and rebuilding were based on optimism more than feasibility. The only thing left to do was scrapping on the spot. However, before the Seawise University was scrapped, she had one more chance in the spotlights. She was featured in the James Bond movie "The Man with the Golden Gun" as the secret Hong Kong headquarters of the MI6. While this was filmed in 1973, by the time of the movie's premiere in 1974, the Japanese scrappers had already removed her from Hong Kong Harbor"