Ships 2

Queen Elizabeth

Ships 3


Liner Queen Elizabeth Destroyed By An Arsonist

By James Donahue

The great Cunard Liners of the World War II era were the Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth. The latter was finished after the United Kingdom entered the war, and first designed to operate as a troop carrier, as was the Queen Mary.

Both vessels operated with distinction after the war until their retirement in 1967. Most folks know the Queen Mary was sold to private owners and converted as a popular floating hotel and restaurant on the Long Beach, California waterfront.

But what happened to the Queen Elizabeth? Hers was a more tragic story.

Like the Queen Mary, the Queen Elizabeth went to America where private owners had plans to convert it as a floating hotel, convention center and museum at Port Everglades, Florida. The idea was to have both of the queens still afloat and operating on both coasts of the United States.

The conversion of the Queen Elizabeth did not occur fast enough to avoid extensive deterioration and rusting as the vessel rested at her moorings. Finally she was put up for auction and sold to C. Y. Tung, a Taiwanese shipping owner.

Tung had a strange plan to rebuild the 1,031-foot-long liner as a floating university that sailed around the world. The liner was renamed Seawise University and registered under the Bahamian flag.

Burning Liner

The liner made only one voyage as the Seawise University. It steamed to Hong Kong where workers converted the vessel for use as an institute of higher education. They stripped the ship and fitted it with new engines and equipment to bring the vessel up to code. The interior cabins and rooms were refurbished with an oriental look.

The work was nearly completed and plans were in the works to sail the vessel to Japan for final refitting before beginning its maiden voyage. But on January 9, 1972, it was said that an arsonist gained access to the ship and started a fire that destroyed it.

The fire quickly got out of control because the vessel’s water sprinkler system had not been completed and there was nothing to stop the flames from sweeping the wooden superstructure. Fireboats battled the fire from below and poured so much water into the vessel that it eventually turned on its side and sank in Hong Kong harbor.

Declared a total loss, the ship was scrapped where it sank. Before the scrapping, however, the wreck was featured in the shooting of a James Bond film, The Man with the Golden Gun.”

The Seaways University also holds the distinction of being the largest ship in history to have sunk.

Both of these great ships were built at the well-known Clydebank Shipyard, Scotland.


Seawise University At Hong Kong