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Carpathia in drydock at Liverpool, after being accepted by the Cunard Line in April, 1903.

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As the Centennial Anniversary of the best known marine disaster of the last century nears, I thought it fitting to recall some of the facts and history of the little Cunard Liner whose Captain and crew took, what was surely, the most decisive action on the "Night to Remember". Few Cunard liners have had more humble origins than did the RMS Carpathia of 1903. At 13,555 tons, she was considered an intermediate vessel within the fleet, although even that description would soon seem inaccurate, because within just a few years, ships nearing 20,000 tons would quickly become the standard size for intermediate ships. Carpathia was built by C. S. Swan and Hunter Ltd, at Wallsend on the Tyne between late 1901 and 1903. Her hull was launched on August 6th, 1902, and she completed her fitting out by April of the following year. She had a length of 558 ft, and a beam of 64.3 ft. She was powered by two quadruple expansion steam engines, built by the Wallsend Slipway and Engineering Co. These engines developed 9,000 SHP, and they drove twin screws at an economical service speed of just under 14.5 knots.

The liner was built for Cunard's immigration service, and as designed, she carried 200 second class, and 1,500 third class (steerage) passengers. She was, in reality, a slightly smaller version of the Comapny's two other intermediates, Saxonia, and Ivernia, and up until 1912, the only real distinction for any of the 3 vessels was the height of their funnel; at 106 feet above the Boat Deck, they were tallest single stacks to be installed on a passenger ship up to that time. Carpathia also had cargo space for more than 12,500 tons, and most of it was refridgerated for the transport of beef from the US to Great Britain. Her service speed was just enough to earn her a mail contract, and thus the title of Royal Mail Ship. Another feature that came to characterize the little liner was the extreme cleanliness with which she was kept. Even in the rather sparse compartments of third class, she had earned a reputation for keeping the areas as clean and comfortable as possible. Carpathia began her Maiden Voyage from Liverpool to Boston on May 5th, 1903, and she arrived on May 14th, ending a very successful trip of just over 3000 miles.

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