Powerhouse In Purgatory: The SS United States


She was once the pride of a nation. Now a floating behemoth of rusty, crusted metal, the once-grand vessel is moored at a forlorn Philadelphia port  beyond which rests a parking lot for the local IKEA. Many think of her as little more than a faded remnant of a long-dead era  that of the ocean liner. However, she is so much more than "just a ship".

She is the SS United States.

Once the fastest, grandest ocean liner afloat, the Big U, as she was affectionately known, was a powerful, luxurious vessel. This streamlined giant was famous for carrying presidents, celebrities, and artists. However, the age of jet travel spelled doom for her, like most other ocean liners.

To me, this ship is appealing in her stubborn determination to survive. She has been moored for half a century at the same grimy Philadelphia dockside, the last remnants of a long-faded age clinging on for hope . I suppose I'm drawn to her shape, majesty, and grace that withstands the test of time  even right down to the chipped paint on her iconic funnels. Something about her remaining so visually impressive and imposing despite being coated in rust and grime bears testament to the age of ocean liners itself, and its determination to remain relevant in this digital, fast-paced, espresso-fuelled age. That is what inspires me most about her.

In early October 2015, the SS United States Conservancy had the hull examined for how much income it would take in as scrap. If the Conservancy doesn't gain enough funding and public interest to save the ship, then by the end of this month, a most fateful and final decision will have to be made. As someone who grew up studying, researching, and becoming fascinated by all things related to ocean liners, it breaks my heart that I cannot do more than the paltry donations I have made as a broke college student. I can only hope that, with the recent spike in media attention, perhaps somebody with deeper pockets is willing to step forward and save one of the very last of these beautiful ships. Why we can't simply keep something beautiful and innocent alive to inspire and educate future generations instead of funding ridiculous military expenses, the bombing and chokehold of other countries, and injecting fear for greed and profit via the media is completely beyond me.

Click here to visit the SS United States Conservancy website. Donate today and save a legend.

Click here to join Lovers of the Ocean Liners, the most active group of ocean liner enthusiasts.


Corey Reed

An Ottawa-based writer, born in Cobourg, Ontario. A shortlisted winner of the 2014 National Capital Writing Contest, Reed is currently studying Professional Writing at Algonquin College to further hone his skills. His passions include ocean liner history, Art Deco design, fiction writing and everything to do with Stevie Nicks.

Twitter | Instagram