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The first steamship, with the Great Western, to compete in establishing a regular mail and passenger route across the North Atlantic. She is also generally acknowledged to be the first steamship to cross the North Atlantic entirely under steam propulsion, though the Canadian steamship Royal William, which crossed in 1833, also has a claim to this distinction. But whereas the Sirius, unusually for her time, used fresh water in her boilers, and so could steam non-stop, the Royal William used salt water. This meant that every fourth day the salt water had to be drained and the boilers cleaned before the salt water was replaced. This took at least 24 hours, during which time the Royal William proceeded under sail.

The Sirius was a cross-Channel paddle steamer of 700 tons, 54 metres (178 ft) long, with an engine developing 320 horsepower. She was chartered by the British and American Steam Navigation Company in 1838 when it became apparent that their own ship, the British Queen, would not be delivered in time from the builder to make the first Atlantic crossing. She left Cork, in Ireland, on 4 April 1838 with 40 passengers aboard, and reached New York on 22 April with only 22 tons of fuel remaining and having burned some of her spars. Her passage took 18 days, 10 hours, and her average speed was 6–7 knots. The Great Western arrived in New York a few hours later, having left Bristol four days after the Sirius had departed from Cork. See also condenser; evaporators; ocean liners; savannah.

Subjects: Maritime History.

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