Ship Number
Vessel Type
Passenger Ship
South Yard
Slip Number
Launch Date
September 10, 1908
April 15, 1909
Oceanic Steam Navigation Co.
14892 grt
BP Length
550 feet
67 feet
No. of Screws
Speed (approx)
16 knots
four-cylinder triple-expansion reciprocating steam engines
Official No.

[Harland and Wolff Collection]

Built as Alberta for the Dominion Line, which was owned by the International Mercantile Marine, J. Pierpont Morgan's shipping conglomerate. While on the stocks, International Mercantile Marine transferred ownership of the vessel to White Star, another IMM-owned company and she was renamed. Once launched, Laurentic set new standards in propulsion, as the engineers at Harland & Wolff devised an ingenious means of using steam already expanded by her four-cylinder Triple-expansion reciprocating steam engines. The steam was routed through a low pressure turbine which drove a third, central propeller. Although her service speed was only 16 knots, this idea greatly improved fuel economy and was soon widely used in liners around the world and was the prototype for the engines used in the Olympic Class liners Olympic, Titanic and Britannic. Laurentic could carry 230 First Class passengers, 430 Second Class and 1000 Third Class passengers. Her crew compliment was 387.
She was a popular vessel and saw many crossings during the first few years of her life. In the winter she made many cruises to the Mediterranean and West Indies. When World War I broke out, she was immediately requisitioned by the Admiralty for war duty. Fitted as a troopship in 1914, she sailed for a year carrying soldiers before being again refit in 1915 as an armed merchant cruiser in the 10th Cruiser Squadron.
In January 1917 she was on "special duty" carrying £5million worth of gold bullion from the British government to Canada. Off Lough Swilly, on the coast of Ireland, she struck two mines and sank in 120 feet of water. The salvage operation that then took place was the most difficult that had ever been attempted at the time. Work was possible only in the summer and due to the strong currents and swells, the ship quickly broke apart on the bottom. It took seven years, but in the end all but £41,000 of the £5 million in gold aboard was recovered. Despite the hardship and length of time involved, the salvage operation cost less than 3% of the valued gold on the ship.