The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

At the Cunard Pier, Red Hook

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s the K-Sea Taurus and its barge, fueling up the Queen Mary 2 in Red Hook at Pier 17 (the Cunard Pier) at the Brooklyn Passenger Ship terminal. Taurus is a familiar sight in NY waters.

from wikipedia

Queen Mary 2 is the current flagship of the Cunard Line. The ship was constructed to complement RMS Queen Elizabeth 2, the Cunard flagship from 1969 to 2004 and the last major ocean liner built before the construction of Queen Mary 2. Queen Mary 2 had the Royal Mail Ship (RMS) title conferred on her, as a gesture to Cunard’s history, by Royal Mail when she entered service in 2004 on the Southampton to New York route.

Queen Mary 2 is not a steamship like many of her predecessors, but is powered primarily by four diesel engines with two additional gas turbines which are used when extra power is required; this CODAG configuration is used to produce the power to drive her four electric propulsion pods as well as powering the ship’s hotel services. Like her predecessor Queen Elizabeth 2 she is built for crossing the Atlantic Ocean, though she is regularly used for cruising purposes; in the winter season she cruises from New York to the Caribbean on 10 or 13 day tours. Queen Mary 2’s 30-knot (56 km/h; 35 mph) open ocean speed sets the ship apart from cruise ships, such as Oasis of the Seas, which has an average speed of 22.6 knots (41.9 km/h; 26.0 mph); QM2’s normal service speed is 26-knot (48 km/h; 30 mph).

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Slightly less familiar, but a regular visitor, is the gargantuan Queen Mary 2, which docks in Red Hook when visiting Metropolis… uhhh… sorry- New York. The engineering of something which is essentially a floating Empire State building always astonishes me. There’s a great documentary out there, on one of the discovery channels or history channels (on one of the mil-industrial complex’s media arms, at least), which details the building of this ship.

Fascinating, as Spock would say.


Majesty, redefined.

Queen Mary 2 is the most magnificent ocean liner ever built. Her every detail harkens to the Golden Age of Ocean Travel, while providing one of the most modern travel experiences on earth. From bow to stern, discover 13 spacious decks on which to relax and unwind; to indulge in pleasures and pursuits you never normally have time for. Opulent public areas, extravagant dining rooms, ballrooms, theatres, lounges…even the only Planetarium at sea.

It is only in a world like this that modern fairy tales at sea are possible – where ordinary travellers can feel like royalty for a week or two. But words can only do such a lady so much justice, for to truly revel in the grandeur that is Queen Mary 2, you must sail with her.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Surely, the sort of thinking which is applied to the production of such floating resorts with their independent desalination plants and climate controlled environments are the precursors of some future endeavor in space. Perhaps lessons for the future of lunar living or the century distant reality of martian colonization are being fleshed out in vessels like these.

Mankind has won some mastery over the alien environment of the seas only in the last 50 years, after all. The whole notion of predictable oceanic crossings, on a precisely defined and clockwork schedule, is one of the modern world’s great and historical achievements. Don’t get me started on containerization, which is the best thing that’s happened to civilization since the Arabs invented numbers and the Turks popularized coffee drinking.

The 350 sections of the Statue of Liberty in their 241 crates, after all, were almost lost to a storm at sea when it was being transported from France onboard the French Frigate Isere in 1885.


At slack tide off Red Hook, Brooklyn, there are usually lots of things floating in the water, most of which you would not want to touch without the help of a good hazmat suit. But just after sunrise yesterday, something truly strange was bobbing there in the shallows near Pier 41: a submarine fashioned almost completely from wood, and inside it a man with an obsession…

Written by Mitch Waxman

December 13, 2009 at 2:09 am

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