The ship was built in partnership with an experienced ship designer, John Scott Russell. Unknown to Brunel, Russell was in financial difficulties. The two men disagreed on many details. It was Brunel's final great project, as he collapsed after being photographed on its deck, and died a few days later.
The ship was launched--after many technical difficulties--in 1858. It was 692 feet long and weighed 32,000 tons. It had both paddle and screw propulsion. After only a few passenger voyages, it was converted into a cable-laying ship.