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SS Great Britain

The SS Great Britain in dry dock in Bristol, 2003.

The SS Great Britain was the first ocean-going ship to have an iron hull, the first ocean-going ship to have a screw propeller, and when launched in 1843 was the largest vessel afloat.

She was designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel, Thomas Guppy, Christopher Claxton and William Patterson for the Great Western Steamship Company and built in a specially adapted dry dock at Bristol. Originally intended as an Atlantic steamer, she made most of her working voyages from Britain to Australia. She was also used as a troop ship during the Crimean War and the Indian Mutiny. In 1882 she was turned into a sailing ship to transport bulk coal, but after a fire on board in 1886 she was found to be damaged beyond repair. She was sold to the Falkland Islands Company and used as a storage hulk until the 1930s, when she was scuttled and abandoned. In 1970 she was refloated on a pontoon and towed back to Bristol, where she was returned to the (then-disused) dry dock in which she was built, for conservation as a museum ship.

As of 2003, reconstruction is underway and there are guided tours for visitors wearing hard hats.