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Construction on the S.S. CANBERRA would begin at the Harland and Wolff Shipyards in September 1957 and by March 1960 she would be ready for launching. The CANBERRA would be the largest ship built at the Belfast Yards since the White Star Lines BRITANNIC in 1914. Dame Pattie Menzies, wife of the Australian Prime Minister, preformed the Christening of the new 818-foot ship. By April 1961, the CANBERRA would be ready for her sea trials. The CANBERRA underwent a series of maneuvers and achieved a top speed of 29.27 knots. During these trials a flaw in the design was found. As the ships speed increased the bow would raise out of the water due to the weight of the engines being located at the stern. On arrival at Southampton ballast was added to the bow and the problem was resolved.

Over the years CANBERRA would fall into a regular routine of sailing from Southampton to Sydney with families immigrating to Australia. By the mid 1970s however the cost of fuel and the competition from the airlines the end seemed near. P & O knew that something had to be done and put the CANBERRA into cruising service from New York to the Caribbean, but this was not successful. P & O would soon announce the CANBERRA would be sold to the ship breakers at the end of her 1973 season. After the announcement, booking started to pick up and P & O decided to have the ship refitted as a one class cruise ship and her accommodation made more suitable for shorter cruises. The CANBERRA would sail from Southampton on short cruise and an around the world cruise each year. She would gain a loyal following and become one of the most beloved liners ever to sail.

In April 1982 the CANBERRA was called into war service after Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands. Along with the Cunard Liner QUEEN ELIZABETH 2 the two ships would ferry British troops to the war zone. The QUEEN ELIZABETH 2 was considered too valuable to loose, so it was up to the CANBERRA to bring the troops closer to shore. The war ended by June and the CANBERRA would sail triumphantly in to Southampton on July 11th. Ships and boats of all sizes met the CANBERRA as she returned home. After her return home she would become known as "The Great White Whale". She would return to regular service by September. In 1998 an extensive refit at the Bremerhaven shipyards of Lloyd Wertf was done and she would return to service with more up to date interior.

April 1961 Magazine advertisement announcing the revolutionary new British liner S.S. CANBERRA

By 1996 at the age of 35 the end was near for the CANBERRA and it was announced that she would be taken out of service in September 1997. A final farewell cruise was made to say good-bye to the ports she had visited throughout her long career. Premier Cruise Lines had wanted the ship, but it was decided that the CANBERRA would not return to cruise service with a different company. P & O confirmed that the ship had been sold to Pakistani ship breakers. The CANBERRA sailed from Southampton for the last time on October 10th 1997 with a skeleton crew onboard bound for the breakers. Bagpipe music played from the public address system as the ship sailed in to Southampton waters. The CANBERRA would arrive at the Gadani beach on October 28th and was run aground on October 31st. It was only supposed to take three months to scrap the CANBERRA but it took over a year to complete and by the end of 1998 she was gone.

S.S. CANBERRA on Gadani beach .

S.S. CANBERRA arriving in Vancouver, B.C.
on her farewell cruise March 12, 1997.

Photographed by: James R. Ducker

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