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Famous Ships That Did Not Sink: The 'SS Kaiser Wilhelm II'

April 17, 2012 at 12:37 PM | by | ()

As you already know, this last weekend marked the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic. Though yes, the sinking is a huge part of history, it's also not indicative of how ship travel actually was in the early 20th century. Not every ship sank. This week, we'll show you some notable ships that managed to stay afloat and still make their mark in history.

Today's ship that didn't sink: Kaiser Wilhelm II of Norddeutscher Lloyd line.

Back in the day, Norddeutscher Lloyd had it going on. Steamships, mail ships, luxurious transatlantic liners...they had them all. That is, they had them all until World War I broke out and many of those hulls found themselves docked in the wrong parts of the world. Such was the story of yesterday's featured ship, the Kronprinz Wilhelm. Today we continue with one its sister ships, Kaiser Wilhelm II, which first fired up the boilers in 1903 and used them to their limit to earn the Blue Riband in 1904, for fastest eastbound transatlantic crossing only two years after the Kronprinz had done the same.

The Wilhelm II had a quiet life of cruising paying passengers back and forth between Germany and the US, until the latter decided to keep her for good in 1917. She became the Agamemnon, a troopship that pushed thousands of US soldiers into Europe to fight the very people who had built her.

Now things get weird.

Both the Kronprinz and Wilhelm II were of Norddeutscher Lloyd's Kaiser Class. Whoa that sounds badass. What ship classes do we have these days anyway—"Fantasy Class" or some other only-built-for-temperate-seas fanciness? The Kaiser class wasn't messing around, which is part of the reason why they made such great troopships...until they hit each other!

That's right; the sister ships actually collided with each other during their time as American troopships. Both sustained damage and were laid up for repairs. Nonetheless, they didn't sink and that's the real point here.

As the Agamenon, she carried nearly 50,000 troops overseas and, like her sister, had her fair share of U-boat do-si-dos. The hardcore life of the Kaiser Wilhelm II finally came to an end with the heat of World War II, after she was renamed the Monticello and finally scrapped in 1940.

[Scanned images from a 1907 Norddeutscher Lloyd pamphlet: Jaunted]

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