Swimming in a Ship

Swimming in a Ship

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  • Jul, 03 , 23

This week we are diverting somewhat from our usual military subjects with an excerpt from an upcoming book on the SS United States. The United States was a civilian cruise liner, but there is a bit of a military tie-in; the construction of the ship received significant public funding, and it was designed for quick conversion to a troop carrier if required. Fortunately, that particular capability was never required, and the ship was operated purely for pleasure.

In 1952 the SS United States was the fastest, most luxurious, and most technologically advanced vessel of its kind. Passengers could find numerous amenities on board, even swimming pools. Although not as extravagant as the pools seen on some of today’s cruise ships, the description below does provide some insight into the level of engineering, care, and expense that went into the construction of the vessel:


The swimming pool was located deep within the ship on C-deck. The pool and the gymnasium opened to passengers at 7:00 in the morning and were usually the first listing on the daily program, which extolled passengers to “take a bracing early morning dip.” By today’s standards the pool was quite small and quite deep, being carefully designed to have a different resonant frequency than the normal rolling of the ship. This precaution was necessary to keep the water in the swimming pool during rough weather.

The pool itself was filled with heated salt water and was circulated so that a complete change was made every six hours. Heated salt water is very corrosive, and for that reason the pool was constructed of Monel metal—a very expensive alloy of copper and nickel that withstands the effects of salt water. Although the shiny stainless-steel appearance of the Monel metal pool fit well into the overall decoration, many swimmers did not like it: “I feel like I’m in a cooking pot,” said one passenger.

The pool area contained dressing and massage rooms, locker rooms, a simulated beach, and various equipment lockers. The ceiling was rather low, and for that reason diving was discouraged. The pool area had blue walls and was decorated with enamel code flags designed by Lewis E. York and rendered by John S. Williams. The flags spelled out “Come on in, the water’s fine.”


Above is an extract from SS United States: An Operational Guide to America's Flagship by James K. Rindfleisch, F. Samuel Bauer, and Stanton R. Daywalt. The book is very detailed and features hundreds of photos, many of which are previously unpublished. It will be great addition to the bookshelf of readers interested in historical passenger ships, especially the United States.
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