Atalanta

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Atalanta
From an Ouless painting - Atalanta passing the Isle of Wight

Not to be outdone by its competitors in the 1930s, the South of England Steam Packet Company put a beautiful two-master, clipper bowed paddle steamer on the Channel Islands run on 24 August 1836. This was the Atalanta, of 400 tons, 140 feet in length, and a beam of 23 feet, being later lengthened another 20 feet.

Atalanta was built by Thomas White, at Cowes, in 1836 and had sleeping berths for 150 passengers. Her building was supervised by Captain Bazin of the Ariadne.

Fast vessel

A 1937 report in the Star indicated that for her time the Atalanta was an exceedingly fast vessel:

"The voyage to and from Southampton, which ten years ago averaged from 13 to 15 hours, now averages only from 10 to 13, and the Atalanta a few weeks since made it in the unprecedently short space of 9 hours and 50 minutes; whist, on another occasion, she made the passage from this island to Southampton in ten hours, including a call and stoppage off Alderney to land several passengers. She is unquestionably one of the finest boats that ever ploughed the British Channel. A trial of speed between her and his Majesty's packet Wildfire, Capt White, Commander, took place on Tuesday, which more than ever served to display the superiority of the Atalanta. The former vessel was some months since lengthened by Messrs White, of Cowes, and new and powerful machinery put into her, by which her speed was so accelerated that Capt White declared he would not fear to run her with the Atalanta. An opportunity offered last Tuesday, both vessels having to start from Jersey for this island at six o'clock in the morning. The weather was remarkably propitious for a trial of this nature, there being scarcely wind enough out to cause a ripple on the water. The Wildfire had six minutes start of the Atalanta, but the latter vessel overtook her a short distance off Corbière Point, and arrived here sixteen minutes before her, making a difference of twenty-two minutes on the passage.

History

Kevin Le Scelleur, in his definitive work Channel Island Railway Steamers describes Atlanta as 'one of the most famous vessels on the Channel Islands service'. Her master on her maiden voyage to the islands was Captain G Babot. She was also to operate to St Malo when the company extended its services there. In 1847, following a merger of rival companies, she carried the Royal Mail for the first time, but only as a relief vessel and she did not make many appearances in the Channel Islands.

In 1856, after being lengthened, she started a passenger and cargo service to the islands, remaining on the routes until 1865.

In 1869 she suffered the indignity of being stripped and used as a coal hulk for the steamers based in Jersey and in 1882 she was sold to a Mr Hunt and broken up in Jersey.

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