I’ve had a great idea.
Come on, out with it then.
This here is Sir Henry Bessemer’s Swinging Saloon, and it promises to eliminate the prospect of sea sickness.
And did it?
Right. So how did it not work then?
The idea was that the passenger saloon could be kept horizontal by a crew member squinting at a spirit level and frantically yanking hydraulic levers in response. The good intention was to create a simple way to counteract the rolling motion of the vessel. The paving on the road to hell being well established by now, it instead turned out to be a complicated way of making the rolling motion worse.
So instead of keeping everyone comfortable, it actually increased the chances of them throwing up everywhere?
It never got that far.
You’ll notice that the SS Bessemer there is a paddle steamer?
I think I can see where this is going.
The helmsman certainly couldn’t. With the four paddlewheels being yanked out of the water at random intervals, directional control was achieved strictly through the law of averages. You might notice this isn’t in the COLREGs.
Hang on, four paddlewheels? Why?
Apparently it was thought impossible to have too much of a good thing. This was not a good thought.
By this point I wasn’t expecting one. Naturally it survived for years?
Nope. After a briefly exciting career lurching into maritime architecture the length and breadth of the English Channel whilst the concept was tested, the Saloon Ship Company went bust. Bessemer converted the saloon into a billiard room at his mansion in Surrey.
With the swinging mechanism in place?
Fortunately not. Apparently even Bessemer had seen enough of the mechanism going balls up.
Retired: 1875 and a bit
Current status: The ship itself was scrapped and the swinging saloon was later blown up by the Germans. A few panels still exist, and can be seen in the National Maritime Museum. I’m hoping they’ve honoured Bessemer’s memory by hanging them at an angle.