Carolina, the first one
Carolina was the first scheduled steamer on the Danube, built by Antal Bernhard from Pécs and she was launched on 16 July in 1820. Steamboating on the Danube became popular and profitable later, but poor Carolina was not, because passengers had to pay for the pontage besides the fare, thus she was moved to other waters. Only her wreckage reminded of the boom of Hungarian navigation later.
István Széchenyi had a great role in the flourishing of shipping, he joined the Danube Steamboat Shipping Company among others, because he recognized its significance and he urged its development. Just think of his plans preparing river regulations, but the Óbuda Shipyard can be related to him too. He had a big wish: to link shipping of the Danube with that of the Black Sea, thus he sailed to the Iron Gate by his boat Desdemona. He supported the case not only financially, but also with actions calling attention to the shipping on river Tisza, so he shipped to Szeged, too.
The ship on Lake Balaton
Despite that, his name is related to the start of navigation on Lake Balaton primarily. About thirty years after the launch of steamboating on the Danube, the first steamboat on Balaton left the harbour on 21 September in 1846. Naturally, the idea emerged about a decade earlier and the truth is that several yachts sailed the Hungarian sea already in the period of György Festetics.
The Balaton Steamboat Shipping Company was founded in Pest in April 1846, with the presidency of Széchenyi, and its articles-draft was written by Lajos Kossuth. The first steamer of Balaton was Kisfaludy, with a 40 hp steam engine from Britain (Penn Co.), and the body of the ship was built in Óbuda Shipyard. Kisfaludy can be viewed in Balatonfüred, but not in her original form, she was restored.
The museum piece
Besides the Óbuda Shipyard, the other in Újpest was also important. The only salon steamship Kossuth – formerly Archduke Franz Ferdinand – was built there in 1913, and still can be seen. After her construction, she was connected into the domestic passenger transport as a ‘coster ship’; she brought rural costermongers to Pest. The open upper deck made her perfectly suitable to that, where the mongers could take care of their goods and animals to be sold. On weekends, she functioned as a cruise ship, but we do not know anything about her role in the world war. After the cessation of the Monarchy, she was renamed as Rigó (Thrush). In 1930, she got a new name again: Leányfalu, and transported costermongers again. Her service ended in 1976 and she was nearly disassembled similarly to her twin ships, but Mihály Ráday (leader of the Navigation Department of the Transport Museum back then) attracted attention to her. Yes, she is the steamer that anchors at the leg of the Chain Bridge. She operates as a museum ship, with exhibitions showing a number of interesting relics of navigation.
SMS Szent István, the treasured
SMS namely His Majesty’s Ship (Seiner Majestät Schiff) Szent István (the first king of Hungary) was the most modern and fightingest ship in the Monarchy that has ever been built. The Hungarian battleship was sent to only one action. She got her name from Franz Joseph I, and was built for only two years. The ship was 152 metres long, with a draught of 8 metres and two screw-propellers. Finally, she was launched in Fiume in 1914. Then she waited. Just because there were not any large battles in the area where she would have been needed, and they did not want to endanger the precious ship in minor battles. On 9 June 1918, they received Admiral Miklós Horthy’s command: they have to break through the Entente’s blockade at the Strait of Otranto that blocked the Adriatic. The ship and her twin ship SMS Tegetthoff and several torpedo boat destroyers left for her first and last battle on the eve of 9 June. Next morning, they were southeast from the Premuda Islands when two Italian military motorboats noticed them and aimed Szent István from about 500 metres. The battleship was hit at least twice and started leaning immediately. People tried to compensate it by turning the cannons to the left side as a counterbalance and they managed to improve the situation.
In the meantime, her twin ship Tegetthoff took her in tow and started pulling her towards the island, but the rope tore. The battleship was dying for about three hours and then leaned forward and broke in two; her wrecks are still down there. The devastation of the Hungarian battleship was among the few cases that were recorded on film – actually from the deck of Tegetthoff – and the incomes of the film were donated to the Red Cross after the war. According to recalls, the ship seemed undestroyable and though it is a tragedy for us, the day of her submergence became the Italian military navy day that indicates the prestige of SMS Szent István. Let us cherish her memory this way.
Ships in other roles
Besides the obvious military and travel purposes, ships are suitable for dining, sleeping or doing other activities in them, as the dreamer of the A38 ship could think too. The name of the ship that gives shelter to a concert hall, an exhibition place, a restaurant and a video-audio studio comes from the original type name Artemovsk (also the name of the ship designer Soviet engineering office) of the Ukrainian stone transporting ship built in 1968. The 38th item of the Artemovsk series was named Tripolye formerly, was brought from the Ukraine to the shipyard of Komarno, where she received her present shape. The ship anchored in Budapest in 2003. She was reconstructed and authorised and a concert hall was formed inside the ship that can take in 600 persons.
Let us enjoy and admire the sway of a cruise ship or a party ship light-heartedly. As we are getting farther from the city without leaving it, the harmonised motion of the river and the ship brings us a bit closer to the water, to the ancient element that can never be controlled completely.
Translated by Zita Aknai