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Crossing on Time

Prior to the 1800s, ships crossing the Atlantic Ocean relied on the wind in their sails to make their journeys. But invention of steam power ushered in a new era of transportation that would change ocean travel forever: the steamship.

In this riveting book, lauded author-illustrator David Macaulay illuminates the rich and storied history that culminated in the building of the fastest, most advanced, and last of these great steamships: SS United States. This unique "biography" of SS United States artfully explores the design and construction of the ship and the life of its designer and engineer, William Francis Gibbs.

It also tells of a personal journey: Gibbs' famed vessel was the very one on which the author emigrated to America as a ten-year-old. Thoughtful, engaging storytelling and the elegantly executed blueprints, diagrams, and illustrations for which David Macaulay is renowned make Crossing on Time a tour de force of the art of explanation, and a touching and surprising childhood story.

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Aboard the ship

behind the scenes on the SS United States

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In 1957, my parents made a momentous course correction to the life they knew by deciding to leave England for a new job in a faraway place called New Jersey.

My sister, brother and I were not overly burdened by the complex emotions of leaving our local friends and scattered family. We simply followed instructions and eventually found ourselves walking the plank that connected British soil to a thousand-foot-long ocean liner called the SS United States – the star of this book.  A majestic symbol of American ingenuity and prosperity, and the fastest ship in the world, it was also a testament to one man’s vision and remarkable perseverance. 

At ten, I didn’t care about any of that. I just wanted to see the Empire State Building.

Sixty years later, here's the rest of the story. Bon voyage!