“AUGUSTUS, The Ecstasy, The Agony And The Aftermath” On The QUEEN MARY

At 6:00 PM this Saturday (August 4) in the Caronia Room (former 3rd class cinema — “B” Deck fwd.) on board the QUEEN MARY in Long Beach, California, Peter Knego will helm a Keynote presentation entitled “AUGUSTUS: The Ecstasy, The Agony And The Aftermath”. The show will feature images of the 1952-built Italian liner in her heyday and during a visit in 1999 while she was moored as the MS PHILIPPINES (Manila Floating Hotel and Restaurant) at Manila.

Knego recently took a series of poignant images of the ship on the beach at Alang, India, just prior to the start of her demolition (which is still in progress). Many of the AUGUSTUS’ treasures have been salvaged, some of which will be available for sale on Knego’s MidShipCentury website.

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For those wishing to enjoy a full day aboard the QUEEN MARY, Dr. Nelson Arnstein will be doing a presentation on Royal Caribbean’s ALLURE OF THE SEAS earlier that day at 1:00 PM.

Please note, as this is a quarterly meeting of the Steamship Historical Society of America’s Southern California Chapter, a small donation for non-members may be requested.

Here are a few outtakes from “AUGUSTUS, The Ecstasy, The Agony And The Aftermath”:

MV AUGUSTUS launch at Trieste’s San Marco shipyard..
MV AUGUSTUS First Class Ballroom as built.
MV AUGUSTUS First Class Dining Room by Gustavo Pulitzer-Finale.
MV AUGUSTUS First Class Stairtower.

The Ecstasy: AUGUSTUS was at the time of her building, the epitome of a modern Italian ocean liner, with a futuristic and sleek exterior styling that was far ahead of its time. Internally, the ship featured Midcentury artwork, furniture and fittings by some of Italy’s finest artists, artisans and designers, employing a roster of names that included: Gustavo Pulitzer-Finale (a rival and contemporary of Gio Ponti), Ugo Carra (top designer), Tranquilio Marangoni (artist), Carlo Sbisa (ceramist), Arte Luce (lighting) and Cassina (renowned Italian furniture maker), among others. She and her sister GIULIO CESARE (scrapped in 1973) were the pair of ships built just prior to the ANDREA DORIA (sank in a collision off Nantucket in 1956) and CRISTOFORO COLOMBO (eventually scrapped), considered by many to be among the most beautiful ships ever built. Much of the latter two ships’ architecture and styling was a development of the prior twins’. For several years after the loss of the DORIA, AUGUSTUS and GIULIO CESARE were diverted from their Italy to South America service to the North Atlantic run.

MS PHILIPPINES at Manila in 1999.
MS PHILIPPINES Rajah Bar (ex First Class Bar). Note colorful insets by Trieste-based ceramist and sculptor, Carlo Sbisa.
MS PHILIPPINES (ex AUGUSTUS) Fiat diesels, the most powerful in the world at the time of their installation.

AUGUSTUS was sold to Asian interests and led a life of obscurity at various anchorages for decades, outlasting nearly every ship of her era. In 1998, she became the MS PHILIPPINES and was intended for use as a floating hotel adjunct to the famed Manila Hotel but the crash of the Asian economy and various social upheavals in the region rendered the plans largely unrealized. Peter Knego spent a week documenting her in Manila in 1999, amazed to find most of her Italian Line interiors intact.

PHILIPINE (ex AUGUSTUS) under demolition at Alang this past June.

The Agony: Beautifully maintained, the ship remained in Manila until finally being sold off for scrap in 2011. Removal of fittings and the demolition of AUGUSTUS (by then named just PHILIPPINE) commenced in December of 2011. Peter Knego paid a final visit to the ship in India just as the process began, taking a series of dramatic images just prior to her demise.

Peter Knego and MS PHILIPPINES “welcome” sign in Moorpark, CA.
AUGUSTUS bell and first class dining room chairs by Gustavo Pulitzer-Finale ready to be unloaded from container in Moorpark.
Shawn Dake, Mark Grimm, Bruce Lyons and Tom Chirby transfer the former first class dining room lobby mirror from the container to a safe haven.
Glass panel set from MV AUGUSTUS’ First Class Dining Room, designed by Gustavo Pulitzer-Finale.
Carved wooden panel by Tranquilio Marangoni safely stowed after its removal from ship.
Burled wood panels from the AUGUSTUS First Class stairtower landings.

The Aftermath: Soon, there will be nothing left of the mighty shell of the AUGUSTUS but much of her beauty will live on in the remnants that have been preserved.  A forty foot container full of AUGUSTUS treasures arrived at Knego’s home in Moorpark, California this past May. Many items will be soon offered for sale on the MidShipCentury website.

Knego will bring a selection of smaller items from the AUGUSTUS with him to the QUEEN MARY.


Peter Knego

Peter Knego

Having documented over 400 passenger ships and taken more than 200 cruises, MaritimeMatters’ co-editor Peter Knego is a leading freelance cruise writer, a respected ocean liner historian and frequent maritime lecturer both on land and at sea.  With his work regularly featured in cruise industry trades and consumer publications.  Knego also runs the www.midshipcentury.com website which offers MidCentury cruise ship furniture, artwork and fittings rescued from the shipbreaking yards of Alang, India.  He has produced several videos on the subject, including his latest, The Sands Of Alang and the best-selling On The Road To Alang."
Peter Knego

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