Above: An original photograph of the Nomadic serving as a tender in Cherbourg Harbor. This photograph, which was mixed in with a batch of Cherbourg and Southampton pictures, probably dates to the late 1920's to early 1930's. Because of the dark color of her funnel, it seems possible that the photograph was taken after she was purchased from Cunard-White Star (in 1934) and re-named Ingenieur Minard. ~ Author's Collection.
Above: This photograph of the Nomadic was shot in November of 2005, before she left Paris. It was taken by Thierry Dufournaud, and appears with his permission.
During construction of the Olympic and Titanic, it was decided that new tenders would be needed to service them when they made their scheduled stops at Cherbourg, France. The current tender in use at that port was an older, side-paddle vessel. It certainly did not meet the standards that were being set by the Olympic and Titanic. Hence, White Star contracted out to Harland & Wolff to build two new tenders, eventually named the Nomadic and the Traffic.
The Nomadic, Harland & Wolff Yard No. 422, was by far the larger of the two vessels, at 220.7 feet long and with a gross tonnage of 1,273. She was designed to ferry up to a thousand first and second class passengers and their accompanying luggage. Her smaller companion, the Traffic, was designed to carry up to five-hundred third class passengers and the mails.
Both tenders were completed in time to escort the Olympic from Belfast when she left on her trials. Then, they made the trip down to Cherbourg and waited to rendezvous with the Olympic again in the evening of June 14, 1911 - during the ship's maiden stopover at that port. Apparently, it took some time to make the transfers, for Bruce Ismay - watching the process - seemed somewhat unsettled at the delays encountered. However, the process smoothed out with each use.
The vessels only tendered the Titanic once, and by then the routine seemed well established. There was apparently no contact between them and the third Olympic-class ship, the Britannic. The Nomadic and the Traffic continued to serve the Olympic and other ships for many years. During The Great War, starting late in 1917, she and the Trafficserved as troop carriers in Brest.
Above: This snap was taken on June 10, 1919 at Brest, France. U.S. Navy sailors are coaling a large transport (possibly identified as the U.S.S. Imperator). The lighter closes to the camera is the Rin Tin Tin. Behind her is what looks to be the Traffic, while inboard of the Traffic, the larger transport appaers to be the Nomadic. Both vessels are packed with troops who are apparently on their way home. ~ U.S. Naval Historical Center, Author's Collection.
After the War she again serviced the great Atlantic liners; after the Cunard-White Star mergers, she was renamed Ingenieur Minard. The Traffic was lost to history during World War Two. But amazingly, the Nomadic outlived both the Olympic and the Titanic. She was served the Queens Mary & Elizabeth through 1968. She was saved from the scrap heap, and opened as a restaurant in 1977 on the River Seine. She continued in that role for twenty-two years. Then, there came an issue. The French Government would not allow her to continue in operation without annual drydocking and hull inspections. Because of her superstructure's height and low bridges on the river, however, she could not proceed to a drydock for inspection; hence her license was canceled, and once more looked doomed for the scrap heap.
For three years she sat rusting away to nothing. Then, in early 2004, her superstructure was removed, to allow her to leave Paris under the low bridges that stood in her way. Fortunately, when she was placed up for auction on January 26, 2006, one bid was received, and she was sold. For several months, she remained in france undergoing inspections, and finally she was placed on a barge for transport across the Channel and back to her birthplace, Harland & Wolff. The tender's restoration is now under way, and her future looks bright.
Or does it? During the summer of 2009, storm clouds regarding the future of the Nomadic appeared on the horizon in the form of government ideas about her restoration and refurbishment. The restoration work, which was being carried out by volunteers and enthusiasts who wanted to return the vessel to her original glory, was halted. The volunteers apparently became personna non grata. The vessel was moved into drydock, and plans to turn her into some sort of "cheesy" theme park attraction are in play. These plans do not seem to include the concept of returning the vessel to her 1912 configuration in honor of her historicity and connections to the Titanic story. Although, ideally, her restoration might also have included the installation of a working powerplant so that she could be a living vessel again, these dreams also appear to be headed for the scrapyard. In the meanwhile, serious restoration work on the vessel appear to have ground to a halt, and the ship's condition will only deteriorate with time. This information, although troubling, is being presented in the hopes that some individual[s] or organization[s] may be moved to render assistance, in one way or another, to the Nomadic and help restore her to her original glory as a historical monument and attraction, perhaps in a manner similar to the vessels at the South Street Seaport Museum in New York. The ships at the South Street Seaport Museum are preserved as an educational presentation, and attract many visitors each year.
A series of recent photographs of the Nomadic (Summer, 2009) can be seen on this thread at the Titanic Research & Modeling Association Forum. Further information on the Nomadic Preservation Society's efforts to assist in the proper restoration of the Nomadic can be found through their site, and also through the Nomadic page of the TRMA site. A forum for ongoing discussions of the Nomadic and other ships, hosted by the Nomadic Preservation Society, can be found here. Many thanks to Mervyn Pritchard and other members of the NPS for keeping me up to date on all the latest goings-on.
The following photographs of the Nomadic appear courtesy of Thierry Dufournaud and are reproduced with his permission. They were taken in November of 2005. Not for re-use without the express permission of Mr. Dufournaud. My sincerest thanks to all who kept me posted on this project throughout the preceding months.
Above: A painting of the Nomadic hard at work in Cherbourg Harbor. ~ Artwork by Lionel Codus, not for re-use without permission.
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