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HKFP History: The British luxury liner at the bottom of Victoria Harbour

Buried at the bottom of Victoria Harbour remains the keel, hull and boilers from the QEII predecessor, the RMS Queen Elizabeth. It was purchased at auction in 1970 by local tycoon C.Y. Tung, who wanted to make the vessel into a university for the World Campus Afloat programme, the predecessor to Semester at Sea. Tung renamed the ship Seawise University, a play on his initials.

However, the vessel sank two years later, on January 9, 1972, following a fire.

seawise uni wreckage

1972: The wreck of Seawise University, the former Queen Elizabeth. Photo: Wikicommons.

The burnt wreck capsized and was declared a shipping hazard. Around 45,000 tons of scrap were retrieved by Korean divers, leaving around 40-50 per cent of the wreckage on the seabed.

The disaster held the dubious title of the largest passenger shipwreck until the Costa Concordia disaster in 2012.

queen elizabeth

Seawise University, Hong Kong, 1973. Photo: Karsten Petersen.

In the late 1990s, a quarter of the remaining ship was buried during land reclamation for Container Terminal 9 with some being used for landfill in preparation for the new airport on Lantau.

5,000 highly collectable Parker pens were produced with material recovered from the wreck whilst the flag pole and remnants of her last ensign adorn the wall of the marine police headquarters.

Two recovered fire warning system brass plaques belonging to the ship are also on display at The Aberdeen Boat Club in Hong Kong.

seawise university

Seawise University, Hong Kong, 1973. Photo: Karsten Petersen.

Those responsible for the fire were never identified, although there was speculation that it was actually a case of insurance fraud, or that the incident was related to bad blood between Tung, who was a Chinese nationalist, and ship construction unions, who were mostly Communist.

queen elizabeth

Seawise University, Hong Kong, 1973. Photo: Karsten Petersen.

The ship will be remembered after the wreck appeared in a 1974 James Bond film.

Seawise University now rests peacefully under Container Terminal 9.

HKFP History: The British luxury liner at the bottom of Victoria Harbour