Queen Elizabeth on fire
Under fire in Hong Kong 1972. There was nothing could be done to save her.
In 1968, the Queen Elizabeth was sold to a group of Philadelphia businessmen who intended to operate the ship as a hotel and tourist attraction in Port Everglades, Florida, similar to the use of Queen Mary in Long Beach, California. Losing money and forced to close after being declared a fire hazard, the ship was sold in 1970 to Hong Kong tycoon C.Y. Tung.
Tung, head of the Orient Overseas Line, intended to convert the vessel into a university for the World Campus Afloat program (later reformed and renamed as Semester at Sea). Following the tradition of the Orient Overseas Line, the ship was renamed Seawise University, as a play on Tung's initials.
During the conversion, the vessel was destroyed by a massive fire on January 9, 1972. There is some suspicion that the fires were set deliberately, as several blazes broke out simultaneously throughout the ship. The fact that C.Y. Tung had acquired the vessel for $3.5 million, but had insured it for $8 million, led some to speculate that the inferno was part of a fraud to collect on the substantial sum. Others speculated that the fires were the result of a conflict between Tung, a Chinese Nationalist, and Communist-dominated ship construction unions.
The ship capsized in shallow water in Hong Kong Victoria Harbour on 9 January 1972. The wreckage was dismantled for scrap between 1974 and 1975, before the project could be fully realized. Portions of the hull that were not salvaged were left at the bottom of the bay and later incorporated into landfill for the new Hong Kong International Airport. However, the keel and boilers remain at the bottom of the harbour still and the area is marked as "Foul" on local sea charts warning ships not to try to anchor there. It is estimated that around 40–50% of the wreck is still on the seabed alongside the large Hong Kong container port. Parker pens produced a special edition of 500 pens made from material recovered from the wreck in a presentation box and these are highly collectable.
The wreck was featured in the 1974 James Bond movie The Man with the Golden Gun, as a covert headquarters for MI6.
Two of the ship's fire warning system brass plaques were recovered recently by a dredger and these are now on display at The Aberdeen Boat Club in Hong Kong within a display area about the ship.
The charred remnants of her last ensign were cut from the flag pole and framed in 1972, and it still adorns the wall of the officers' mess of marine police HQ in Hong Kong.
Following the demise of Queen Elizabeth, the largest passenger ship in active service became the SS France, which was longer but had lesser tonnage than the Cunard liner.