At the time of her launch at Harland and Wolff, Belfast on 14th January 1899, Oceanic (II) was the largest ship in existence, and the first ship to be longer in length (but not tonnage) than Isambard Kingdom Brunelís, SS Great Eastern, a British ship that had been launched in 1858, and broken up for scrap in 1889.
Under the command of Captain JG Cameron, on 6th September 1899, Oceanic departed her home port on her maiden voyage from Liverpool to New York, with 1,890 people onboard. From Liverpool she proceeded to Queenstown and then on to New York, where she landed on 13th September 1899. While in New York $5,000 was raised for local hospitals by people paying to visit Oceanic.
Oceanic ran aground off Three Castles Head in Ireland, on 9th October 1900, but was able to reverse back into safe water. While in Liverpool five days later, Oceanicís anchor chain broke while it was being lowered. As a result of the chain breaking, one person lost their life and another was injured.
While in the Irish Channel, in fog early on 8th August 1901, the coastal steamer Kincora of the Waterford Steamship Company sank with the loss of seven of her twenty crew members after colliding with Oceanic. The only damage sustained by Oceanic was a dent in her bow and some missing paint. Oceanicís crew were praised by her passengers for their rescue of Kincoraís surviving crew members.
When Oceanic returned to Liverpool from New York on 11th October 1905, thirty three of her firemen were arrested for conspiracy to disobey orders, after they refused to work during the voyage over a dispute over pay. The firemen were sentenced the next day to imprisonment at hard labour for a week.
During a voyage from Southampton to New York on 25th November 1906, in heavy weather on the North Atlantic, Oceanicís Captain, James G Cameron, was knocked unconscious by being forced off his feet when a huge wave swept over the bridge, smashing a chart room window and injuring First officer Thomson by the flying glass. After Captain Cameron was treated by the shipís doctor, he returned to the bridge and remained there for most of the next twenty four hours. Captain Cameron had been Oceanicís Captain since her maiden voyage, and remained her Captain until April 1907, when he became White Starís Superintendent at Southampton.
On 3rd June 1907, while in New York, Oceanic suffered approximately $5,000 to $10,000 worth of damage after a fire broke out in No. 6 hold Ė which was occupied as a steerage compartment. As the crew were unable to contain the fire, Captain Haddock called in New York fire fighters who with the assistance of McClellan, a fireboat, brought the fire under control.
From 19th June 1907, Oceanic sailed from Southampton instead of Liverpool.
In heavy weather on 21st March 1911, while standing on the bridge, Oceanicís First Officer Charles Lightoller, who would later serve as Titanicís Second Officer on her ill-fated maiden voyage, was nearly struck by large splinters, when around nine feet of Oceanicís foremast fell to the deck nearly hitting her funnel and glass dome, and putting her wireless out of action for nearly an hour Ė after Oceanic was struck by lightning. The Lighting strike did not delay the voyage, and no one was hurt.
During a voyage from Southampton to New York on 29th February 1912, Oceanic lost a blade from her port propeller, which made her a day late arriving in New York. When Oceanic departed New York it marked the last time Captain Haddock would command Oceanic, as, before he took command of Olympic, he was sent to Belfast to supervise Titanic until Captain Smith took command after completing his last voyage on Olympic.
Around a month after the Titanic disaster Ė on 13th May 1912, Oceanic discovered Titanicís collapsible lifeboat A Ė with the bodies of three of Titanicís victims still aboard. The three bodies were buried at sea, and the lifeboat was taken aboard the ship. Collapsible A was the last boat to leave the starboard side of Titanic Ė after floating off swamped from the ship. It was the saviour of around 12 men and one woman Ė at least most of whom had joined the boat from the freezing water. The survivors had been rescued by Lifeboat 14, leaving three dead bodies aboard.
On 6th February 1914 Oceanic was hit by a huge wave on her way to New York, which resulted in passengers in deck chairs on her promenade deck being swept towards the stern in 4 feet of water; the wave also smashed 3 deck house windows and a stateroom window, as well as causing some other minor damage to the ship. Fortunately, no one was seriously hurt. Oceanic arrived in New York fifty hours late on this voyage with her rigging and decks covered with ice and snow, and her bridge with a foot of frozen snow, as she also later in the voyage encountered heavy gales and snow.
When the First World War broke out Oceanic was one of the first ships to be requisitioned for war duties. A month after this, she was commissioned as an armed merchant cruiser. On 8th September 1914, under the command of Royal Navy Captain, Captain William Slayter, with Oceanicís previous commander, Captain Henry Smith, there to assist him, navigational errors and conflicting orders from the captains Ė resulted in Oceanic being pushed on to the rocks of Shaalds of Foula in the Shetland Islands, Scotland, UK, where she grounded and become stuck.
After attempts to free Oceanic failed and the condition of the wreck worsened Ė especially after a storm two weeks later, the wreck was abandoned.
At a court martial following the incident both Captains were exonerated of any wrong doing, but Oceanicís officer, David Blair who was originally Titanicís 2nd officer before the officer reshuffle, was reprimanded for not taking proper precautions to sound on the approaching island and for not immediately stopping the ship when he sighted land.
Oceanic remained on the rocks until 1926 Ė when she was broken up/salvaged as for as the water line. Another salvage operation began in around 1973 and most of what was left was removed in 1979. There are, though, still some traces of the wreck remaining on the site today.