Harland and Wolff, Belfast launched Adriatic (I) on 17th October 1871. Adriatic was one of White Star’s first six new steam ships, and was the first White Star ship to earn the Blue Riband.
Adriatic began her maiden voyage from Liverpool to New York, via Queenstown, on 11th April 1872, under the command of Captain Digby Murray. She arrived in New York on 21st April.
On 25th May 1872, Adriatic took the Blue Riband off Cunard’s Scotia for a westbound crossing, of 7 days, 23 hours and 17 minutes, with an average speed of 14.53 knots. She held the Blue Riband until it was taken from her by Germanic, in August 1875.
While on a voyage to New York, under the command of Captain Hamilton Perry, on 13th December 1872, Adriatic rescued the, by this time, exhausted, crew of Allan, of Glasgow, a sailing ship that, as a result of a heavy gale, had lost the use of her rudder and was sinking – leaving her crew helpless. During the voyage Adriatic’s sustained damage to her propeller, causing her, amongst some controversy and confusion over facts, to, on 28th December, sail home from New York with the propeller still damaged.
On 24th October 1874, as they were both departing from New York, Adriatic collided with Parthia, of the Cunard Line, causing Adriatic to have to return to port to have minor repairs carried out, while Parthia was able to continue on her voyage.
Under the command of Captain Perry, sailing from New York to Liverpool, on 8th march 1875, Adriatic struck Columbus, a three masted schooner – causing the schooner to sink. Despite the collision Adriatic did not stop. On Adriatic’s return, Captain Perry reported that Adriatic had collided with a schooner; while, Capitan Jones of the Columbus reported that he had tried to hail Adriatic, but Adriatic continued on her way. It was a steamer called Enterprise that came to the rescue of Columbus.
In the early hours of 31st December 1875, in the Irish Sea, under the command of Captain Jennings, Adriatic collided with and sank the Black Ball Line’s Harvest Queen; Adriatic searched the area – but none of the Harvest Queen’s around 30 crew members were found. An inquiry found that Adriatic’s crew were not to blame. Despite this, Harvest Queen’s owners tried to hold Adriatic liable; however, Adriatic was again found not to be of blame.
At 10pm on 18th July 1878 Adriatic left Liverpool destined for yet another collision; in fog near Holyhead, Wales, just hours into the voyage, Adriatic collided with a vessel called Hengist; Hengist and Adriatic were able to continue; however later that morning Adriatic again had a collision, this time with a brigantine called G.A Pike, causing the brigantine to split in two and sink; resulting in the loss of five of her six crew members. Despite the accident, Adriatic was able to continue on her voyage. Adriatic was later found to be to blame, for going too fast.
At 3pm on 24th May 1889, Patrick Shea, who was a steerage passenger, committed suicide by jumping overboard; Adriatic was stopped and a boat lowered, but he was not found.
On 17th November 1897 Adriatic departed Liverpool on her last transatlantic voyage. After she returned from New York, she was placed in reserve at Birkenhead, UK. Adriatic was then sold for scrap, and arrived at Thomas W Ward, Preston, Lancashire, UK on 12th February 1899 to be broken up for scrap.