Vessel type: Stern paddle wheeler
Builder: French, location unknown
Keel Laid: 1841
Date Delivered: 1843
Date Modified: To be determined
Date Scrapped: Not known, sold out of the Navy in 1878 for whaling service.
Length on deck: about 277 feet
Length over all: about 204 feet
Beam: about 37.5 feet and about 60 feet across the paddlewheel boxes
Height: about 133 feet
Depth: about 29 feet
Draft: about 17 feet
Gross Tonnage: unknown
Lightweight Tonnage: unknown
Maximum Displacement: 2568 tons
Construction Material: Wood
Rig Type: Three masted barque
Sail area: unknown
Crew Size: unknown
Passenger Capacity: unknown
Propulsion Plant: Reciprocating steam engine driving side paddle wheels
Cruising Speed: Unknown
Maximum Speed: Unknown
Armament: about 24 guns
Model Scale: 1:100
L’Orenoque was designed and built as a Troop transport, particularly for cavalry during the steam era for the French armed forces. She was an advanced hybrid steam and sail vessel that had real steam propulsion but continued to have a real sailing rig to prevent the vessel from having to rely completely on the supply of coal in distant ports. The vessel was rated as a frigate, but was relatively lightly armed with only 18 guns on the gun deck. Overall the vessel has quite a modern appearance with a rather fine hull that in appearance is closer to the clipper ships that started to appear soon rather than the earlier full hull shape of vessel like Le Superbe. The vessel also had rather extensive deck houses that are more common for later vessels.
The vessel was an early version of a dedicated expeditionary vessel. An expeditionary vessel was used to carry troops and supplies to a location where a waterborne invasion was to take place. Generally naval power projection (offensive action against another country) is pointless if the power can only be projected from the sea without occupying the shore based objective. As such, navies that do not exist for just defensive purposes, also tend to include vessels that can carry troops and deliver them to shore. Originally such vessels were simply commercial vessels that were pressed into service for troop delivery purposes. However, such vessels may be less than optimized for this task and therefore advanced navies developed specialized vessels of which L’Orenoque was an early example. Today, only the United States maintains a significant number of vessels that can deliver troops and equipment to distant and hostile shores. The United States includes these vessels under its amphibious operations fleet. While not as large as at the completion of WWII, US amphibious operations capabilities continue to be very impressive with dedicated vessels that approach the size of aircraft carriers that can deploy troops and heavy equipment like tanks from the sea to shore with helicopters, landing craft and hovercraft (other countries may have some amphibious capabilities, but they all pale against US capabilities in being able to deliver an effective amount of troops rapidly over very long distances). These vessels are integrated and self contained fighting vessels that carry the helicopters, landing craft, hovercraft troops and tanks and are direct descendents of L’Orenoque.
L’Orenoque served in the Crimean War (1853-1856) as part of the Black Sea Expeditionary Fleet when France declared war on Russia on March 27, 1854. She landed troops at Varna, a port situated on the Danube River Delta, and forced the Russians to retreat. Again needed to transport troops, she sailed for Eupatoria where British and French forces landed. Eventually allied forces defeat Russia after several costly battles. After the proclamation of the Third Republic, L’Orenoque departed Toulon on October 30, 1870 under Leo Briot with 267 men. The vessel departed for Civitavecchia where she stayed until 1874. In June 1870 six men are killed and twelve wounded when two boats collide with the jetty by the port entrance. Leon Briot achieved the rank of Captain on January 2, 1873. She participated in the siege of Rome during 1873 but later returned to Civitavecchia because of changes in the war. On October 16, 1874, she departs for Toulon. In 1878, the French Navy sold her and she became a whaler off Newfoundland, Saint Pierre and Miquelon.