Brian Kelly, Development Officer with Dundee Heritage Trust writes about the RRS Discovery Rigging Conservation Project in our latest blog.
The Royal Research Ship Discovery, now an established landmark in her native city of Dundee, is one of Britain’s most important historic ships and is registered as part of the UK’s National Historic Fleet. She was one of the last wooden three-masted sailing ships to be built in Britain and is the only example of her type to survive, a unique record of Dundee’s proud shipbuilding past, and renowned worldwide for her Antarctic exploration heritage.
Built in Dundee in 1900 for Captain Robert Falcon Scott’s first polar expedition, Discovery’s long career also connects her with many other famous polar explorers and scientists such as Sir Ernest Shackleton, Edward Wilson, Tom Crean, Sir Alister Hardy and Sir Douglas Mawson. The ship, along with the associated polar collections in the neighbouring Discovery Point exhibition, is also a Recognised Collection of National Significance and a fully Accredited museum.
Dundee Heritage Trust, custodian of the Discovery, is now about to embark on a significant programme of repair and conservation to Discovery’s masts and rigging, to address some serious problems of rot and degradation that were identified during recent inspections. The work involved is substantial and cannot be completed onsite, so the rig will be removed and refurbished offsite before being reinstated. The contract for this has been awarded to T Nielsen and Company of Gloucester, one of the UK’s foremost traditional shipbuilding and rigging specialists who have an impressive portfolio of previous works.
Work began on 1 November, and the next three weeks will see the removal of all the spars, the upper main and foremasts, and the bowsprit along with all the associated rigging. This will then be transported to Gloucestershire for repair and refurbishment at Nielsen’s own yard over the next six to eight months. In the spring of 2017, the second stage of the work will begin in Dundee on the remaining masts and rigging; finally, everything is planned to come together in June when the restored spars, masts and rigging from Nielsen’s will be reunited with Discovery and re-installed to the specifications of the original rigging plan.
The total cost of the project is £350,000, and the public can support this through a Crowdfunding appeal which aims to raise the £40,000 cost of refitting the masts and rigging at the end of the project – see http://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/rrs-discovery-conservation-project-2016-17/ for more details.
This ambitious programme of conservation will ensure that the RRS Discovery continues to be a major tourist attraction for Dundee for many years to come and will create a striking visual impact at the centre of the city’s new Waterfront development.