Start of the 2007 – 2009 Restoration and Conservation Project
It was a dull, damp and cold morning in March 2007 when the Main Contractor and his men assembled at the dock-side at Discovery Point to begin the Project. The mood was buoyant, it was as if the Discovery felt that at long last she would have all her ills cured, although she was yet to give up her secrets of how bad things had become. I have already referred to the difficulty of cleaning the dry-dock in order to allow work to begin in earnest, this was done and the photograph shows her lovely lines soon after that had been achieved.
The first task was to remove as much of the old paint coatings as possible without harming the original timbers. High pressure water jets were to be used but here the first obstacle was encountered. If ordinary high pressure water jets were used the shape of the jet itself could do damage to the timbers especially at pressures beyond 8,000 psi (pounds per square inch). At such pressures the concentrated water jet would tend to cut through the timbers like a knife. Not a good idea! A specialised North Sea Oil support company, in consultation with the Main Contractor, came up with a novel idea, probably a first. Why not design the jet head so that it
rotated at high speed and avoided concentrating its energy on one spot for an instant. Trials proved successful and stripping began (see photo).
As the timbers were cleaned it soon became evident that some of the findings reported in the Survey Report were wrong, especially that of the presence of Teredo Worm . Now the Teredo Worm is the scourge of wooden ships. These creatures begin as a microscopic larvae, entering the timber of a wooden ship where surface damage might have occurred. They gorge on the timber, burrowing into the plank, growing all the time. Soon they lay their own eggs in a bunch; these hatch and start burrowing in a different direction to that taken by the parent. All this takes place within the timber, out of sight of human eyes. They can grow up to a meter in length and have a girth of up to two centimetres and that makes a big hole! The underwater timbers of a wooden ship can become criss-crossed with these invisible tunnels, so much so that they lose their strength, break up to cause misery to sailors and owners alike. During the centuries up to the end of the 19th many, many wooden ships were lost at sea; initially this was put down to storms or tempests, rocks or reefs. However there were many unexplained losses even in the calmest of conditions and there can be little doubt that the Teredo Worm was the culprit for many disasters. Think about a large wooden Merchantman sailing somewhere in the middle of the Mediterranean on a clear calm night. Only the Officer of the watch and the helmsman are awake; the crew are below sleeping. Suddenly, the ship breaks her back, water foods into the hull; the bow and stern rise up to meet each other before each slide down into the deep. It would have been all over in less than a minute! No warning
given, no chance to escape. How many seamen perished in such a fashion is difficult to say but the number would have been in the thousands rather than hundreds over the years.
So the report that Toredo Worm might be present in Discovery’s hull was worrying and immediate investigation was necessary. I selected a plank that showed some signs of worm activity and had a section cut out (see pictures).
Careful examination revealed that the worm signs were confined to a depth of less than one centimetre into the plank. It was not Terado, it was not active, it was as if a great burden had been lifted from all our minds. Such a condition could be dealt with and deal with it we would! In removing this small piece of plank other things came to light that I’ll tell you about in the next part.
© Captain John J Watson January 2012 Fethiye