The Royal Research Ship ‘Discovery’

24th, 2012
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The Royal Research Ship ‘Discovery’

Part 22

Education and Involvement

During the planning process of the Project it was decided early that the ship could not be closed to visitors at any time. The obvious reason for this was, of course, that revenues still had to be generated to ensure the survival, not only of the ship but the whole Discovery Point experience. Such a long and involved Project had to be planned with the safety of the visiting public very much in mind and mustn’t be looked upon in a negative sense whatsoever. Such a Project should be turned to the advantage of the Discovery Point complex and never to its disadvantage. That is just what happened!

Free dry-dock tours were arranged after working hours; free illustrated lectures on the progress of the Project were given in the evenings; the ship guides were provided with a quarterly briefing on how to inform the visitors of what exactly was taking place. The media were kept well informed and television stations were most useful in publicising the work being done. Tales about the fabled ‘Dundee Leak’ were retold. The ‘Black Pudding Mix’ got its fair share of coverage. All of this and more added to the excitement of seeing parts of the ship never seen before by the visiting public. Here it has to be recorded that the staff at Discovery Point, the crew of the ship, the Main Contractor and many others freely gave of their time in the evenings to help keep the on-going story of the Discovery alive.

I had the good fortune to conduct the dry-dock tours and give lectures. It is wonderful to pass on information of times gone by to every age group. Dundee Heritage Trust formed its ‘Junior Board’ some years before in order to listen and act upon the views expressed by the younger generation. They were among the groups who participated in the dry-dock tours and the interest generated was very humbling to me, their enthusiasm could be seen and felt as the following pictures show.

Adults from all walks of life took advantage of walking in the dry-dock around the Discovery, many questions were asked and it stretched my knowledge somewhat to provide the correct answers. It was the observations feedback that became truly interesting. The bottom strake of Greenheart sheathing became more than just a piece of timber. It was fashioned out of lengths of over 50 feet (>15m). Given that this timber was near indestructable, how was it shaped? What tools were used? How heavy was each plank? Most of all was the admiration felt for those who had constructed such a fine ship in a shipyard just about 500 yards away from where they stood.

The pictures above and below reflect the interest of the adult groups. Perhaps a point to note is that the weather in Dundee at the time of the tours was very kind and added to the exeperience.

In the latter part of 2008 into the first three months of 2009 work was focussed on the interior of the ship especially in terms of providing as much educational information as possible without confusing the visitor. The Director of Discovery Point and her staff worked hard in the planning and design of new ideas to arouse the curiosity of all who might visit the ship in future. Take the engine-room for example; obviously the engine had long since gone but a replica of the upper cylinders had been built during past restoration on the main-deck level so a small viewing window at that level was installed to allow the concept of the depth of the whole engine room to be visualised.

Down in the starboard coal bunker a window in the deck allowed the visitor to see the pig iron ballast ingots stowed in the bilge spaces below.

The above is just a flavour of the changes that were made and the next part of the story will provide more of the new innovative methods that were used to make a visit to the ship much more attractive.

© Captain John J Watson OBE Fethiye June 2012

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