On March 21, 1901, the 172 foot, Royal Research Ship (RRS) Discovery was launched into the Firth of Tay. Like the ships of Portsmouth, England & Mystic, Connecticut, she was built for battle. However, her opponent wasn't a nations enemy or whales rich with oil, she was built to explore Antarctica.
Our (Thursday) morning forecast projected cooling temperatures, possible rain, and even some snow arriving in the next day or two. So, we altered our plans and decided to walk to Dundee Law. This 572 foot peak is the remains of an extinct volcano and is a landmark of the city. It's produced remains & artifacts going back 3500 years.
The view is amazing and we enjoy getting out early to watch a city come alive. From this mornings perch it was as if we were watching from a flying drone. Below was the Firth of Tay. This large navigable river has supported Dundee's seagoing trade for centuries.
To the west is a long trestle which we came across by train for Edinburgh.
To the east, on the Tay, is the Dundee Shipyard with the North Sea beyond.
The shipyards once occupied almost a mile of the waterfront. A leader in wooden ship construction this shipyard produced a majority of the Scotland Whaling Fleet. Time & tide has now reduced the yard to work such as dismantling old oil platforms, on a portion of the acreage it once occupied.
The City of Dundee is doing a wonderful job of recycling itself. Buildings once used as shipyard workshops have been converted into high end waterfront condo's. Dry docks, sit empty with the cofferdams cracked open to allow for natural tidal flow, are brought back to life as backdrops to waterfront shopping at the Quay.
In the city center is a huge £1 Billion, revitalization project which includes hotels, retail shops, cafes, conference facilities, new train depot, and more. Blending the new with the old, the centerpiece of this revitalization is the RRS Discovery.
Built in the Dundee Shipyard over 100 years ago, as a Barque Sailing Ship with Steam Auxiliary, she conducted three research expeditions to Antarctica.
Her hull is over 24" thick and made of several different types of wood, allowing it to flex under the pressure of arctic pack ice.
Known as the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration, Discovery completed three significant voyages. During the first, called the National Antarctic Expedition (1901–1904), she spent two winters wedged in the ice. She was almost lost after being frozen in place, 20 miles from the open ocean and only saved after her crew cut & blasted their way out. Other voyages include, the Discovery Oceanographic Expedition (1925–1927) and the BANZARE expedition (1929–31).
The crew volunteered to serve during Discovery's lengthy expeditions. The first expedition was lead by Captain Robert Scott. He kept the crew safe and their spirits up.
There was also Edward Wilson, zoologist, artist, and assistant surgeon. His illustrations for arctic animals, including penguins were bound in book form and became the leading scientific journals of the day. Both these men would die together on a later expedition to the South Pole, around 29 March 1912
There was only one death during Discovery's the first voyage. It took place while departing New Zealand when one of the crew climbed the main mast and fell to his death waiving goodbye.
A replacement was needed and a volunteer was found. Tom Crean, born in Ireland, was a British sailor who transferred to the Discovery and started his arctic exploration career. Crean would later distinguish himself by his bravery while attached to the ill-fated Endurance that broke up after 492 days drifting on the ice.
Awarded three arctic medals Crean returned to the Navy and retired in 1920. He moved back to Ireland and opened a pub with his wife in his home town, called The South Pole Inn.
During WWII, Discovery's engines & boiler were scrapped but she continued service as a cadet training ship. In 1979, destined for the scrapyards of London, she was saved by the Maritime Trust. Finally, in 1992, she was moved to her present location and returned to her 1924 sailing configuration.
Thankfully we have another day to do more of our own exploration, in Dundee!
Fair Winds & Quiet Anchorages,
Jeff & Wendy