Polar Research Ship built 1901 by Dundee Shipbuilders' Company, Dundee
National Historic Fleet
Polar Research Ship
To be confirmed
33.80 feet (10.31 metres)
284.00 feet (86.62 metres)
15.74 feet (4.80 metres)
DISCOVERY was built for the National Antarctic Expedition 1901-4 and is one of the last three-masted wooden ships built in this country. She was designed by Sir William Smith with a full hull form and tumblehome and was unique, having a lifting propeller and rudder, but able to be steered and steamed if she lost her Rudder Post. In 1905, she was sold to the Hudson Bay Company who gutted all the accommodation below the Upper Deck, used the laboratories on the Upper Deck for the Officers accommodation with a saloon between them, and a bridge over them, moved the capstan onto the fo’c’sle head, and put the crew in the foc’s’le. In this form she carried supplies to the Trading Post in the Hudson Bay, and brought furs back. In World War One, she carried munitions and food for the French Government, and in 1916 she was refitted in Devonport and went South to pick up Shackleton’s crew of ENDURANCE who were stranded on Elephant Island. She reached Montevideo before hearing of their rescue. In 1922, after two years laid up in the West India Docks, she was bought by Crown Agents and rebuilt for use as the world leading oceanographic survey ship. Based on the Falkland Islands, she carried out The Discovery Investigations - the first research into the life and ecology of the whale. In 1929, she was lent to Sir Douglas Mawson for his two British, Australian, and New Zealand Antarctic Research Expeditions. In this expedition almost a third of the Antarctic coastline was charted for the first time, and many places were named, including Proclamation Island, after members and sponsors of the expedition. Afterwards DISCOVERY was laid up in the West India Docks until she was presented to the Boy Scout Association, and endowed by Lady Houston. She became a memorial to Antarctic heroes, the Headquarters for Sea Scouts, a centre for their training, and an accommodation ship for Scouts or Sea Scouts visiting London. She was berthed on a pier by Temple Tube Station, funded by the Pilgrim Trust. During World War Two, DISCOVERY became the Headquarters of the River Emergency Service. A Barrage Balloon dragged its cable across the Main Course yard, and broke it. When examined, the yard was found to be rotten, so all the yards were sent down for safety, also the boilers, the machinery, the Trawl Winch and the Winch House were cut up and taken to provide scrap steel. To compensate for the loss of weight, shingle was put in the bilges and the propeller trunk. After the war she was handed back to the Sea Scouts. An additional mess deck was built in the Engine Room, and the Boiler Room and Bunkers were used as training spaces. During the “Festival of Britain” an exhibition on Antarctica was mounted in the ship, and she was opened to the public. For this, the fresh water tanks were taken out and replaced with crew accommodation. In 1953 the Royal Navy took her on, stripping out all remaining original accommodation, except the Wardroom. The London Division of the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve used her for extra accommodation for the “Admiral Commanding Reserves”, until 1980, when the shrinking Navy had no further use for her. When they proposed to tow her out and use her for target practice, there was a major outcry. H.R.H. The Duke of Edinburgh intervened and she was sold to The Maritime Trust. A survey showed that the bottom was sound, though there was rot elsewhere. The Maritime Trust started restoration, opened her to the public as part of the Historic Ship Collection in St. Katherine’s Dock by the Tower of London. New Forest trees made a new set of yards, built to the original drawings, which were crossed in 1983. In 1985, Dundee expressed interest in DISCOVERY and in 1986 she was carried there in a Floating Dock Ship. She was initially chartered and eventually sold to Dundee Industrial Heritage, who built a dock to accommodate her, with a dedicated exhibition building alongside, where she is now on permanent display to the public. Source; Tim Parr, Advisory Committee, March 2009.
April 2008 - March 2009 A Sustainability Grant of £2000 for interpretation was made from the Strategic Development Fund of National Historic Ships. Source: National Historic Ships.
A Sustainability Grant of £1000 towards a floating platform was made from the Strategic Development Fund of National Historic Ships UK. Source: National Historic Ships UK.
Vessel built by the Dundee Shipbuilders' Company for the National Antarctic Expedition 1901-4
- 1901-1904 National Antarctic Expedition
Vessel sold to the Hudson Bay Company to carry supplies to the Trading Post in theHudson Bay, and bring furs back
Refitted in Devonport and went South to pick up Shackleton’s crew of ENDURANCE who were stranded on Elephant Island
Laid up in the West India Docks
Vessel bought by Crown Agents and rebuilt for use as world leading oceanographic survey ship. Based on the Falkland Islands, she carried out The Discovery Investigations - the first research into the life and ecology of the whale
Carried out The Discovery Investigations
Undertook the British, Australian and New Zealand Antartic Research Expeditions
Owned by Boy Scout Association
Vessel taken on by the Royal Navy. The London Division of the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve used her for extra accommodation for the ‘Admiral Commanding Reserves’
Passed into the care of the Maritime Trust, berthed on the River Thames and open to the public
Bought by Dundee Industrial Heritage Trust
28 March: Carried to Dundee in a Floating Dock, arriving on the River Tay on 3 April
Moved to a custom built dock becoming the centrepiece of Dundee’s visitor attraction, Discovery Point.
- 1953 Sea Breezes Scott's "Discovery"
- 1978 Old Ships, Boats and Maritime Museums - Sullivan, Dick
- 1980 Mariner's Mirror The Steam Yacht Discovery
- 1990 Your history of the Royal Research Ship Discovery - Laing, Massie
- 1992 Sea Breezes The Royal Research Ship 'Discovery' of 1901
- 1993 International Register of Historic Ships - Brouwer, Norman J
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