Certificate no 26
Status Registered


Function Research Vessel
Location Leith
Vessel type Fishery Research Vessel
Current use Ongoing conservation
Available to hire No
Available for excursions No
Info required No
Web address www.ss-explorer.com


Builder Hall, Alexander & Company Ltd, Aberdeen.
Built in 1955
Hull material Steel
Rig None
Number of decks 1
Number of masts
Propulsion Steam
Number of engines 1
Primary engine type Steam triple expansion
Boiler type Scotch Return Tube
Boilermaker William Denny & Bros. Ltd, Dumbarton
Boiler year 1956
Boiler fuel oil


Breadth: Beam
32.72 feet (9.98 m)
14.16 feet (4.32 m)
Length: Overall
201.87 feet (61.57 m)
Tonnage: Gross
Air Draft
To be confirmed



Built in 1955 by Alexander Hall & Co.Ltd, with a riveted steel hull and a triple expansion engine by the same firm, EXPLORER was designed as a Fisheries Research Steamer for the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries for Scotland. She has the lines of a deep sea trawler and is believed to be the first research ship to be fitted with an onboard computer.  Dr John H Steele conducted research onboard the Explorer and eventually became the Director of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute in America.  Professor Bob Kabata,a highly decorated Polish war hero and expert of marine parasites carried out a large amount of research while onboard.

She was withdrawn from service in 1984 and sold to breakers from whom she was rescued by Aberdeen City Council for restoration. She lay dormant for many years as the Council tried unsuccessfully to find her a berth adjacent to the City Maritime Museum.

In 1994 the Council proposed she should be scrapped but a local group formed a Preservation Society and she was saved once again. Under the auspices of her new owners she was moved to Leith for restoration work. An eviction order was served by the Forth Ports Authority in 2000, but a reprieve was granted and the vessel remains at Leith.

In March 2019 it was reported that the SS Explorer Preservation Society received a £10,000 funding boost from the National Lottery to officially set up governance of the organisation with the aim of restoring the vessel with as many original features as possible.


Steamboat Register: An illustrated Register of surviving steam vessels in the British Isles, Steam Boat Association of Great Britain, Edition 6, May 1994  
Brouwer, Norman J, International Register of Historic Ships, Anthony Nelson, pp149, Edition 2, 1993  
Muir, Ian, SEVEN LIVES LEFT! The Story of the SS Explorer

Key dates

  • 21/06/1955

    Vessel lauched

  • 1988

    Scheduled for preservation by Aberdeen City Council 

  • 1984

    Withdrawn from service 

  • 1/1995

    Purchased by ss Explorer Preservation Society

  • Jan 1995

    Sold to Shipbreakers

  • 2020

    Received Flagship award of £250, for being NHS-UK regional flagship  Scotland East 2020


  • 2020

    Received Flagship award of £250, for being NHS-UK  regional flagship 2020

Own this vessel?

If you are the owner of this vessel and would like to provide more details or updated information, please contact info@nationalhistoricships.org.uk

More like this

Saefish at sea

Registered, built 1927 by Worfolk Bros, Kings Lynn