RRS Discovery: 120-year-old rudder removed for restoration

It was built in Dundee in the early 1900s to take explorer Captain Robert Falcon Scott to the Antarctic.

But after 123 years and having travelled all over the globe – including three voyages to the Antarctic – the RRS Discovery is now in desperate need of conservation to preserve its structure.

The ship’s rudder, which measures almost 26.2ft tall and weighs close to six tonnes, has recently been removed as part of the major conservation works.

The rudder has been placed on the dockside at Discovery Point, alongside two small cabins called ‘cuddies’ which were removed earlier this year. It is expected to be separated from the ship for a year while it is repaired.

Dundee Heritage Trust said the temporary removal of the ship’s rudder will also lighten RRS Discovery’s overhanging stern, which is an ‘immediate focus’ of the major restoration project.

The rudder was also removed and replaced 120 years ago, after it was damaged while freeing RRS Discovery from the grips of the Antarctic ice.

Weeks of attempts to loosen the Dundee-built vessel from its position in the Antarctic by use of explosives and manual labour had taken their toll on the wooden rudder, with its replacement being installed on the return journey in 1904.

‘It has been a remarkable sight to see the historic rudder lifted through the well of the ship,’ Ali Gellatly, Director of Ship and Facilities at Dundee Heritage Trust said.

‘I don’t think any one of us present today will forget seeing the rudder lifted skywards in the same method that Robert Falcon Scott and his crew witnessed in Dundee, during Discovery’s trials in 1901 before their famous Antarctic Expedition.’

Since the announcement of the major conservation project aboard RRS Discovery earlier this year, various elements of the ship’s ageing structure have been addressed; including repairing aft skids, removing modern paint from the ship’s sail locker to expose historic wood for repair and replacement, and beginning to de-caulk targeted areas of the deck.


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