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by Cindy Grant
June 26, 2011
From journal The Scotland Ghostour
Ayr, Scotland, United Kingdom
February 27, 2004
I was viewing RRS (Royal Research Ship) Discovery, built to take Captain Scott to Antarctica in 1901. She was at the time the first ship ever built in Britain specially for a scientific expedition. She cost £50,000 of the total budget of £92,000 for the expedition.
Discovery Point, the present mooring of RSS Discovery, is one of the main attractions in Dundee. This research ship was built utilising the city’s experience in building whalers for Arctic and Antarctic whaling voyages. She left Dundee on July 31st 1901 bound for Antarctica. Now a pavilion containing displays and special effects brings the voyages of Discovery alive before climaxing with a tour of the ship.
The ship’s massively built wooden hull designed to withstand crushing by ice offered greater strength than steel construction and could flex to resist damage. Hoisting the propeller and rudder into the hull preserved them from the bruising, crushing force of ice. Raked iron shod bows riding up over the ice could break through it using the dead weight of the ship.
In the English Channel Scott considered the ship sluggish, short masted and under-canvassed. These characteristics become virtues in the Roaring Forties down in the southern oceans. She could sail through gales with canvas aloft that would have stripped the sails and masts from more conventional ships.
After explorations along the coast of Antarctica, the Discovery wintered in the protected waters of McMurdo Sound. Frozen in, she remained there over the next two years until February 1904. A supply ship, the Morning, brought provisions.
As well as an extensive scientific programme, the expedition aimed to reach the South Pole. A party of Scott, Shackleton and Wilson on December 31st 1902 travelled 300 miles farther south than any previous group. The effects of scurvy and a lack of food forced them to turn back 480 miles from the Pole. It took them over a month to reach their base - as Scott put it "We are as near spent as three persons can be." They had been gone for 93 days and had covered 960 miles.
The "Morning" returned in 1904 this time with the "Terra Nova" and orders from the UK government for the expedition to return. The Discovery had 20 miles of ice between it and open water and seemed permanently locked in. Hard work with explosives, the wind shifting in the right direction and the two relief ships breaking their way through the remaining ice sprung Discovery out of the jaws of the trap. The Discovery arrived in Portsmouth on September the 10th 1904 carrying many specimens never seen before.
Discovery Point is well worth a visit.
From journal Dundee - City of Discovery