Saturday, March 24, 2012

Oldest Surviving Clipper Ship

  • 24 Mar 2012
  • The Sydney Morning Herald
  • Billy Briggs
  • Guardian News & Media

Historic clipper retires to sun after 150 years

GLASGOW: It is the oldest surviving clipper ship in the world, apart from the Cutty Sark, and in its heyday carried emigrants from Scotland to Australia, where about 250,000 people can trace their origins to its passengers.
Survivor . . . the City of Adelaide carried emigrants from Scotland.
For years, the City of Adelaide has lain rotting on a slipway in Irvine, Scotland. But now, nearly 150 years after the ship was built, preparations are under way for one last voyage – to Adelaide, where the vessel is to become a tourist attraction.

According to the National Historic Ships Committee, the 54-metre ship is one of the most important in British maritime history, the last survivor of the timber trade between North America and Britain.

Despite its early splendour and pedigree, the future had looked bleak for the City of Adelaide after it sank in the River Clyde. It became a political issue, with various parties laying claim to ownership until a bid from Australia secured its future.

The ship was built in 1864 in Sunderland, England, and launched on May 7 that year. It spent 23 years making 16,000-kilometre trips to and from Australia, and played a fundamental role in the development of the young nation.

In 1893, it was converted to a hospital ship at Southampton on England’s south coast, and after being commissioned into the Royal Navy in 1924 was converted to a training ship at Irvine and renamed HMS Carrick. The ship was moored at Greenock, on the River Clyde until 1950 and later in Glasgow, where it was used as a clubhouse for the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve.

It became a landmark before it sank in 1991. After a year under water, it was raised by the Scottish Maritime Museum and moved to its site in Irvine. The Carrick was repaired and opened to the public in 1995 but there were problems with funding and the museum applied for consent to dismantle the vessel in May 2000.

Experts said the restoration required would be akin to building a new ship. They suggested breaking it up, which provoked a campaign by interested parties, including a group from Sunderland, to save the ship.

In 2010 the Scottish government announced that the ship would not be dismantled, and that Adelaide had been identified as a preferred bidder.

Engineers in Australia constructed a 100-tonne cradle, costing £680,000, which has now arrived in Irvine. The clipper will be transported on a lift ship to become the centrepiece of a maritime heritage display in Port Adelaide.

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