was the last wooden three-masted ship to be built in Britain
, and was launched on 21 March 1901
, designed for Antarctic
research. Her first mission was the British National Antarctic Expedition, carrying Robert Falcon Scott
and Ernest Shackleton
on their first, successful journey to the Antarctic, known as the Discovery Expedition
On 16 March 1900
, construction on the Discovery
began in Dundee
, by the Dundee Shipbuilders Company
. She was launched into the Firth of Tay
on 21 March 1901
by Lady Markham, the wife of Sir Clements Markham
who was President of the Royal Geographical Society
Discovery had coal-fired auxiliary steam engines, but had to rely primarily on sail because the coal bunkers did not have sufficient capacity to take the ship on long voyages. She was rigged as a barque. According to Shackleton, the ship was a bad sailer, and carried too much sail aft and not enough forward; while Scott worried that the design of the ship's hull was unsuitable for work in pack ice. The ship had a massively built wooden hull designed to withstand being frozen into the ice. The propeller and rudder could be hoisted out of the way to prevent ice damage. Iron shod bows were severely raked so that when ramming the ice they would ride up over the margin and crush the ice with deadweight. The Discovery rolled badly in the open sea where the flat shallow hull, built with no protuberances to work well in ice, provided minimal stability in heavy seas.
British National Antarctic Expedition
Five months after setting sail on 6 August 1901
from the Isle of Wight, she sighted the Antarctic
coastline on 8 January 1902
. During the first month Scott began charting the coastline. Then, in preparation for the winter, he weighed anchor in McMurdo Sound
. Unfortunately, this was where the ship would remain, locked in ice, for the next two years; the expedition had expected to spend the winter there and to move on in the spring. Despite this, the Expedition was able to determine that Antarctica was indeed a continent, and they were able to relocate the Southern Magnetic Pole. Scott, Shackleton and Edward Wilson
also achieved a Furthest South
of 82 degrees 18 minutes. The ship was eventually freed on 16 February 1904
by the use of controlled explosives which allowed the ice to be moved away by butting and shunting, thus assisting in the break up of the ice . RRS Discovery
finally sailed for home, arriving back at Spithead on 10 September 1904
The British National Antarctic Expedition was acclaimed upon its return but was also in serious financial trouble, and so in 1905, Discovery
was sold to the Hudson's Bay Company
, who used her as a cargo vessel between London
and Hudson Bay
until the First World War
, when she began carrying munitions to Russia
. In 1916, she was loaned to the British Government to rescue Shackleton's party marooned on Elephant Island, but they were rescued before she arrived. In 1917, she carried supplies to the White Russians
during the Russian Civil War
. At the end of the hostilities Discovery
was chartered by various companies for work in the Atlantic
, but outdated and outclassed by more modern merchant vessels she was soon laid up, spending the early 1920s as the headquarters of the 16th Stepney Sea Scouts
In 1923 her fortunes were revived when the Crown Agents for the Colonies purchased her for further research work in the Antarctic. Re-registered to Stanley
in the Falklands and designated as a Royal Research Ship, Discovery
underwent a £114,000 refit before sailing in October 1925 for the South Seas to chart the migration patterns of whale stocks as part of the Discovery Investigations
. Her research role continued when the British Government lent her to BANZARE
, the British Australian and New Zealand Antarctic Research Expedition
. She served in this duty from 1929 until 1931.
Returning to Britain, her research days now over, Discovery
was laid up until 1936 when she was presented to the Boy Scouts Association
as a stationary training ship
for Sea Scouts
. During the war her engines and boilers were removed for scrap to help with the war effort. Too costly for the Scouts Association to maintain she was transferred to the Admiralty in 1955 for use as a drill ship for the Royal Navy Auxiliary Reserve
. As the years passed her condition deteriorated and when no longer of use to the Navy, she was in danger of being scrapped. Saved from the breakers yard by the Maritime Trust
, into whose care she passed in 1979, her future had been secured. Berthed on the River Thames
and open to the public, the trust spent some £500,000 on essential restoration until she was passed into the ownership of the Dundee Heritage Trust
On 28 March 1986 Discovery left London aboard the cargo ship Happy Mariner to make her journey home to the town that built her, arriving on the River Tay on 3 April to a tumultuous welcome. Moved to a custom built dock in 1992, Discovery is now the centrepiece of Dundee's visitor attraction Discovery Point. The city also markets itself as The City of Discovery, in honour of RRS Discovery and the research work of the two universities in the city and the Ninewells teaching hospital.
RRS Discovery II (1929)
RRS Discovery II
was built in 1929.
RRS Discovery (1962)
The modern Royal Research Ship Discovery
, built in 1962, was until 2006, the largest general purpose oceanographic research vessel in use in the United Kingdom
. She now operates out of the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton
alongside the larger RRS James Cook
as part of a fleet maintained by the Natural Environment Research Council
(NERC) Research Ship Unit (RSU).
Measuring 90 metres in length, and fitted with a broad range of oceanographic equipment, Discovery can also accommodate containerised laboratories, with berths available for 28 scientific staff, and has the ability to spend up to 45 days at sea. Her last major overhaul was in 1992, when a new superstructure and power plant were installed and her hull lengthened by 10 metres.
The Discovery is due to be replaced by another ship, named after extensive enquiry within the scientific community, "Discovery", as confirmed by Alan Thorpe, NERC Chief Executive. The existing vessel will continue to be called Discovery whilst with NERC; being renamed shortly before or at disposal.
In popular culture
The spaceship Discovery One
in Arthur C. Clarke
's book 2001:A Space Odyssey
was named by Clarke after RRS Discovery
; Clarke used to eat his lunch aboard her, as she was moored near the office where he worked in London. According to Clarke, he was unaware that RRS Discovery
was launched in 1901, so the fact that she was celebrating her centenary in the year of his book is a coincidence.
- Huntford, Roland: Shackleton. ISBN 0-689-11429-X.