Experts to consider rescuing Hull steam trawler Viola from South Georgia

Grytviken_WhalingBoats_NOAAMaritime engineers are to visit the remote South Atlantic island of South Georgia to assess whether the last Hull steam trawler, Viola, can be recovered and brought back to Hull for restoration and exhibition to the public.

Viola is the vessel on the left in the photo above. ItĀ is taken from the Wikipedia, and was shot by Lieutenant Philip Hallb of the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Built at Beverley in 1906, the Viola had an extraordinary career that included a stint with Hellyer Steam Fishing Company’s North Sea fleet – the Hellyer fleet specialised in Shakespearean names, had a distinguished career during The Great War that included the sinkings of at least two U-boats, and later became first a whaler and then a sealer in the South Atlantic, before becoming a hulk at the old whaling station at Grytviken when it closed in 1964.

The decision to visit Viola to assess whether she can be returned to Hull follows years of campaigning and interest by local people, and coincides with the publication of a book about her career. The new volumeĀ available from Lodestar Books is out just in time for Christmas, and I gather it is already proving a bit hit in the Hull area – but I guess it will also be of interest to those fascinated by the era of steam or old fishing vessels.

In another extraordinary development in her career, Viola’s original bell was discovered on a farm at Sandefjord in Norway, and was purchased by the Hull Maritime Museum. In 2008 the bell was returned to the ship.

See the BBC story here.

The new James Caird at the Beale Park Thames Boat Show this weekend

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The new James Caird, photographed a few days ago

If you’re wondering what to do this weekend – perhaps now’s the time to decide, for Friday sees the first day of the three-day Beale Park Thames Boat Show at Pangbourne!

An important attraction of the show this year is a recreation of the small ship’s boat that Sir Ernest Shackleton and his small crew used to reach Elephant Island, the James Caird, which is currently being built by students of the International Boatbuilding Training College (IBTC) at Lowestoft. We saw it during a brief visit to the college last week, and were made very welcome – the college is always pleased to receive visitors.

I was particularly amazed by the scale and diversity of the traditional boatbuilding projects under way at the IBTC, and will be writing more about it shortly.

At the Beale Park show students are scheduled to work on the James Caird’s deck beams and caulking. If you don’t know the story, after Shackleton’s expedition ship Endurance became trapped in pack ice in the Weddell Sea he and 28 men crossed a chaotic maze of ice in three salvaged boats and finally a small group including Shackleton sailed across the Southern Ocean to South Georgia to safety and to organise the rescue of the rest of the crew. The successful journey stands as one of the most impressive small boat voyages ever made – there were gales almost all the way, and it took 17 days of constant constant pumping and chipping ice from the hull and rig to prevent capsize before the little boat landed at South Georgia.

Three of the crew then climbed a four thousand foot mountain climb before staggering into Stromness whaling station to raise the alarm.

Commissioned by The Honourable Alexandra Shackleton, the new James Caird is to be used by by an expedition to re-create the voyage and mountain climb led by environmentalist and explorer Tim Jarvis.

The original boat was constructed of Baltic pine on steamed elm frames; in the absence of these, the students are using European larch on steamed oak. She is copper fastened with keel stem and a stern of grown oak. The students have planked her to the same original sheer and then built up with a further three planks in the same way as the original James Caird, and she will be decked in and canvassed. Caulking will be with cotton and she will be paid up with white lead putty, and then the whole boat will be painted white.

For more posts on the James Caird voyage and project including stunning photos of South Georgia, click here.

For more posts relating to the Beale Park Thames Boat Show, click here.

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How a reader helped to create the best post of 2008

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Stromness from the pass – the point where Shackleton, Crean
and Worsley first saw safety. Click on the thumbnail above
for a larger photo

I’d like to enter The grim grandeur of South Georgia for The Tillerman’s competition Simply The Best, which seeks to celebrate the vibrant diversity of boating weblogs.

This post is simply the best because it connects us to the past, draws attention to important but little-known boat-related information, was the development of a series and showed readers contributing from across the world.

This combination of history, relevance to the present day and reader engagement is what makes worth the time and effort I put into it. In particular, the contributions of people such as Jeff Cole and a host of boatbuilders and boating enthusiasts make what it is – believe me, I don’t do it for the Google Adsense income!