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RRS Discovery

A number of ships have borne the name RRS Discovery, the original (and the last wooden three-masted ship to be built in the British Isles), was launched on 21 March 1901, designed for Antarctic research. Her first mission was to carry Captain Scott and Ernest Shackleton in their first unsuccessful trip to reach the South Pole, otherwise known as the National Antarctic Expedition.


The Mission begins

Five months after setting sail, on 6 August 1901, from the Isle of Wight for Antarctica, she sighted the coastline, on 8 January 1902. For the first month Scott began charting the coastline. In preparation for the winter, he weighed anchor, in McMurdo Sound. Unfortunately, this was where she would to remain, locked in ice, for the next two years. Eventually freed on 16 February 1904, by the use of controlled explosives, RRS Discovery finally sailed for home, arriving back at Spithead on 10 September 1904.

Cargo Vessel

Following this devastating setback, the National Antarctic Expedition was in serious financial trouble, and so in 1905, RRS Discovery was sold to the Hudson's Bay Company, who used her as a cargo vessel between London and Hudson Bay, Canada until the time of the Great War, when she began carrying munitions to the Russians. Later, in 1917, she carried supplies to the White Russians during the Russian Revolution. At the end of the hostilities RRS Discovery was chartered by various companies for work in the Atlantic, but outdated and outclassed by more modern merchant vessels she was soon laid up, spending the early 1920s as the headquarters for the 16th Stepney Sea Scouts.

Renewed Research

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 Port Stanley in the Falklands and designated as a Royal Research ship, Discovery underwent a £114,000 re-fit before sailing in October 1925 for the South Seas to chart the migration patterns of whale stocks. Her research role continued when the British Government lent her in 1929, to the B.A.N.Z.A.R.E. (British, Australian and New Zealand Antarctic Expeditions) expeditions, lasting until 1931.

Boy Scouts

Returning to Britain, her research days now over, RRS Discovery was laid up until 1936 when she was presented to the Boys Scouts Association as a training ship for Sea Scouts. During the war years 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 in 1985.

Voyage Home

On 28 March 1986 RRS Discovery left London aboard the cargo ship Happy Mariner to make her only journey home to the town that built her, arriving on the river Tay on 3 April to a tumultuous Scottish welcome. Moved to a custom built dock in 1992, RRS Discovery is now the centrepiece of Dundee’s fabulous new visitor attraction Discovery Point.

A New Generation is Born

RRS Discovery II which herself was built in 1929.

Modern Research

The modern Royal Research Ship Discovery, built in 1962, is the largest general purpose oceanographic research vessel currently in use in the United Kingdom. Operating alongside the RRS Charles Darwin she is the largest vessel in a fleet maintained by the National Environmental Research Council (NERC) Research Ship Unit (RSU).

Measuring 90 metres in length, and fitted with a broad range of oceanographic equipment, RRS 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.

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