IT’S a once in a generation happening and has been taking place these last few weeks at the dock at Discovery Point in Dundee.
Riggers have been working on RRS Discovery, Captain Robert Falcon Scott’s famous expedition ship, for vital cleaning and repair work so that the historic ship can be preserved for future generations.
It was all hands on deck - or four pairs of them anyway - as a specialist team worked solidly for three weeks on de-rigging and de-masting RRS Discovery, a major visitor attraction in Dundee.
This is the first time the ship has gone through this process in 24 years.
And with ropes, masts, spars and bowsprit - some of the pieces more than 90 years old - now being transported to a shipyard in Gloucester, the race is now on to raise the rest of the funds necessary to pay for the de-rigging work.
There are less than two weeks to go and £15,000 left to raise in a £40,000 crowdfunding campaign that has been backed by everyone from primary school children and a newborn baby, to businesses and individuals here and abroad, to TV presenter Lorraine Kelly, a patron of RRS Discovery’s operator Dundee Heritage Trust.
The stripping of the masts and rigging was just the first step in a nine-month conservation programme which will see the ship’s gear meticulously cleaned and repaired at a total cost of £350,000.
The company responsible, T. Nielsen & Company in Gloucester, is a world specialist in repairing and restoring historic ships.
John Watson, a maritime consultant based in Broughty Ferry, is overseeing the rigging project. John was part of the team that was instrumental in getting RRS Discovery back to Dundee in 1986 and is a former chief executive of Dundee Port Authority.
John said: “This has been painstaking work which could only have been done by specialists. Nielsen are leaders in their field and we’ve all been impressed by how efficiently they’ve worked.
“We’ve removed 25 tonnes and 2.5 kilometres of masts, spars, rope and bowsprit, some of which date back more than 90 years. Now it’s on to the next step of cleaning and repair.”
Paul Jennings, executive director of Dundee Heritage Trust, said: “RRS Discovery is an important piece of history, but so is the work that’s being done to her right now.
“We knew a few years ago that repair was absolutely vital in order to preserve her for future generations. That’s why we’re urging the public to keep these donations coming in.”
TV presenter Lorraine Kelly, who is fronting the crowdfunding campaign in a video, called on donations big and small.
She said: “The Discovery was built to last a relative few years in one of the harshest environments on the planet.
“That’s why ongoing maintenance and restoration is essential, to keep her looking outstanding and also to maintain her position as one of Dundee’s favourite visitor attractions.”
RRS Discovery reopens to the public on Monday. The award-winning Discovery Point and visitor centre has remained open throughout the process.
Dundee Heritage Trust, formed in 1985 to preserve and interpret Dundee’s industrial past, operates RRS Discovery and social history museum Verdant Works, both five-star rated attractions and winners of numerous awards.