The whereabouts of the triple expansion steam engine, which powered Captain Scott’s Dundee-built RRS Discovery to the Antarctic in 1901, has been unknown since the Second World War.
Now the discovery of an advert to sell the engine, which appeared in a 1943 edition of the Newcastle Evening Chronicle, has turned a distant chance of finding the engine into a possibility.
Ali Gellatly, outreach officer at Discovery Point, Dundee, where the ship is now berthed, said today: “I came across the advert by complete chance.
“I was doing a search of the British Newspaper Archive, which updates on a regular basis, and it was the first clipping to pop up.
“The advert clearly shows the intention to sell the engine on. So, it’s safe to say it was not scrapped when removed from the ship.
“Cox and Danks, a very reputable ship salvagers and refitters, would have been in charge of the removal of the engine, so it would have been transferred and fitted in another ship to help the war effort or stored in its London warehouse if a buyer was not immediately found.
“Either way, the possibility of the engine being somewhere out there is even more likely than previously thought.”
Until 2015, it was the belief among historians that the engine had been removed from below the decks and salvaged for scrap during the Second World War.
Part of the advert said: “Marine Engine Room for Sale, Ex RRS Discovery, Scott’s Exploration Ship. Complete and available for immediate installation. Complete with main engine and auxiliary machinery.
“Steam generating and emergency generating set to light a vessel and supply power for searchlight and wireless installations.”
Mr Gellatly said: “The engine has been the ship’s missing piece and finding out what happened to it would enable us to add to the ship’s story.
“It is very significant to the city as the engine was built in Dundee by the Gourlay Brothers.
“This advert adds a real legitimacy to the engine still being out there.”