Giving the Past a Future
The SS Explorer is a unique vessel. Commissioned in 1956 she was the first purpose-built fisheries research vessel for the Marine Laboratory in Aberdeen. The design was based on a typical side trawler and was kept simple and adaptable as the scientists of the day realised that science never stands still and Scotland’s fisheries were growing and developing.
She was one of the last steam reciprocating vessels to be built by Alexander Hall and Co in Aberdeen, and was designed and built up to a quality, not down to a budget. Her design featured a significant amount of aluminium in the construction to assist her sea keeping qualities which were second to none.
In 1968, the ship was the first of her type to have a computer fitted, at a time when there were few other computers in Aberdeen.
Her service career spanned some thirty years, and she has survived some thirty years since, having been saved from the scrap yard initially by the Maritime Museum Aberdeen, and a second time, by the embryonic SS Explorer Preservation Society.
The Explorer, which is on the Historic ship’s register is an irreplaceable part of Scotland’s proud engineering, shipbuilding and fisheries research heritage.
Volunteers (Always Wanted)
The members of the SS Explorer Preservation Society are unpaid volunteers, who give their time and expertise to try to ensure that this unique vessel remains afloat and available for generations of the public, from around the world to visit and learn from.
The SSEPS has members with specific ship repair/maintenance skills and some members who actually served on the vessel.These volunteers have worked hard over the years to hold back deterioration. However, the major restoration works will have to be carried out professionally, whilst these members continue to address some of the practical issues on board.
The SS Explorer Preservation Society (SSEPS) aim is, in the first instance, to restore Explorer to a condition in which she can be adapted to fulfil a variety of uses based around her acting as a floating museum amongst the other Leith and Forth estuary maritime heritage attractions.Restoration work is currently underway and further funding is being sought to drydock the vessel.
Short Term Aims
To support and realise what will be a complex and lengthy project, the SSEPS proposes to continue recruiting volunteers to address and manage areas such as:
• developing a robust organisation to manage the ship’s restoration and supporting activities
• refining the Society’s financial transparency and accountability
• researching and recording Explorer’s history and heritage
• gathering and conserving relevant artefacts
• establishing the ship’s position within the context of Leith’s other maritime heritage assets
• adapting the ship together with its history and artefacts as a museum
• investigation of how the ship can “earn its living” as a museum and a venue for sundry activities within the wider Forth estuary maritime heritage context
Plus two first steps absolutely essential to the ship’s survival
• pursuing dry docking, cleaning, painting and securing of the hull along with a comprehensive technical survey of all aspects of the ship
• securing a publically accessible berth in Leith docks
This venture will require significant funds and the SSEPS is currently developing a credible organisation and working practices to give potential funders confidence in the Society’s capacity to manage the restoration programme.