A ship’s telegraph was used to transmit engine orders from the wheelhouse to the machinery spaces. Unfortunately the wheelhouse and engine room telegraphs on the Explorer have been purloined leaving only the stokehold instrument. The wheelhouse would use a handle to position the telegraph to order the desired speed. A bell would ring in the machinery spaces and continue ringing until the order was responded to by the engineer. The stokehold instrument is only a repeater so no response is possible. The duty fireman would use the order to decide whether to increase or decrease the firing of the boiler.
Geek alert! The SS Explorer’s type 21 Decca Navigator. In the days before satellite navigation, Decca ruled the roost for short range navigation. Land based transmitters, a master and three slaves would form a “chain” located around the area. These would transmit on discrete frequencies from 70 to 130 kHz. Special charts with a Decca lattice overlay would then be used to transfer readings from the Decca navigator to obtain the vessel or aircraft’s position. Also a plotter was fitted but it is currently unclear how this was used.
Stand by for amazing reviews of this amazing play.
We were visited by these guys today. They took a coach up from North Shields and had a cuppa and a tour of the boat. Michael Smith, one of their number, presented us with a fabulous sketch of the Explorer in action. Thanks for visiting.
…….. hard labour on the monkey island today saw the remnants of the wooden decking removed. The big top it turns out makes an excellent greenhouse and all the troops were sweating like a glassblowers bum. We are now ready for phase 3, when we have worked out what phase three is.
Six months after starting this project we have hit milestone number two. The wooden decking is removed (bar a few details). A couple of big holes in the deck above the radio officer’s cabinet which has been badly affected by water. Now we can see why. Next stage is to remove all the corrosion before putting down a layer of GRP and resin.
Another ex crew member visited today. Alex Maine came to share some of his memories of his time on the Explorer.
Today we were visited by Donald Ballance, a scientist on Explorer between 1966 and 1974. Here is a photo of him then and a photo of him now. His tour was more informative for the volunteer conducting it that for him.
After some appalling weather, both wind and rain, the big top seems to be doing its job. There is dampness due to blowing rain and slight leaks but nothing is penetrating to the interior. More progress made today and we now have around a third of the deck up. It’s a slog. And rain and a drill malfunction stopped play early today.
Our newly painted main deck passage which Jim Duff has been beavering away at for a week or three.
Today, after fettling the Big Top we began assessing a repair strategy for the deck of the monkey island which has been leaking rainwater, damaging the internal fabric of the ship. We began by developing a method of removing the planking without damaging the aluminium structure. Some of the wood is rotten and crumbles but in fact the sound wood is looking like it will be easy to remove. Firstly we removed the nuts on the retaining studs, these are aluminium and not overly robust. Most screwed off, but the occasional one sheared. We then ran a buzzsaw down the caulking line and then across the plank at suitable intervals and prised the planks off. This seems to work well and we are confident that we can quickly strip the deck without further damage. What did we find? Well so far it is quite encouraging. In the area stripped in the above photo we found two or three perforations of various sizes and a fair bit of pitting which would eventually perforate. The white material in the photo above is aluminium oxide, or corroded aluminium if you like. On a positive note the orange areas are the original coating and these areas are original thickness alloy. The likely plan for repairing then is initially to remove all the wooden decking. After that we can survey the deck and assess the damage. We will then have to mechanically remove the corrosion with wire brushes etc. We will probably prime and plate over the perforations and severe pitting with aluminium plate and Sikoflex sealant to keep it watertight. We will then prime the entire deck with a suitable aluminium primer. Zinc chromate appears to be no longer fashionable as it contains carcinogens. A coat of protective paint will follow. Further down the road of course we hope to replace the wooden deck. This is particularly desirable as the surrounding aluminium angle that retains the wood will act as a cofferdam and prevent rainwater from draining. It is encouraging that most of the deck in this section is sound and we hope that this will continue to be the case. Watch this space for future developments.
Port and Starboard Diesel Tanks Both these tanks were inspected visually through the manhole doors on 260119. The starboard tank is in relatively good condition and the port tank has light surface corrosion. The port tank is not currently considered suitable for fuel storage.
The big top pretty much complete except at the aft end. Will have to consider if we have enough Monarflex to do the remaining unshielded parts. Should keep most of the water off the deck and out of the accommodation. Turns out it consumed many more man hours than I had imagined. Hoping to start work repairing the deck shortly.
A family visit to the Explorer today.
A bit of a windy one today and testing the mettle of the Big Top. It is standing up so far but requires tweaking and maintenance. Also we have still to shield the forward and after ends, but we are awaiting delivery of further anchors and clamps. When we had run out of tent tweaks, a couple of feasibility studies were carried out to assist in planning the restoration of the deck. A tentative needle gunning was carried out to remove old paint from a small area. This looks like a suitable method of paint removal. In addition, we investigated a small area of the deck to determine how best to remove the wood with out further damaging the structure. We chose a section which looked rotten for this investigation. As can be seen, parts of the deck are in poor condition. Tentative buzz saw manipulation in this area revealed a couple of small surprises. The main planking (in this area anyway) seems to be laid over a substrate of bitumen. The caulking can be seen at the edges but conventional caulking would be done by forcing tarred hemp into the seams of the laid deck and not as shown. Additionally, on top of the main plank which was around 2″ thick, another layer of planking of perhaps ¾” had been nailed on. Whether this was a patch applied while in service or the builders installation is unknown. The game is afoot Watson!
Starting to get some shelter for the monkey island now. Another day or two hard labour should see this finished.
One step forward…….. Started covering the tent poles today. Unfortunately due to a rookies error, the poles are too far apart. The blue reinforcing pads should be aligned with the poles. Doh! So we have lowered the main stay ready to saw some pipe on Tuesday. 👍
Today, Andy carried out a long overdue oil change and filter clean on the harbour generator. Around 20 litres of oil and 2 litres of water sludge were drained and the sump cleaned with rags. Fresh oil added snd the save all cleaned.
A message from the Chairman of the SS Explorer Preservation Society Brian Murdoch It is with a very heavy heart that I must let you know that our good friend, Brian Murdoch has died. Following a period where he struggled against a form of blood cancer he succumbed to an infection he was unable to withstand and died in the Western General Hospital in Edinburgh on the 5th September. Brian is survived by Sabine his dear wife and three wonderful children. Brian became interested in the SSEPS almost by accident in that he’d read about someone who had canoed round Scotland in a craft called Explorer which was due in Leith. He made enquiries about this voyage and found out that the SS Explorer also lay up in Leith. On making its acquaintance and seeing around its triple expansion steam engine, its ancillary systems and probably, most of all, hearing about its history, was intrigued and fascinated about the ship and most passionate about its survival. Brian immediately became a member of the SSEPS but was not content, however, to just chip and paint. He was more intent on building an organisation capable of turning our great ship into something that we, in Scotland and Leith, could be proud of. He realised that if we were to move the project forward we needed to build a sustainable organisation: his phrase was ‘the Explorer has to have the ability to wash its own face’ – it needed to be self-sustaining. Brian became part of the Board of Directors in 2016 and worked tirelessly producing materials to take the project forward along with, most importantly, creating a structure of support for those of us who were new to a project of this magnitude. His steadying hand on the tiller and ability to be critical in the kindliest manner built a confidence in the team which has allowed us to take his vision forward. I was privileged to spend many hours with him and enjoy his vision and his particular form of humour – he loved a wee dry chuckle!! Although Brian gave up his directorship on the board in the spring this year he very much kept in touch with what was going on on the ship and whenever he was able, he came on-board to chat with the crew and spend time seeing what was happening. I spoke to him on several occasions during his illness and kept him up to date with the progress on the Explorer. He was always full of suggestion, support and just loved to hear of progress – ‘that’s really good news, keep it coming’ was what he said to me. It seemed that even in his deepest moments all he wanted was the best and I think this really is the measure of this good man – Brian Murdoch. I last spoke to Brian a fortnight ago and he said I ought to try a dram of his favourite ‘Shackleton’ whisky. Brian, I’ve a dram in my hand and I salute and miss you dreadfully. Andy Marjoribanks – Chairman SSEPS
The main deck starboard side has been a slip and trip hazard for a very long time due to deterioration of the wood and is very slippery in the wet. Today we had donated some nice wooden planks which we have laid down the deck and covered with mesh to make a nice safe walkway. In the long term we hope to redeck the entire ship with the original Douglas Pine 3″ x 5″ planks. In the meantime we are no longer in serious danger of falling on our erses in the rain.
Continuing my adventures in the lookshoory superyacht Síbín, I find myself in Kingston upon Hull, or ‘ull as the locals say. ‘ull is home to the Arctic Corsair, a motor trawler built in 1960 in Beverley. She is now a visitor attraction on the River ‘ull, and she is about to receive a massive cash injection. This is the sort of commitment we need for Explorer and for Leith. I took the tour and thought I would share some pics with you. She is moored on the River ‘ull which is not currently dredged as it used to be and she dries out on mud as the tide ebbs. As you can see from this photograph….. Being owned by the council, the beaurocrats don’t allow access to the bowels of the machinery space which is a travesty for those who want to see those things, like me! So, that’s the Arctic Corsair. If our Yorkshire compatriots can attract a £27 million investment, we need to up our game in Leith.
Yesterday I visited the above attractions in Grimsby. These provide a bit of a template to a possible future for the SS Explorer. The Ross Tiger has been opened up internally to allow visitors a reasonably easy tour although she is not suitable for people of reduced mobility. The heritage centre is very well thought out and gives a great insight into life in the fishing industry in bygone days. The cook. Always bad tempered apparently. The wheelhouse. Feeding the boiler in a hot stokehold. And clearing ice in the freezing arctic. Ships have been lost due to becoming unstable under the weight of ice. This little beaut was on display and the Explorer’s binnacle is missing. Unfortunately, it wouldn’t fit in my pocket.
SS Explorer Preservation Society – Annual General Meeting 7 July 2018 Chairman’s Report Since my last update, given at last year’s AGM, many things of note have happened: One of our most important tasks is building the organisation in order that we can be seen as credible in the eyes of potential funders and we have been busy on this side of the project. We’ve been developing relationships with other ‘heritage’ groups, especially in Leith, and the Society is now seen as an important part in the development of The Leith Trust’s and The Leith Civic Trust’s vision for the future of Leith. We have recruited supporters in the political and civic community and we now have the patronage of The Lord Provost’s Office and John Dunn MBE (John was Chief Scientist on Explorer). We have invited and won the support of Ben Macpherson MSP, Deidre Brock MP, Cllr Gordon Munro and Adam McVey, Leader of Edinburgh Council. The support of these good folks is essential to the future of the Explorer. We have been building a portfolio of evidence for our potential funders and the latest document we have commissioned is a ‘stabilisation plan’ from the highly regarded Wessex Archaeology. This ought to be ready shortly and will be viewed as a high quality document emanating from a respected group of professionals in the field of maritime archaeology. Bill Macpherson has come on-board over the past 8 months and has made a huge difference to how we present ourselves. He has produced a new leaflet and a 10 page prospectus which puts our story out there in an exciting and imaginative way. Our intention is to use the prospectus to generate and invite interest in the Explorer for potential funders and supporters. Bill has designed a new badge that is available now. Bill also put us in touch with Circamedia who have made a video with John Dunn, Jimmy Yorkston and Alisdair Munro, all of whom sailed on the Explorer. Many thanks to them. We will be showing an excerpt from this video following our formal business today. Many thanks to Bill for his tireless enthusiasm. The website is a super showcase and window for the Explorer. Colin keeps on updating this and our Facebook page. The importance of the website and our presence on the other social media platforms cannot be underestimated and one of our aims over the coming months is to develop our Society by exploiting the potential of this form of communication. Many thanks to Colin for the hours he has put into this essential set of tools. On-board we have been concentrating on making the ship wind and watertight. We had a serious leak of rainwater from the boat deck into the crew mess for some time and patching over the years was really coming to naught. The reality is that new plating requires to be welded onto the boat deck and this is a major job! Solution for the moment – and this seems to have worked to a great extent – is cement boxes and scrounging sand and cement from a local supplier. Jim and I made up some shuttering and built it around the base of one of the ventilation intakes and over some badly corroded plating over the crew mess; we then filled the cement boxes with – guess what?– and hey-presto an almost dry crew mess. This was really important as Charlie had newly completed ripping out the rotten bench caused by water damage and rebuilding it. Another major part of the work on-board has been decluttering and cleaning the ship. It would seem that over the years we had acquired all sorts of bits and pieces – old carpets, children’s models left over from the 2001 Science Festival, old tools, bits of scrap wood and just plain junk. It was felt that if we were to present the ship up to any standard at all we had to clear this stuff out. Over the past two or three months Jim, Jean and Maggie have taken this task to heart and have made a real difference: still work to be done but a super start made. Many thanks to this team. We had for a long time wanted to bring the officers and scientists saloon up to a higher standard but were reluctant to invest in it due to water ingress through the deck lights on the port passage and fish deck. Over the second half of the year Charlie really took the bit between the teeth and along with Duncan replaced the rotting wooden framing with good wood and resealed them with pitch. This stopped the leaks which then allowed us to lay a new carpet – and what a difference! Jim replaced a wrecked wall board and replaced broken and missing mouldings and repaired the hearth. We now have a saloon area to be really proud of and which puts a wow factor on the faces of visitors. When Jim puts on one of his spreads the whole saloon looks fabulous. Well done all! Another step on the way is that Phil-the-Phone, an ex BT engineer, has been overhauling the ship’s phone system. He’s been systematically removing each phone and taking it home and refurbishing it. We’ve now got to a situation where there is communication over the system: nearly there. Great stuff Phil – keep up the good work. Phil Harley has been squirrelling away down in Leicester researching the ship’s radio and instrumentation, getting in touch with Marconi museums, looking for suitable donations for Explorer, writing letters and articles for the Grimsby newspapers and generally stirring up real interest in the ship way down south. Phil comes up to Edinburgh to visit his son regularly and is a great font of knowledge and information. Thanks for all this work Phil. A number of us have seen a need to create a workshop on-board. We’ve identified one of the fish holds and we have cleaned and…
SS Explorer Preservation Society – Annual General Meeting Saturday 7 July 2018 at 12 midday for a start at 12.15 Leith Docker’s Club, 17 Academy Street, Leith, Edinburgh, EH6 7EE Agenda 1. Welcome & Introductions 2. Apologies for absence 3. Minutes of previous AGM 4. Matters Arising 5. Chairman’s Report – Andy Marjoribanks 6. Treasurer’s Report & Adoption of Accounts 7. Appointment of independent examiner/auditor 8. Election of Directors/Trustees 9. Ratification of Outline Business Plan 10. Ratification of an amendment to the Articles of Association 11. Meeting close followed by a visit to SS Explorer (for those interested) Alan Hush Administrator email@example.com
Today, we are delighted to welcome on board our newest volunteers, Halina Pasiecznik and Steve Ball. Welcome to the view from your window Halina and Steve.
I have been asked to publicise some events by the above organisation. Friends of The Maritime Heritage Trust Forthcoming Visits 30 June 2018 – Richmond Historic and ceremonial river craft and gentlemen’s yachts. The day will include behind the scenes visits and traditional boat trips on the Thames. Further details – meet at Richmond Bridge Boathouse (just below Richmond Bridge at 10:00 for a boatyard tour and a visit to the historic motor yacht Lilian, built by C G Pettersson, Stockholm, Sweden in 1969 and substantially restored to sea-going use by her current owners, Scott and Hilary Pereira. Richmond Bridge Boathouses include the yard of Mark Edwards MBE, builder of HM The Queens Rowbarge Gloriana, who will give a talk on her construction. It is intended to include options for short trips in one or more traditional Thames boats, including a wherry and a Dunkirk Little Ship (tbc). These are optional and an additional charge may be made. Lunch will be provided at 3 Duck’s Walk. It is anticipated the walk (approx. 2 miles of easy terrain but with some climbing up and down ladders/stairways to access vessels) and visits will end at 16:00. Cost for the day is £25 and includes lunch and membership of the Friends of The Maritime Heritage Trust. 23/24 September 2018 – HMS Trincomalee and Guided Tour, Hartlepool Friends visit with guided maritime history tour, records and exhibits of local shipbuilding and preserved vessels including paddle steamer Wingfield Castle. Further details – set alongside an authentically created historic quayside of the 1800s, HMS Trincomalee, Europes oldest warship still afloat, was built in Bombay, India in 1817. Trincomalee was one of the last of Nelson’s powerful frigates and is now part of the National Museum of the Royal Navy. Our visit will include a guided tour including the story of her conservation – masts, rigging and 46 guns, the fine Captain’s quarters and the rope-making store below deck. Additionally the Fighting Ships experience provides the everyday drama of life on board HMS Prosperity around the year 1800, a powerful insight into the tough lives of sailors from the time of Trafalgar. Adjoining Trincomalee is the Hartlepool Museum, the home of major collections on the maritime history of the north east, as well as the history of Hartlepool. This includes steam engines, ship models, local boats and the story of the Hartlepool monkey. Outside the museum is moored the PSS Wingfield Csatle, a restored former Humber paddle steamer, which features a restaurant. Meet Sunday 23 September at 14:00 at Main Entrance, National Museum of the Royal Navy, Hartlepool for tour of HMS Trincomalee and adjoining exhibits. Museum closes at 17:00. Meet Monday 24 September at 10:00 at entrance to Hartlepool Museum for visit to archive on north east shipbuilding followed by lunch at the Museum. Cost £20 – includes tour and admission to all displays on both days, but not meals or accommodation. Friends of the National Museum of the Royal Navy: admission free. 6 October 2018 – Trinity Buoy Wharf – London’s newest maritime heritage centre Behind the scenes guided visit to the former Trinity House depot and research station on the Thames at Leamouth, now home to an arts and business community and a growing collection of historic vessels, including Thames tugs. Hear an update on plans for the display of HMS Robin, a steam vessel of international importance built in 1890 at nearby Bow Creek, and see London’s newest pier, the, just built, 600 tonne base for the Thames Clipper Fleet at Trinity Buoy Wharf. For further information on Trinity Buoy Wharf go to: www.trinitybuoywharf.com
Forth Ports hosted an open day at the docks today taking visitors on a tour of the port in vintage buses. Never one to miss an opportunity, our chairman Andy organised for the buses to stop at the SS Explorer while he boarded and gave a short talk and passed out publicity material. A guestemated six tours stopped for the talk and we hope we may harvest some new members. We also had a visit from five gents who made the journey from Saint Combs near Fraserburgh. to visit us. They were treated to a tour of the ship and tea and sandwiches, both of which were very well received. We are delighted to report that four of them joined the society increasing our credibility and our meagre coffers.
When Explorer was under construction in Halls shipyard in 1955, another vessel was under construction in Hall Russel at the same time. This ship was to be the Sir William Hardy, a fishery research vessel commissioned by the the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. Unlike Explorer, she was a diesel electric vessel and suffered teething problems with that technology in her early days. In 1977 Sir William Hardy was purchased by Greenpeace UK and after a refit she was christened Rainbow Warrior. In 1985 the Rainbow Warrior made passage to New Zeland to lead a flotilla of boats protesting against French nuclear testing at Mururoa Atoll. On the 10th July 1985 while Rainbow Warrior was moored in Aukland, French intelligence agents attached two explosive devices to her hull. The first device exploded causing the crew to evacuate the ship. Unfortunately the photographer Fernando Pereira returned to the ship to rescue his equipment when a second larger explosion sank the ship and killed Fernando.
…on the Explorer. We were visited by five people from Epoch Design (.co.uk) who were given a partial tour (due to their time constraints) and tea and bikkys. Mean while, in the fishroom, work continues to make a workshop space by the building of a workbench by our highly skilled craftsmen. A wee lick of paint and anyone would think it was a Chippendale. (The above caption could also refer to the second photo)
Today we hosted a couple of tours of the SS Explorer. The larger group were procurement professionals from the Northern Irish, Welsh and Scottish governments. And a net gain of three new members. Tours are always available through firstname.lastname@example.org
Work continues on making the fishroom into a workshop with the installation of power and lighting, and the purchase of a £50 air compressor from Lidl.
Just came across this nice little drawing
Some of the SS Explorer crew visit the Maid of the Loch.
…….fishroom deck painted. May god bless her and all those who walk on her.
Today, Andy, Jim and Phil manned our stall at Leith market. Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Colin, Emma and our newest member Alexander “Chen” Chenery got on with painting the fishroom. Top coat of the white pretty much complete. Green anti-slip deck painting to do. Duncan in the meantime continued repairs to the lavvy ashore pipework.
Today the society set out its stall at the Ship Ahoy event on board the tall ship Glenlee in Glasgow. Various exhibitors partook including model makers, Skylark IX, Falls of Clyde, Caledonian MacBrayne to name a few. Jim Charlie and I fielded a lot of enquiries. Time will tell if we get any new members or multi million quid donations. Here’s a few photos.
Today George Slesser took a trip down memory lane visiting the Explorer. George served on Explorer as a scientist and he is pictured here in the lab and in the cabin he occupied.
…….one old and one not so old. Courtesy John Dunn.
Folks from the Granton Hub which we visited two weeks ago having a wee neb at the stokehold.
Charlie Blyth and Colin Williamson finished undercoating the fishroom today while Duncan topped up the daily use tank and manufactured a wheelkey.
Tonight Jim Duff and I went along to the Granton Hub where a talk was being given on William Speirs Bruce. A jolly good talk about a Scottish explorer of whom few people have heard. We took our publicity display and received a lot of interest with a dozen people signed up to visit the ship over the next couple of weeks.
A piece of stationery was discovered today hiding in a telephone and being used as insulation. A bit of Leith history. Menzies and Co. was a very old Shipbuilding business in Leith which was bought by Henry Robb Ltd. in 1963. In other news, Jim and Duncan fitted a new tarpaulin over the funnel to keep the pigeons and elements out. (The Beast shredded the last one). And Colin and Charlie finished priming the fishroom.
Duncan and Jim working on making the monkey island waterproof. In the meantime I serviced the AC generator engine. After that worked on getting some undercoat on the fishroom.
Another mention. Thanks to Phil Harley.
We have long been aware that the money island leaks. It is an aluminium deck partially clad with wooden decking. The wood is rotten in places and corrosion in the aluminium is allowing water in. After the recent heavy snow followed by the diluvian downpour on Saturday, the ingress of water was seen to be more serious than in the past and it is damaging the internal fabric of the ship. So we made a plan, in fact several, plans A, B, C and D. I won’t bore you with the early marks, but the current plan is as follows. Part one is, as far as possible, to protect the monkey island deck with tarpaulins until such time as the weather and available volunteer labour allow us to proceed to part two. So today we removed as far as possible various swan necks and corroded steel girders added to the ship’s radar mast well into her career to minimise the danger of damage to our rather thin tarps. After that we got on with attaching the first two of three tarpaulins. With a surfeit of chiefs and no indians, five grumpy old men did in three hours what would have taken a competent carpet fitter, or better still sailmaker an hour to do on his own. The end result, if nothing else is something Tracy Emin would probably be proud of. Part two of the plan is to remove the wooden deck, when probably in the spring/summer in order to survey the aluminium deck. We then plan to clean the deck of paint and other debris. Stabilise the deck along these lines. (guidance only) Surface Preparation and Priming – Aluminum After this we will either patch areas which require patching, or possibly plate over the entire deck. This of course is a fairly large project requiring much labour and funding. (£2500 or much more) If you want to volunteer and are within travelling distance of Leith email email@example.com If you are willing to donate any amount, large, huge or gigantic. (If we over run our target 😂 we have many other money drains on the SS Explorer). Donate
We are delighted and honoured to announce that Sir Andrew Cubie CBE has agreed to become a Patron of the SS Explorer Preservation Society. The list of Andrew’s past achievements and positions is too long to list here so I will ask the Scottish Cancer Foundation to help out. Sir Andrew Cubie CBE Welcome aboard Andrew.
Located in the captain’s cabin, this key cupboard has no longer any keys to store.
The original radar equipment as fitted to the Explorer when new is long gone having been updated probably more than once during her long career. Phil Harley has done some research for us and he believes that the Marconi Mk IV equipment shown was the original fit.
In a trawler as opposed to a research vessel the fishroom would take up much of the fore part of the ship and would be filled with ice and hopefully with fish at the end of a voyage. Explorer has two fishrooms, the port one is accessible only from the deck and is equipped with cooling coils. The starboard fishroom is a reasonable space which had become a repository for all sorts of junk. We decided that as the ship lacks decent workshop and storage space this would be a good use for the fishroom. To this end the junk has been removed and a quite a few hours spent with needle guns removing rust and old paint. Here you can see two of our highly skilled technicians at work. The space is close to being ready for a good coat of primer prior to final painting.
Andy and I needle gunning rust and paint from the fish room. It is intended that this space will become a workshop and storeroom. PPE or what?
Some photos by Andy of me disappearing down a hole to take some photos. Going. Still going. Aye going yet. Are we there yet? Just round the next corner. Gone.
Why Steam? The Explorer was powered by steam , because her operational requirements were more easily met by the use of steam. Yes diesel electric and straight diesel were around when she was being built, but neither could compete when it came to noise and vibration. A research vessel then as now has to be as quiet as possible, and the diesel engines which were around at the time of her planning and building were quite noisy and had vibration problems as well , both of which were considered difficult to solve at that time. There was even a proposal that the generating sets should be steam as well, but difficulty in sourcing suitably heavy duty sets meant that reluctantly they fitted diesel sets. In hindsight this was a fortuitous decision as no one in 1955 could have foreseen the massive demand for electricity for scientific use , which arose over the life of the vessel. This is something which is considered at the design stage of new research vessels now, calculate the demand then at least double it, preferably quadruple it. It should be noted that Scotia three which succeeded Explorer had a raft on which her three British Polar vee engines were mounted. The theory was that the vibration from the engines would not be passed on to the ship . The sister ship to the Scotia also had this arrangement with three Allen in line engines and an acoustic hood for good measure as well to cut down on radiated noise. The Scotia’s raft was initially an unmitigated disaster in that the inherent vibration produced by these vee engines caused significant and destructive vibration right through out the ship , resulting in the vessel being tied up for over a year while various engineering boffins searched for a solution. They eventually came up with tuned vibration sources which were bolted to the corners of the raft . These would be tuned to an equal and opposing vibration to that produced by the British Polars, and bingo this worked. However if it ever did go out of tune, the vibration was so severe that it broke whip aerials, damaged sensitive scientific equipment , and sheared deck lights off at the bulkheads. So , the Sir William Hardy launched just before the Explorer was also a bit of an engineering disaster, the theory was that the small medium speed diesel generating sets could be easily removed from the ship and serviced ashore at Torry Research Lab. However in practice this proved to be way more complicated and troublesome than was initially envisaged, and was abandoned. The engine room also had ventilation problems when the ship was working hard and the soaring heat led to all sorts of mechanical and other problems which meant that the ship spent quite long periods of time in port. When she was launched she has D.S.I.R. on her funnel which stood for Department of Science, Innovation and Research , however most of the locals in Torry and around the hahrbour thought it meant “Don’t sail if raining”. Therefore the choice of steam as the main propulsion system , given her stop start work a day existence and the requirements for smooth , quiet, flexible power was the right choice in 1955. Explorer gave excellent service over her long career while other ships of her age who had been fitted with either straight diesel or diesel electric all had significant engineering problems, which shortened their operational lives. It should also be noted that the current Scotia set a new bench mark for quiet research vessels. In fact so quiet that it became the I.C.E.S. (International Council for the Exploration of the Seas) standard. This also one of the reasons that the current Scotia has been copied by so many countries all over the world, and that her good design has been incorporated into some of the largest and most prestigious research vessels . John Dunn
Why was the Explorer powered by a triple expansion steam engine when contemporary trawlers were being powered by diesel engines? This is a question which has vexed us here at the SSEPS for years. A couple of bits of information have revealed themselves over the past few days which give rise to a theory. First of all, in John Dunn’s “Herring Larval Blog” below, it is clear that it was necessary for Explorer to steam at slow speeds of considerably less than 5kts for some tasks. Second, her slipway companion Sir William Hardy (Subsequently Rainbow Warrior), a research ship being built for the Ministry of Agriculture and Food for the same purpose as Explorer was fitted with diesel electric propulsion. Contemporary trawlers were fitted with medium speed geared diesels. A Diesel engine of course has a minimum tick over speed which means that the ship it is propelling has a minimum cruising speed. This will vary a bit, but I would estimate it to be four to five knots. This would make low speed tasks difficult to impossible. So I am theorising that Explorer and the Sir William Hardy were built with machinery which would comfortably cruise at speeds of one or two knots. The Scottish Office conservatively opting for a traditional steam plant. The MAFF being more adventurous and fitting the first diesel electric plant in a trawler. This adventurous decision would bite them on the bum for a while as inevitably with new technology, there were teething problems. “During the trials it was found that insufficient air was entering the engine-room when the propulsive machinery was operating at normal power. There has been a six months’ delay due to this. The cost of the additions to the ventilation will be about £3,000. I am afraid it is impossible to assess the cost of the delay in the use of the vessel.” Hansard Colin Williamson
Herring larval surveys on Explorer One of the jobs which the Explorer did regularly throughout her service career were surveys in the North Sea and up and down the West Coast trying to determine the potential density of herring. It is almost impossible to overstate how important the herring was and indeed still is to the Scottish fishing community and economy. This seasonal fish shoaled in massive numbers off the English and Scottish coasts within easy reach of coastal communities who in the early years would sail or even row out and set their drift nets to catch this rich bounty. The fish move up and down in the water column chasing their food , which are copedods, in fact it is the oil in the copepods which make herring and mackerel oily. The copepods move up in the water column at night to feed on phytoplankton, and then back down in daylight to avoid being eaten by predators. This is what made the herring relatively easy to catch, the drift nets were just like long curtains of net hanging from the surface and down to about six to eight feet. The fish chasing their food simply blundered into the net and got caught by the gills as they tried to back out. In the early days of the larval surveys they used to use one meter ring nets which were made of silk, however these were extremely vulnerable to damage , and the ship had to tow them very slowly to avoid splitting them. Later developments included the Bridger Gulf three which had a monel metal mesh cone inside it , and was less prone to damage, but the biggest advantage to the ship was that it could be towed at five knots which meant a huge saving in time and meant that larger areas could be covered than before. Subsequent developments were the Aberdeen version of the Dutch Gulf three which was made of Aluminium and had a tightly stretched polyester net inside it on a frame which could easily be taken out to allow it to be washed down and cleaned. These high speed samplers were nicknamed the bomb by the crew, who never knew them as Gulf three high speed samplers. An Aberdeen version of a Dutch Gulf three in Aluminium being deployed over the stern of Explorer. The sample once collected up aft was taken down to the plankton lab, basically the sink in the dry lab. It was then washed into a jar glass originally and then plastic in the later years, the scientific label was written out in pencil, recording all the details of where and when the sample was taken, this was then popped inside the jar, ensuring that it would not be lost or rubbed off. A dilution of formalin was added to the sample to preserve it, and then it was set aside in a wooden box below the bench. In between sample stations sample jars which had sat for at least forty eight hours were opened and the contents poured out into shallow glass dishes with a black plastic board below them. This was to allow scientific staff to pick out the herring larvae which now preserved had turned white. They were just like white threads with little black eyes, eggs which had also turned white were also picked out. This was a tedious and smelly job, as despite the preserved sample having been washed out using a fine mesh bag over the sink the sample still retained formalin and as an angle poise lamp was often used to illuminate the dish this also caused the fumes to rise off the dish. However it did ensure that a reasonably accurate estimation of the potential stock abundance was obtained fairly quickly. Pitfalls of this type of sampling were that you had to use a set of tables which had been worked out to give the winch man instruction as to how much wire to pay out. This of course if everything was perfect mean that you could get quite close to the bottom and back again without hitting the bottom. However if the ship’s speed was slower than that expected the net sank faster, with disastrous consequences. If the winch man had not reset the mechanical warp counter on the winch or if indeed the counter wheel was not turning properly , could mean you had way more wire out than you thought again with serious consequences. When high speed samplers were introduced all of these sampling problems were made even worse as the ship was now moving more quickly and therefore everything happened faster and with even more alarming consequences. This meant that close collaboration between the scientists , bridge officers and the winch man were essential to ensure that the survey was carried out without serious damage or loss of equipment. Despite the same internationally agreed survey lines, stations and areas being used year after year, it could be very tricky to obtain good samples. The bridge officer had to watch the echo sounders , and the ships speed ,also ensure that he towed the nets or samplers on a course he knew would avoid underwater peaks obstructions etc. This was not always possible as generally we towed into the tide and wind, as the ship could be more easily kept to a constant speed. The scientists had to be aware of where they were in the survey and prepare for emergency action to be taken if a peak suddenly appeared on the bottom. Ironically trying to pull the net or sampler in quickly had the opposite effect as the depressor or weight would bite into the water and actually take the net or sampler straight into the bottom, so stopping paying out wire and then slowly starting to recover it was the best way to avoid hitting the bottom, but required experience and a certain degree of bravado. Variants of these high speed samplers are still used…
As told by Jim Duff. A bit out of date but interesting if you like ships. To see the blog properly, click the pop out icon at the top right.
First job of the day was Jim preparing sandwiches for our distinguished visitors. Muggins here spent a couple of hours removing corrosion from the smokebox prior to carrying out a boiler survey on Tuesday. Going by the condition of the smokebox, it doesn’t look good, but I shall dive inside on Tuesday armed with a torch, a camera and a good bit of swatting up on Scotch Boilers and they’re defects. Mucky job. Yuck. We then entertained and toured a small group of visitors led by Eric and Maxine Reynolds, chairman of the SS Robin Trust. We harvested some good information in exchange for tea, coffee and sandwiches. I discovered a box of documents which appears to have been beamed onto the ship from some unknown source. Alan Hush, our document geek is going to give it a good bit of attention on Tuesday however, I thought these photos might be of interest to any plankton geeks out there. Larger versions at the bottom of the In Service gallery. The Blog page doesn’t seem to allow them to embiggen.
The crew of the SS Explorer would like to extend our thoughts and sympathy to the friends and relatives of Duncan MacDougall and Przemek Krawczyk who are missing after the Tarbert fishing vessel Nancy Glen foundered in Loch Fyne on Thursday 18th January.
Yesterday we welcomed George Wood who came all the way from Aberdeen by bus to visit the Explorer. His father was a Chief Engineer on-board. George tells us that when the ship was doing research on currents and tides the Explorer used to deploy buoys with tags on them. When they were subsequently gathered in and brought back to Aberdeen with the required data the tags were taken from the buoys. George would go down to the Explorer and his dad would gave him the tags to take up to the Torry labs and that was one of the ways he earned his pocket money.
For around twenty years, the Edinburgh Dock in The Port Of Leith has been home to the SS Explorer. I suspect none of the volunteers on the SS Explorer realise how much the dock has changed over the years. I certainly didn’t. One of the potential plans for a permanent berth for Explorer was the Alexandra Dock. This aspiration has been quashed by the discovery that the boutique hotel ship Fingle has acquired this berth. Searching for alternatives we looked at the graving dock inside the Edinburgh Dock. The Edinburgh Dock is an unloved and neglected part of the Port of Leith. But in days of yore, it was busy and largely home to Leith’s Trawling Fleet.. We at the SSEPS have a germ of an unattainable idea of berthing the SS Explorer in the graving dock, and heaven forbid, transforming the adjacent Victorian dock shed into a Port of Leith Maritime and Heritage Museum. The dock shed was once part of a pair, it’s sister having been demolished, presumably when part of the dock was “reclaimed”. Wouldn’t it be great to save and repurpose this pigeon roost at this neglected end of Leith. Please spread the word, share and generally get the word out if you agree. Enjoy our “Then” and “now” media.
Ship’s plans and drawings have been uploaded for the delectation of geeks and engineers and geeky engineers. Plans and Drawings
I came across this document during a trawl (gerrit?) of the internet for FRV Explorer stories. It describes one aspect of Explorer’s (And FRVs Clupea and Mara) research and although it contains some hard sums, there are also some pretty drawings. Enjoy. A Net Drag Formula for Pelagic Nets
Some cleaning and water damage repairs were carried out today but the main task was to clear the starboard fish room with a view to descaling and painting in the hope of converting into a workshop/storage area. It had developed into a bit of a dumping area for all sorts of rubbish. Some large pieces of electrical equipment which were obscured have been identified as a shore power transformer, a rectifier and battery charger and a battery storage cabinet. They look like they might not be original equipment. After our labours, Chairman Andy and I went over to have a nose at the Royal Nore which is on the quayside of the Edinburgh Dock. She is a 61ft Royal and Diplomatic yacht built for the Port of London Authority and recently gifted to the Britannia Trust. We were given a tour of the yacht by the staff and found the accommodation to comprise a 16 cover dining table, and impressive galley and a large observation lounge. You can see her here and here.
By Jim Duff
Topping up the diesel daily use tank was a laborious task involving 20 minutes on a semi rotary hand pump. Andy, our illustrious chairman was undertaking this task today when he noticed this. And this. So we fired up the harbour generator, opened the appropriate valves and gave it a go. And it worked! 20 minutes later this happened. (It’s the daily use tank overflow sight glass) With no manual labour. Sorted!
Popped down to check the moorings given 50kt gusts off the berth. All secure. 👍
Contemporary photos Nerd album
I have finally got round to making a photo gallery. This is the first one of “In Service” photos. More will hopefully follow when I get enthused. Click here to see.
Festive buffet on the SS Explorer today courtesy of Jim Duff. Sorry to have missed this alcohol fuelled extravaganza. 🍷😜🤪
Our own John Dunn narrates this short documentary about the FRV Scotia’s, one of Explorer’s successors role in marine research.
Team Brass Monkeys pushing the cause of the SS Explorer in Leith Market.
It would seem that our venerable old lady was used to spy on the Russian navy in her day. Commander John Ian Steven Obituary We have it on good authority that signals intelligence was her primary role. The 007 of the Northern Seas.
It would seem that our venerable old lady was used to spy on the Russian navy in her day. Commander John Ian Steven Obituary We have it on good authority that signals intelligence was her primary role. The 007 of the Northern Seas.
Jim and Maggie busy cleaning the labs today. I laid a bit more anti slip netting before skiving off for a tour of the Apache II pipe-laying vessel, one of our neighbours. I think Explorer could pretty much fit in Apache’s navigating bridge. After that back to help Charlie fit a lamp in the aft workshop. Wiring and socket to be installed.
Liberated various items from the Vos Raasay and the Vos Islay which are being broken up in Leith Docks. Various light fittings, cleaning chemicals, lifebuoys and sundry other items. Thanks to Dale marine for allowing us to scrounge.
Must be close to a record with ten volunteers on the SS Explorer today. A fair bit of cabin cleaning achieved today. Also the port side ladder to the boat deck was welded on with our new welding machine. The ladder has been awaiting this for more than two years! At the weekend some mesh was laid on the starboard side of the main deck as it was extremely slippery when wet. Another 5 metre roll to be fitted next weekend to complete the job.
A link has been added to the bottom of this page to give a flavour of life on a contemporaneous Granton trawler. Check it out and thank your god that you don’t have to live that life.
Today we had a new carpet laid in the saloon which is now looking very plush.
Check out a new page with an article from the Press and Journal about the computer. The Computer
Some photos of a recent visit to the SS Explorer by a group of retired Salvesen mariners.
After hosting a visit on Explorer by crew members of the pipe laying vessel Apache II, they responded in kind by hosting a tour of their vessel.
Jim proudly surveys his concrete handywork as the battle against water leakage continues.
…..removed from the saloon pending laying of a nice new one.
……overhauling the starting air valve for the harbour generator.
A wee poppy on the dockside. Also Explorer moved a metre north to keep new gangway clear of the Armco barriers.
Another cement box over perforated boat deck deck. 99% of water ingress now stopped 😀
Courtesy Rob Newman. Thanks to Chris Claydon.
Gangway to the boat deck kindly donated by the guys at Forth Ports.
…the story of the SS Explorer on our media page.
Civil engineering on boat deck complete. Hoping for reduced ingress of rain water.
After much searching we believe that water leakage into the mess room and engine room is largely originating from the corroded base of this ventilator. So in accordance with merchant navy tradition it will be repaired temporarily with a cement box. Photographed is Jim’s shutter joinery skills.
A couple of DC lights in our rapidly improving saloon were not working so fuses found blown along with a couple of lamps. One dark lamp remaining to fix. One of the pieces of Explorer’s history which we thought we lacked photos of were the lay-up years in the Cromarty Firth. Today we noticed this beauty hanging as dressing in one of the cabins. Interesting to note what appears to be a large water tank on the monkey island and a large air compressor on the foredeck. The magnetic compass binnacle is missing at that point too. I wonder what the date of the photograph is. A plan was devised to stop the worst water ingress from rain. (we hope!). An engine room ventilator is badly perforated around the base, but the water doesn’t seem to be directly ingressing there so the smart money is on it travelling through nefarious routes to spread around the engine room. The plan is to build a cement box around the base to stop the leaking until a dockyard repair can be effected.
A drawing of the proposed replacement of the FRV Explorer surfaced on board the old girl today.
A modest turn out for the society’s Annual General Meeting. Attending were: front row left to right Charlie Blyth, Bob Harley, Andy Marjoribanks, Colin Williamson, Derek Learmont. Back row, Alan Hush, Jim Duff, Cron Mackay, Simon Sawers, Brian Murdoch, Alastair Goodman, Emma Fraser and Bill Fallon.
The Society had a presence at both these events over two weekends raising the profile and a wee bit of money.
Caravan all packed up for the trip to Castle Fraser tomorrow. First thing in the morning I’ll be picking up the newly designed posters and fliers that have been designed by Deborah Mullen DEBORAH-MULLEN.COM Meeting up with Brian on Saturday to man the Explorer stand and hopefully attract some followers and sponsors. Weather’s looking super for the rally so all’s looking good.
A busy day on the Explorer. Ingress from the storm last week had brought the bilge levels up. So two of our pumps were rigged in series to take the bilge water to a slop tank. Charlie made progress on the mate’s cabin deck light. And a major leak was attended to in the mess room deckhead. This had previously been covered in a tarpaulin so we weren’t sure what lurked beneath. It turns out that very serious corrosion was hidden below and permanent repairs will be expensive. As an interim, the metal was cleaned up as well as possible and plastic sheeting laid over sealed with mastic.
A quiet Saturday on the Explorer. Mooring lines a bit slack so tensioned up. Inspection of the ship after this revealed serious water ingress from the recent rain into the mate’s cabin through the decklight. The decklight has been removed along with the rotten wood in it’s cofferdam. Covered up but fairly urgent requirement to replace the wood and the decklight as any heavy rain will run under the cover into the cabin.
All that rain on Tuesday (60mm+) revealed a few leaks in the superstructure – one behind the Ruston powered harbour generator sounded like Niagra – even above the noise of the generator. Andy found a scuppers drain pipe that was blocked and another that seemed to have a completely bust pipe. The first was cleared resulting in a rush of water from the side deck and out of the pipe outlet on the side of the hull. The other pipe was plugged with a bung. The result was to reduce “Niagra” to a few drips – success! Now if this sounds a little banal, that may be because most of what I do for Explorer is administrative and that does not give rise to exciting things about which to write. So I have used this little event as a practice subject for my very first addition to the ship’s blog.
A bit of time has passed since the last blog but things are progressing. The AC generator has been problematic with AVR issues eventually solved and then a persistent over speeding issue which is hopefully now solved. A lot of internal cosmetic work has been carried out by various members, including repairing the mess room bench, cleaning up the hospital and finally some progress on the deck lights. Ten sacrificial zinc anodes have been “dangled” around the hull to arrest corrosion which will inevitably be eating at the hull. It is unlikely that any anodes remain from the last docking twenty or so years ago. The Society now has a Patron in the Office of the Lord Provost of Edinburgh. A lot of other administrative and recruiting tasks have taken place in the background. A number of members have undergone a “First Aid in the Workplace” course and are duly certified.
Most of the decklights have been refurbished and refitted making the ship a bit more weatherproof. AC generator has been behaving itself over the last four weeks so fingers crossed it is now reliable. It was also recently serviced. Work is in progress to get the saloon up to standard with various bits of joinery being carried out. Four fluorescent light fittings have been installed in the messroom, galley and passageways giving much better and safer lighting. Large amounts of rubbish have been removed from the quayside adjacent to the Explorer to improve the general appearance. A stall was manned in the Leith Custom House on Saturday 29th April to raise the Explorer’s profile locally and hopefully recruit some new members. The ship’s complement of fire extinguishers have been replaced with new equipment. General decluttering and cleaning accomplished. Hopefully with the onset of summer the chipping and painting of the ship’s hull will soon resume.
Carried on with repairing hatch dogs and installing floodlights in ER. Wiring to finalise and that task is complete.
Dog repairs continue. New surplus vent trunking on deck dismantled to make tidy. Galley cooker work continues. Two floodlights installed in ER. Further work to do. Fire detector fitted at ER entrance. Further detector to be installed above AC gen. Fire extinguishers restowed in accordance with advice received.
Our thanks to Technip and the crew of the MV Orelia. Orelia is currently de-equipping in Leith prior to her last voyage to be dismantled. The Company and the Chief Engineer have been kind enough to allow the SS Explorer to repurpose and recycle some of their stores. Among other things, our engine room will be better lit and our hull will be better protected against corrosion. Many many thanks Orelia.
Director’s “Away Day” Whiteboards and scones and resolving the life of SS Explorer.
Hatch dogs and galley work progress. After peak tank inspected and drained.
Port fresh water tank partially filled to improve list and trim of vessel. Ballast tank vented and inspected. Galley floor cooker base screeded. Still to complete. Work on tidying quayside continues. Work on hatch dogs continues.
Forepeak ventilated and inspected. Approx 100kg of debris (corrosion and cement) removed. Tank filled with fresh water. Work started on securing hatch dogs.
Alternator room bilges dried out and various wet packaging and debris removed.