Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The controversial restoration of the Cutty Sark

What could be controversial about restoring the beloved Cutty Sark?

It's a historic clipper, part of Britain's maritime tradition, as beautiful as it is functional in getting the first tea leaves back from China.

And yet the project has run into a host of difficulties and the decisions made created a storm equal to anything she saw when rounding Cape Horn.

The trouble was that the Cutty Sark was in a mess, even before it went up in flames. The iron frame had corroded away into thin air, her bones into dust. Resting the hull in a dry dock had stressed it further, warping it out of shape. Wood had rotted, as wood will.

That meant the only options available would be both brutal and expensive - £ 50 million or so was spent re-building her, or rather creating something that looks like the Cutty Sark. For there is a spanking new steel frame on which the hull sits like a 650 tonne coat on its hanger - but it is essential given the ship has now been lifted 3 metres into the air.

It isn't therefore something that could be sailed: it is an exhibit, and some are not at all happy. Indeed the Telegraph called the restoration a grade A turkey. Must admit there are worrying aspects - in particular the top deck is not authentic wood but instead uses modern composites.

I've yet to see for myself (planned for next week) but I have just watched this excellent BBC documentary: "Cutty Sark, a National Treasure Reopened". It reveals that in addition to the technical issues there were serious failings in management.

I'm very much looking forward to exploring the reborn Cutty Sark so I can see for myself whether the right decisions were made.


Tillerman said...

You must have worked really hard on this post.

JP said...

Not hard enough first time round: found a lot of typos and er.... how to say this.... had to update it while at work :(

Tillerman said...

Bonus points for extra effort then.