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Captain Scott’s Terra Nova in West India Dock 1910

Over the last few years, an amazing array of ships have passed through West India Docks. However it is worth remembering that when the docks was in full use, literally thousands of ships would use the docks. I have recently come across a news paper report from 1910 that illustrates that some of the great British voyages and adventures began from West India and East India Docks, Limehouse and Blackwall.

In the early part of the 20th century, the race to the South Pole was one of the great expeditions to undertake and their was plenty of confidence that the expedition led by Captain Scott would be successful. This confidence is shown by the reporter who goes to West India Dock to look over the expedition ship ‘Terra Nova’ and speaks to Scott and his crew.

The preparations for the South, Polar Expedition are going forward, and the following graphic account is given by ‘The Daily Chronicle’

‘Ware open hatchways!’

The cry might have been heard ringing out every other moment from a stout, square-rigged wooden barque of some 760 tons that lay in West India Dock. Outwardly there was little t0 distinguish this particular boat from others of its class ranged along the opposite quay. But on closer view one noticed signs of special activity.

Besides the men that were working lustily the blazing sun, swinging stores and pig-iron ballast into the thick-ribbed hold, one saw strange figures in top hats and frock coats, and others in elegant mourning gowns being escorted over piles of rope, oil barrels, casks, crates, half-sawn -beams, and newly-painted ladders, by guides whose white caps and gold-braided jackets betokened them undoubted officers of His Majesty’s senior service.

The secret of it all was soon solved by the Inscription on the bow, boats and belts— ‘Terra Nova R.Y.S.” For this plain and unassuming craft is, indeed, the very one in which Capt R. F. Scott and his gallant comrades are going to make yet another effort to capture for England the honour of being first at the South Pole.

She sails under the command of Lieutenant Evans— Captain Scott himself going on later by liner and joining the ship at New Zealand and something like seventy tons of provisions will have been got aboard. She will first go to Portsmouth to take in the scientific Instruments, then, onto Cardiff for coaling purposes, and then southward ho!

Accordingly, what with the loading of the stores, with reception of a constant stream of visitors, distinguished and otherwise, and the fixing up of all sorts of alterations that this latest raid of the Antarctic calls for, the Terra Nova was a scene of mingled, cheery activity, of hammering, and shouting that may, perhaps be remembered through many a silent vigil in the Polar solitudes.

With it all Captain Scott himself, who flitted in and out quite informally in a simple lounge suit and straw hat and Captain Evans and the other officers, welcomed everybody who had the remotest right to be there, and guided each round the tough little craft, which is to be their home for so many weary months, with unfailing patience, and courtesy.

Nothing, indeed, could be farther from the truth than any notion that the polar explorer must be necessarily a ‘rough customer,’ shaggy, gigantic, and unsociable, These officers of the Terra Nova, who are going to do things that have baffled the buccaneers and desperadoes of the centuries are neat, dapper, quick-witted young officers, boyish and keen and gentlemen to the core. They are without exception light and ‘wiry in physique— the very antithesis of the John Bull type. They are, in fact, picked men of a new and fine English breed. Behind their cheery modesty there is a determination that is not of cast-iron but of steel.

Shown round by Captain Scott. and Lieutenant Evans, ‘The Daily ‘Chronicle’ representative inspected every corner of the good ship from the tiny laboratories that had been specially built, to the cosy forecastle and the mighty beams beneath which the crew’s hammocks will swing.

Although It is twenty-five years old, the Terra Nova is, Captain Scott explained, in perfect condition. It has already proved its soundness in several voyages, both north and south. It flew the American flag at Franz Josef Land. It was relief ship to the Discovery, itself, which curiously enough now in the service of the Hudson Bay Company is lying in the very same dock.

As for the stores, their variety was bewildering. A specially interesting shipment was case upon case of lubricating oil for the motor-sleighs that are to play so important a part in the actual dash for the Pole. The pemmican and cocoa that are to be the staple food of the shore-party had been already stored away as they would be wanted last.

But as there are to be no less than three different expeditions to ‘cater for as’ soon as the ship touches the ice barrier the needs are infinite. One saw at least twenty crates of biscuits being heaved into the hold, huge stacks of boxes of sardines, a great stand by on account of the oil, casks of beer and crate after crate of mineral waters, dried vegetables of all kinds, beetroots, brussels sprouts, artichokes, broad beans, spinach, French beans, petis pois extra fine, asparagus, cauliflowers, ‘celery au jus, young carrots, cabbage, cheeses, pickles, soups, marmalade, lard, tinned fruits galore, tobacco and cigars, Christmas puddings—the list would have no end.

As it happened, the very last package to be taken aboard when the sheds closed was a large gramophone. By its means doubtless, many an Antarctic night will be charmed away with the songs of the old country, the silence of the ice-floe broken with Recollections of Harry Lauder or a Tetrazzini record.

Terra Nova in the Antarctic

Unfortunately, although Scott and four companions reached the South Pole in 1912, they discovered that Norwegian explorer, Roald Amundsen, had got there first. The expedition group never made it back to safety being overcome by frostbite, starvation or exposure.

If you would like to see some of the relics from Captain Robert Falcon Scott’s Antarctic expedition (1910 – 1913) they are on display at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich in their Polar Worlds gallery. They include Captain Scott’s overshoes, Captain Scott’s sledging goggles and Captain Scott’s book bag in which he kept his famous diary.

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Tall Ship Tenacious in West India Dock


After a quiet period in West India Dock , we welcome back a regular visitor, the tall ship STS Tenacious into the dock.

The Tenacious is a wooden sail training ship which was specially designed to be able to accommodate disabled sailors. Launched in Southampton in the year 2000, it is one of the largest wooden tall ships in the world. It is 65 metres long with a beam of 10.6 metres at its widest point.

The Tenacious and the Lord Nelson  are owned by the UK-based charity the Jubilee Sailing Trust who have for many years have pioneered sailing for the disabled.

The Jubilee Sailing Trust became a registered charity in 1978 and was the brainchild of Christopher Rudd, a school teacher and sailor who wanted to give the disabled children he taught the same experiences his able-bodied students had.

Since its launch Tenacious has taken nearly 12,000 people sailing of these 3,000 were physically disabled and 1,000 were wheelchair users.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tall Ships Youth Trust Challenger Fleet in West India Dock

In the past few weeks, we have a number of training ships in West India Dock and we welcome more training yachts but with a difference. The Tall Ships Challenger Fleet consists of four yachts were built-in 2000 and designed to race around the world.

The 72ft yachts in the Challenger fleet are operated by the Tall Ships Youth Trust. The charity, which celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2007, also operates the brig Stavros S Niarchos which has often visited West India Dock.

 

 

The Challengers can each accommodate a crew of up to 18 and due to their background in the Round the World Challenge races are modern, safe, purpose-built yachts, perfect for sail training and coastal adventures.


The Challengers can take up to a maximum of 18 crew which often consists of Skipper, Mate, 2 Watch Leaders, 2 Watch Assistants, Youth Mentor and 12 trainee Voyage Crew.

These type of training ships are very different from the large tall ships that are often used but offer a very different experience. The Tall Ships Youth Trust offer young people, from all walks of life, unique physically and mentally challenging experiences at sea which aim to develop their long-term life skills including team working, confidence and problem solving skills.

Tall Ship Tenacious in West India Dock

 

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After the visit from the Lord Nelson, we have the delight of a visit from her sister ship STS Tenacious. The Tenacious is a wooden sail training ship which was specially designed to be able to accommodate disabled sailors. Launched in Southampton in the year 2000, it is one of the largest wooden tall ships in the world. It is 65 metres long with a beam of 10.6 metres at its widest point.

Photo – Eric Pemberton

The Tenacious and the Lord Nelson  are owned by the UK-based charity the Jubilee Sailing Trust who have for many years have pioneered sailing for the disabled. The Jubilee Sailing Trust became a registered charity in 1978 and was the brainchild of Christopher Rudd, a school teacher and sailor who wanted to give the disabled children he taught the same experiences his able-bodied students had.

Photo – Eric Pemberton

Since its launch Tenacious has taken nearly 12,000 people sailing of these 3,000 were physically disabled and 1,000 were wheelchair users.

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With the Totally Thames festival in full swing, there are plenty of interest on and near the river, St Katherine’s Dock has a number of historic boats in the dock including the Havengore and Gloriana.

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Photo – Eric Pemberton

Many thanks to Eric Pemberton for the photographs of the Tenacious coming into West India Dock.

 

 

 

The Lord Nelson in West India Dock

After being away for a couple of weeks exploring the far north of Europe, it is nice to return and see the familiar masts of the STS Lord Nelson in West India Dock. By a strange coincidence I had a conversation while I was away with someone who had worked on the Lord Nelson for some years. As they say it is a small world.

The Lord Nelson was the first tall ship that was purpose-built with the aim of integrating disabled with able-bodied people. The ship was the fulfilment of the vision of JST’s founder, Christopher Rudd who believed that physically disabled people should be able to sail alongside able-bodied people as part of the crew.

The Lord Nelson sailed on her maiden voyage in 1986, Since that voyage, the STS Lord Nelson has sailed 461,943 Nautical Miles and taken nearly 29,000 people to sea. Of these, 10,500 people were physically disabled and more than 3,500 were wheelchair users.

One of the most remarkable aspects of the ship is that Lord Nelson’s has many facilities for disabled crew including flat wide decks, powered lifts, speaking compass, Braille signage and bright track radar for visually impaired crew members.

However, the whole purpose of these facilities is to enable the disabled crew to work side by side with the able-bodied crew.

Between 2012 and 2014, the Lord Nelson undertook its greatest challenge by completing a voyage around the world visiting 7 continents and 30 countries. Whilst in Australia and New Zealand she raced in tall ships races and also carried out an Antarctic Expedition.

The Lord Nelson and her sister ship, the Tenacious are regular visitors to West India Dock and both ships are a wonderful reminder of what can be achieved by fulfilling a vision of providing opportunities to people with a wide range of abilities.

WindQuest Catamaran in West India Dock

After the arrival of the new bridge, we have another unusual arrival in the shape of  85 foot Super yacht catamaran WindQuest.

 

Built by French yacht builders JFA  in 2014 , this is the first of  a semi-custom “Long Island” series. The hulls are aluminum-built while the deck is in composite material. WindQuest has three staterooms and an office.  In total, eight guests and six crew can be accommodated.

This ship actually visited West India Dock in 2014 as part of her maiden voyage.

 

 

Although we have plenty of Super yachts that visit West India Dock, however catamaran’s Super yachts of this size are unusual.

 

There seems to some confusion because the Port of London lists the ship as Christine but the boat still has Windquest logo whether this just a mistake or the yacht has been sold is not known.

Hebo’s Catharina 11 in West India Dock

Although we highlight the superyachts and other interesting vessels that visit West India Dock, there are other vessels that visit the dock that are more low key and more likely to be working vessels.

One of these vessels is the Catharina 11 tug that now lies in berth in the dock next to a large pontoon with a steel platform perched on top.

Catharina 11 is owned by HEBO Maritiemservice which is based in Rotterdam and was used to pull the large pontoon from Belgium. The steel platform looks like a piece of a bridge for the Canary Wharf site.

The steel platform was constructed by Victor Buyck in Belgium. The work in Canary Wharf is one of the largest building projects in Europe and has involved a number of construction challenges due to it proximity to the dock.

However this is one case when bringing the parts of the construction by water has been beneficial. If you are visiting Canary Wharf it is well worth watching some of the construction to get some idea of the enormous scale of the project.