Friday, 14 October 2011

Brunel's SS Great Britain

Recently I had my parents staying with me for a week which gave me the chance to play tourist around Bristol and do some of things I've been meaning to do since I moved here. One of these was to visit the award-winning exhibition of the SS Great Britain.

The attraction has three distinct elements. First you descend beneath the shallow pool around the boat (positioned at about the level of the normal waterline) into the dry-dock. You can then walk around the entire ship and admire the workmanship of those who pinned the iron plates together, as well as the ingenuity of Brunel's screw propeller and balanced-rudder. Patches of rust and a number of holes in the hull give a hint of the challenge that faced those wishing to restore the ship. The dock has to be kept at (from memory) c. 20% humidity in order to continue the work of preserving the vessel.

The next section is the "Dockyard" Museum which tells the story of the ship in reverse from her rescue from where she had been abandoned in Port Stanley, her use as a coal ship, her voyages on the emigrant route from Britain to Australia (as well as a stint as a troop ship during the Crimean War) to her original purpose as a Luxury Transatlantic Liner.

Finally, you board the ship and, with the help of a choice of audio-tours, you can explore the deck, see  the first class cabins, the galley and steerage, gaining an insight into the way people would have lived during the long voyages. Perhaps most amazing is the replica engine which has been installed to give an idea of the scale of the engineering feat Brunel pulled off in developing "the world’s first iron-hulled, steam-powered ocean going ship."

My ticket is valid for a year and I fully intend to make use of it again. Indeed, as I am off work on Monday I may even go then! Anyway, this post is about some of the photos I took - here they are:

The replica propeller

Below the waterline

The Deck

Replica Engine (detail)

The Stern
The story of the Steam Ship Great Britain is fascinating on many levels - the ingenuity of the engineering, her history as a passenger liner, the changes and adaptations over the years, her decline to become a cargo vehicle and then her ultimate demise in the Falkland Islands. The achievements of bringing her back to Bristol (right to the dock in which she was built) and her restoration are amazing. If you are ever in Bristol for any length of time, add her to your list.


No comments: