Saturday, 21 January 2017

Brunel's S.S. Great Britain

Occasionally my interests in engineering and my maritime history hobby intersect, as they did when I visited Bristol in 2006, home to two monuments to the genius of Civil and Mechanical engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel. One is the Clifton Suspension Bridge, of which I have previously shown some photos here. The other is the S.S. Great Britain, which is preserved at a museum there.

The 3,400 ton S.S. Great Britain viewed from the port stern. My lens at the time wasn't the widest, so I couldn't fit her all in.
Here is a picture of a model in the museum to give an idea of her size. Not sure why I am getting the evil eye through the glass case.
Built in 1845, she was the first ocean-going vessel to combine an iron hull with steam propulsion driving a screw propeller, and at the time was the longest ship in the world. She was also provided with auxiliary sail power, and indeed was converted entirely to sail later in her career. After reaching the end of her operational lifetime, she then spent around 86 years laid up in the Falklands, and was scuttled in 1937, before being returned on a barge to Bristol after 1970 where she was restored and remains to this day.

Looking aft along the port side.
The S.S. Great Britain is actually on display in the graving dock within which she was built.

Great Britain looks out over a portion of Bristol Harbour from her graving dock.
Looking out over the bow.
The ship's wheel.
Looking forward along the deck.
Looking aft.
Spending so many years in a salt water environment has taken its toll on the ship's hull. Even after the graving dock was drained, the moisture in the air of the graving dock allowed corrosion to continue, and it was determined (as I recall) that salt had bound to the iron in the ship's hull. Conservation measures, in the form of a glass roof over the graving dock interior and de-humification equipment both in the dock and within the ship's hull, were installed to preserve the ship.

The caisson that seals off the end of the graving dock from the harbour outside.

Looking aft from the ship's bow. Part of the de-humidification system's ductwork runs along either side of the keel.
Looking forward along the port bow.
A close-up of the ship's plating.

Another plating close-up, this time showing some of the holes in the hull.
In many locations, you can actually stick your finger through the hull, as this man is doing.
Approaching the stern.
A replica of the ship's original screw propeller. It was deemed unsatisfactory, and was replaced by a 4-bladed model.
The rudder and propeller.
Rudder and propeller.
Later in the ship's life, possibly when put on the run to Australia, Great Britain was operated primarily under sail for economy, only resorting to her machinery when the wind died. Propellers create considerable drag when a ship is under sail, so the propeller was mounted on a lifting frame that allowed the propeller to be raised when the ship was under sail, and lowered and re-coupled to the propeller shaft when it was necessary to run the engines.

A working version of the lifting frame, with what looks like an original rudder, is housed in one of the nearby museum buildings.
The ship was originally built as a liner, and as such the interior would have been nicely finished, some of which has been recreated in the restored ship. Later refits increased the passenger capacity, presumably at the expense of passenger comfort.

The skylight above can be seen in the photo of the ship's wheel earlier in this post.
The ship's machinery is recreated within, and was designed especially for the ship by Brunel himself.

Great Britain's machinery.
Pistons from the crank shaft down to the steam pistons.
The large wheel on the top, installed on the ship's crankshaft, drives the series of chains that in turn drive the ship's propeller shaft at the bottom of the photo. The chain drive arrangement was replaced in later years.

Ship's interior looking forward.

I found the ship and museum to be very interesting, and well worth the visit if you are ever in Bristol.

As a final note, another ship (also worth a visit) moored nearby when I was in Bristol was the Matthew, a replica of John Cabot's vessel from his 1497 voyage from Bristol to Newfoundland, probably Bonavista or St. John's.

A replica of John Cabot's Matthew.
This same vessel actually sailed the Atlantic in 1997, and as I recall I visited her that summer in Shelburne, NS. While working a summer work term for the Canadian Hydrographic Service at BIO, we got to sign a nautical chart that was to be given to the crew. In addition to this ship, there is a second replica of the Matthew in Bonavista itself.

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Atlantic Griffin begins sea trials (Updated)

Atlantic Towing's new offshore support vessel (OSV) Atlantic Griffin began sea trials yesterday, heading out during mid-day sometime, and returning after dark. She headed out again this morning,  just as fleet-sister Atlantic Condor was returning to port, and I managed to get a few shots of her as the sun came up.

Atlantic Griffin departing this morning just as Atlantic Condor was returning to port. This is a good contrast between the newer design of Griffin to the not-so-much older Condor.
Designed by Damen and built at their yard in Galatz, Romania, she is designated as a Platform Supply Vessel (PSV) 5000. The upper portion of the forward superstructure was separated from the rest of the hull, and the two parts were shipped to Halifax and assembly was completed at Halifax Shipyards. Sistership Atlantic Shrike is also completing in Halifax, and will presumably begin her own sea trials soon.

The lines of this new Damen design are fairly revolutionary, at least in these parts. Her hull certainly seemed to be cutting through the water with little fuss, though to be fair she wasn't going very fast.

Atlantic Griffin in front of Purdy's Wharf.

Atlantic Griffin approaches the lighthouse on George's Island.

There was a nice sky this morning, although the orange and reds in the sky made it difficult to selectively highlight the orange of Atlantic Griffin's hull.

Chebucto Pilot following Atlantic Griffin out this morning.

Atlantic Griffin returning last night.
I include this photo of Atlantic Griffin not because it is very good, but because I was surprised I was able to take it at all. I took this from the ferry, a moving platform, just before 7pm and it was dark enough that all my eyes could make out were the lights on the ship. I set my camera's ISO to 25,000, opened up the aperture to f4, and did my best to hold the camera steady - and was rewarded with an image of the entire tug, orange hull and all, and not just the lights. Camera technology has come a long way in the last 10 years.


According to Tugfax, Atlantic Griffin was performing a bollard test on January 20, see seen in the following photos.

Atlantic Griffin bollard pull test at Pier 26.
Atlantic Griffin bollard pull test at Pier 26.
Atlantic Griffin bollard pull test at Pier 26.

Atlantic Condor:

Atlantic Condor herself has also been in and out a fair bit lately.

Atlantic Condor taken just last week on January 13th, again with the George's Island lighthouse to the left.
Atlantic Condor passes in front of the Navy's Tribute Tower, the new Junior Ranks Mess and Accommodation.
Unlike her two newer fleet sisters, Atlantic Condor was build right here in Halifax, and was launched back in October of 2010. Here are some images from her launching.

The day prior to the launch, October 30, 2010, some of the smaller tugs such as Atlantic Larch put on a bit of a show.

This image of Atlantic Oak is one of my favourites.
The remainder of the images here were taken October 31, 2010, the actual day of the launch. Atlantic Condor was one of the last vessels launched from the old launch ways from which other fleet mates, the Coast Guard inshore patrol vessels, the MCDVs, and many other ships were launched over the years. 

Atlantic Condor has just started to slide down the ways, her bows meeting the water for the first time.

Here she really has her feet wet, with only her running gear and rudders still out of the water.

Once fully afloat, she was herded into place by her smaller fleet sisters. 

Atlantic Condor has been quite busy ever since, and one presumes that the newer Atlantic Griffin and Atlantic Shrike will be kept similarly busy. 

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Torpedoed tanker "Nipiwan Park"

Operated by the Park Steamship Company, Nipiwan Park (sometimes spelled Nipawan Park, although the park after which she was named was apparently called "Nipawin Park") was a Great Lakes type tanker that was torpedoed off Halifax on January 4, 1945. Two of her 31 crew were killed when she was hit just forward of the bridge, and the bow (which sank) was separated from the rest of the ship. The bulkhead below the bridge held, and the stern portion of the ship stayed afloat long enough to be rescued and towed to port by Foundation Maritime Limited. The remaining 29 crew were rescued by HMCS KENTVILLE.

While I have photos from the Foundation Maritime collection indicating she was salvaged, I don't know which tug brought her in. 

The stern portion of Nipiwan Park safe in port.

The bridge superstructure suffered some damage in the blast.

Nipiwan Park carried a gun for self defence. It looks to be a 3"/40 (12 Pdr) Mk.V QF HA.

A better angle of the damaged bridge superstructure.

A shot of the all-important bulkhead that kept the ship afloat.
According to S.C Heal's "A Great Fleet of Ships" (my main source for this post), the Great Lakes type tankers were 259 feet long overall, had a deadweight tonnage of 3,600 tons, and could manage 10 knots on their 6 cylinder diesel engines (not sure if they had one or two of these). They were the only Canadian war-built ships (above the size of tugs) to be designed wholly in Canada, to be of all-welded construction, and they were the largest of the war-built standard types to be fitted with diesel engines. They were designed by the Montreal firm Milne, Gilmore & German. Nipiwan Park herself was built in Collingwood, Ontario, and was completed in November, 1943.

Nipiwan Park's engine room. 
Nipiwan Park was lucky in that unlike some other torpedoed ships rescued during the war, she was actually rebuilt by Foundation Maritime at the shipyard in Pictou, NS, and continued in service after the war. Purchased by Irving Oil, she was renamed Irvingdale in 1952, and was eventually cut down (and had her engines removed) for use as a barge in 1962.

Bibliography & Acknowledgements:

Fisher, Robert C. Downloaded 2002. "Canadian Merchant Ship Losses of the Second World War, 1939-1945".

Heal, S.C. (1999) "A Great Fleet of Ships - The Canadian Forts and Parks". Vanwell Publishing Limited, St. Catharines, ON.

Photos displayed here were scanned from the files of AECON, the successor firm to the Foundation Company of Canada.