November 22nd, 1869 – The Cutty Sark

Today-In-History

The clipper Cutty Sark was launched in Dumbarton, Scotland on November 22nd, 1869; it was the last clippers ever built, and the only one still surviving today.

Cutty Sark 680

Built on the Clyde for the Jock Willis Shipping Line, the Cutty Sark was one of the last tea clippers to be built and one of the fastest, coming at the end of a long period of design development which halted as sailing ships gave way to steam propulsion.

The Cutty Sark waiting in Sydney Harbour for the new season's woThe opening of the Suez Canal (also in 1869) meant that steam ships now enjoyed a much shorter route to China, so Cutty Sark spent only a few years on the tea trade before turning to the trade in wool from Australia, where she held the record time to Britain for ten years. Improvements in steam technology meant that gradually steamships also came to dominate the longer sailing route to Australia and the ship was sold to the Portuguese company Ferreira and Co. in 1895, and renamed Ferreira. She continued as a cargo ship until purchased by retired sea captain Wilfred Dowman in 1922, who used her as a training ship operating from Falmouth, Cornwall. After his death, Cutty Sark was transferred to the Thames Nautical Training College, Greenhithe in 1938 where she became an auxiliary cadet training ship alongside HMS Worcester. By 1954 she had ceased to be useful as a cadet ship and was transferred to permanent dry dock at Greenwich, London on public display.

Cutty Sark is listed by National Historic Ships as part of the National Historic Fleet (the nautical equivalent of a Grade 1 Listed Building). She is one of only three remaining original composite construction (wooden hull on an iron frame) clipper ships from the nineteenth century in part or whole, the others being the City of Adelaide, which arrived in Port Adelaide, South Australia on February 3rd, 2014 for preservation, and the beached skeleton of Ambassador of 1869 near Punta Arenas, Chile.

The ship has been damaged by fire twice in recent years, firstly on May 21st, 2007 while undergoing conservation. She was restored and was reopened to the public on 25 April 25th, 2012. Secondly, on October 19th, 2014 she suffered minor damage in a smaller fire.

“Today in History” on The Pandora Society dot com is primarily focused on Victorian and Edwardian history and does not always have a direct connection to Steampunk, Dieselpunk, or whatever punk; in fact it rarely does, but it is our hope that in sharing these historical events they might serve as some inspiration to the writers in our community to create potential alternative history stories which we look forward to reading 🙂


 

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