UK: RRS Discovery Returns to Southampton for the Last Time

UK: RRS Discovery’s Returns to Southampton for the Last Time

The Royal Research Ship Discovery has returned to the National Oceanography Centre’s Empress Dock in Southampton for the last time.

The ship, the UK’s oldest research vessel, will be taken out of service after a distinguished half-century of service to UK marine science. This final science expedition – her 382nd – was led by Dr Gerard McCarthy of the National Oceanography Centre and investigated changes to Atlantic Ocean currents, collecting data from an array of moorings between the Canaries and the Bahamas.

She will be replaced by a new, state-of-the art Royal Research Ship, also called Discovery, which will be named in Southampton next year.

Discovery will be taken out of service after a half-century of science that has included surveying the ocean floor, measuring ocean currents, monitoring climate change, and discovering new species around the globe. In addition to increasing a body of scientific knowledge, the ship has also grown – by 10 metres. During a refit in 1990-1992 the hull’s middle section was extended, increasing her length to 90.2 metres.

Earlier this year researchers, officers and crew associated with Discovery met to celebrate the scientific and technological achievements made over the years. When RRS Discovery was launched in 1962 there was no satellite navigation (this didn’t begin until 1969); Harold MacMillan was Prime Minister; there was no GPS (this was fitted in 1986); and John F Kennedy was President.

Discovery follows in a line of distinguished ships dating back to 1602 when the East India Company commissioned the first recorded Discovery to explore the waters now known as the Hudson Strait in the long search for the elusive North-West Passage. In the 20th century a new Discovery was specially commissioned for the British National Antarctic Expedition of 1901-04. The Discovery Expedition included Antarctic heroes Captain Scott and Ernest Shackleton.

RRS Discovery is owned by the Natural Environment Research Council and operated by the National Oceanography Centre.

Press Release, December 17, 2012