UK’s Oldest Research Vessel Discovery Completes Last Scientific Mission

RRS Discovery has completed her last scientific mission. After 50 years of service, the UK’s oldest research vessel concluded operations at 1044hrs on Friday 23rd November. Dr Gerard McCarthy of the National Oceanography Centre led this expedition, the 382 undertaken by Discovery.

She is now bound for Freeport in the Bahamas to demobilize and from there will return to the UK. Discovery is expected to return to Southampton on the 12 December.

Discovery will be taken out of service on her return to Southampton, 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. The building of a replacement vessel, also to be called Discovery, is under way.

Press Release, November 26, 2012