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Fire causes heavy damage to historic British clipper ship Cutty Sark
21 May 2007



GREENWICH, England (AP) - A spectacular early morning fire caused heavy damage to the clipper ship Cutty Sark on Monday, adding millions to the cost of restoring one of London's proudest maritime relics.

The cause of the blaze was under investigation, but within hours officials responsible for the graceful sailing ship said they were determined to carry on with a four-year restoration project.

"We're going to redouble our efforts to ensure that the ship is open, available, back and running in the future," said Chris Livett, the chairman of Cutty Sark Enterprises, responsible for restoring the world's only surviving tea clipper.

"I think when we finish with this project, she will be better than she was ... in a complete state a year ago," Livett told reporters.

Firefighters responded to an alarm at 4:45 a.m. (0345 GMT) at the ship's dry dock. The flames were out by 7 a.m. (0600 GMT).

"At the moment we are treating the fire as suspicious, as we would do any fire of this scale and importance," police Inspector Bruce Middlemiss said. Surveillance cameras showed several people in the area at the time the fire started, but there was no indication that any had been involved in igniting the fire.

"There is no evidence or intelligence to lead us to think this was an arson," Middlemiss said.

The ship was the world's only surviving example of an extreme clipper, regarded as the ultimate development of a merchant sailing vessel. Most of the original hull had survived since the ship was built for the 19th-century tea trade.

Cutty Sark had been closed to visitors since last year for a 25 million pound (euro37 million; US$50 million) renovation.

The leaders of the restoration project said the damage was not as bad as they feared.

"I'm relieved. I came here thinking the ship had gone on her last journey," said Richard Doughty, chief executive of the Cutty Sark Trust.

However, "this will have resulted in millions and millions of pounds of damage. This is a ship that belongs to the world, and we're going to need financial help," said Doughty, who estimated that every day of additional work would cost some 10,000 pounds (euro14,700; US$20,000).

Ian Bell, manager of the restoration project, emerged from an inspection of the ship with soot on his cheeks but an optimistic message about the condition of the ship's iron frame.

"Initial indications suggest we don't have any massive distortions of the ship," Bell said.

"I think the most disturbing thing for me is the smell in the air," Doughty said. "Anyone who has been on the Cutty Sark knows it has a very distinctive smell from the timber, from the rope. Tragically that smell now pervades southeast London."

Cutty Sark left London on its first voyage on Feb. 16, 1870, proceeding around Cape Hope to Shanghai 3 1/2 months later. The ship made only eight voyages to China in the tea trade, as steam ships replaced sail on the high seas.

Measuring 280 feet (85 meters) in length, the ship weighed 963 tons (979 U.S. tons) and its main mast soared 152 feet (46.3 meters) above the main deck.

The ship was used for training naval cadets during World War II, and in 1951 it was moored in London for the Festival of Britain. Shortly afterward, the ship was acquired by the Cutty Sark Society.
 

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Cause of fire on historic ship inconclusive, forensic investigators say
23 May 2007

LONDON (AP) - Forensic investigators were unable to determine the cause of the fire which ravaged the historic clipper Cutty Sark, police said Wednesday.

The forensic examinations of the ship have finished and were inconclusive, London's Metropolitan Police said in a statement.

"At this stage, we have no major leads and inquiries continue," the statement said. Officers are examining closed-circuit television from the area around the ship, and have appealed for witnesses to come forward.

The investigation was carried out jointly by London's police and fire services, the Forensic Science Service, and a specialist forensic company employed by the Cutty Sark Trust's insurers.

The ship, which was undergoing restoration at its southeast London dry dock beside the River Thames, caught fire early Monday morning. The fire will add millions to the cost of refurbishing one of the British capital's maritime relics, already standing at 25 million pounds (euro37 million; US$50 million).

The Cutty Sark was launched in 1869 and was designed to carry its cargo of tea from the far east back to Britain.
 

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Her Majesty The Queen Reopens Cutty Sark on 25 April 2012
Full Press Release







On Wednesday 25 April, Her Majesty The Queen, accompanied by His Royal Highness, The Duke of Edinburgh, officially re-opens Cutty Sark; the world’s last surviving tea clipper and one of Britain’s greatest maritime treasures, following an extensive conservation project, with major support totalling £25 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF). The following day (26 April) the ship opens to visitors for the first time since 2006.

Also, today (13 April 2012) the Trustees of Cutty Sark and the Trustees of Royal Museums Greenwich are pleased to announce that following her completion, the ship will come under the operational management of Royal Museums Greenwich.

Lord Sterling, Chairman of Royal Museums Greenwich and the Cutty Sark Trust, said:

‘Cutty Sark holds a unique place in the heart for the people of Greenwich, Great Britain and indeed the rest of the world, and it is splendid that she is re-joining the London skyline once again. Cutty Sark is set in the newly-landscaped Cutty Sark Gardens, created by Greenwich Council, one of our strongest supporters. We are indebted to those members of the public, from all over the world, who have generously contributed to the preservation of this much-loved national treasure. We are also deeply appreciative of the many other major institutions, government bodies and foundations that have played a key role in providing the funds. In particular, our deep thanks to the Heritage Lottery Fund who have supported the project and stood by Cutty Sark through its difficult times, particularly following the fire, and allocating £25 million of public money raised through the National Lottery.

Cutty Sark’s re-launch comes in an exceptional year for Greenwich, which was granted the status of Royal Borough in February, and will have the eyes of the world upon it during The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and the London 2012 Olympic Games this summer. On 25 June 1957 Her Majesty opened Cutty Sark to the public for the first time and we are delighted that on 25 April, this year, The Queen and HRH Duke of Edinburgh, who has been President of the Cutty Sark Trust since 1951, will return to re-open the ship.’

Richard Doughty, Director of the Cutty Sark Trust, said: ‘We have been privileged to be involved in conserving Cutty Sark and restoring her to her key position in the Greenwich World Heritage Site. Our solution, a world first, will secure Cutty Sark’s future so that she can continue to inspire many new generations of adventurers at the heart of the Royal Borough of Greenwich.’

Kevin Fewster, Director of Royal Museums Greenwich, said: ‘Cutty Sark is an iconic London landmark and a much loved part of the Maritime Greenwich World Heritage Site. Bringing Cutty Sark into the Royal Museums Greenwich family strengthens the links between some of the key attraction of this unique World Heritage Site and helps us to explore the extraordinary maritime stories we have to tell.’

The re-launch marks the start of an exciting new chapter in the extraordinary life of the world famous, three-masted clipper. It is the culmination of six years’ work and one of the most complex conservation projects ever undertaken on a historic ship. The project has succeeded in rescuing Cutty Sark and preventing her collapse, whilst preserving as much of the ship’s original fabric from the period of her working life as possible. Moreover, the innovative scheme also provides generations to come with a new way to engage with the ship and explore her history.

In a brilliant feat of engineering, Cutty Sark has been raised 11 feet (3.3 meters) into the air, relieving the keel of the weight of the ship and preserving her unique shape. For the first time, visitors can walk underneath the ship and view the elegant lines of her hull, revealing the innovative design which was the secret to her success – enabling her to reach the record-breaking speed of 17 ½ knots (20 mph/32kmph) from Sydney to London. The space also showcases Cutty Sark’s extensive collection of over 80 ships’ figureheads, never before displayed in its entirety on the site.

The ship’s weather deck and rigging have been painstakingly restored to their original specification, with 11 miles (17.5 km) of rigging supporting the masts. Below deck visitors can explore Cutty Sark’s rich and varied history through new interactive exhibitions.

Launched in 1869 from Dumbarton, Scotland, Cutty Sark visited most major ports around the world. She carried cargo ranging from the finest teas to gunpowder and from whisky to buffalo horns. Cutty Sark made her name as the fastest ship of her era during her time in the wool trade. Many of the tea clippers that sailed the China Seas during the 19th century lasted for only a few years and only seven saw the 20th century. By the mid-1920s Cutty Sark was the only one still afloat and from 1938 became a training ship for the Incorporated Thames Training College at Greenhithe.

In December 1954, due to the great efforts of The Duke of Edinburgh, Cutty Sark came to Greenwich where she became, and remains, a memorial to the great days of sail and to all those who served in the merchant service.
 
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