An 18-month program to re-support the famed warship HMS Victory is now underway. The Victory, Lord Nelson’s flagship at the Battle of Trafalgar, has been sitting in a drydock in Portsmouth since 1922. She is supported by 22 steel cradles positioned about 20 feet apart.
The 252-year-old ship is creeping under her own weight, and following a detailed laser scan of 90 billion measurements and computer modeling, a new support system has been designed to mimic how the ship would sit in water.
Rather than the existing steel “blades” which are placing considerable strain on the hull structure, these will be replaced by 134 15-foot adjustable steel props fitted over two levels. Each prop is telescopic and features a cell monitoring the load around the clock. Each can be easily adjusted.
“Over the last 40 years, all the outer planking of the ship has been replaced. The outer planks held the hull in place but, like a corset, with its strings loosened, the hull is now moving and bulging,” said Andrew Baines, Project Director at The National Museum of the Royal Navy, which now owns and operates the ship. “The hull is moving at a rate of 0.5cm each year, so 20 centimetres over the last 40 years. This is untenable and must be remedied before irreversible damage is done. The new support system will cradle the ship much like she would be in water.”
“Victory is possibly the most famous ship in the world,” said Professor Dominic Tweddle, Director General of The National Museum of the Royal Navy. “She remains a commissioned ship and the flagship of the First Sea Lord. The dry dock, in which she sits, is also the oldest in the world, and this is the first time something like this has ever been done on a historic ship.”
The National Museum awarded the $3.8 million project to BAE Systems. The work to conserve HMS Victory began in 2011. The initial scope included removing the masts and yards before work to prevent water ingress and reduce rot, repainting of the ship’s hull and refurbishing Hardy’s Cabin and the Great Cabin. A new walkway for visitors was also installed, enabling access to more of the ship, along with a new fire detection and fire suppression system.
The ship display, which has welcomed over 30 million visitors since it opened in 1928, will remain open in Portsmouth Historic Dockyard.
This article appears courtesy of Royal Navy News and may be found in its original form here.
The opinions expressed herein are the author's and not necessarily those of The Maritime Executive.