I’ve always been fascinated by ships (see my other recent blog about the Vasa Museum) and extreme exploration so a visit to the RRS Discovery is the perfect blend of both. So when I saw the opportunity to explore this amazing ship I jumped at the chance!
If you think that the RRS Discovery in Dundee, Scotland sounds familiar, you are right – it was originally commissioned for the British National Antarctic Expedition as part of Ernest Shackleton and Robert Falcon Scott’s first journey to the Antarctic. The Discovery Expedition as it was known was commissioned to carry out scientific research in the Antarctic. The knowledge that they brought back from their experiments increased our knowledge not only of the geography of the Antarctic but also in biology, geology, magnetism and so much more. While during this time of course scientists all over the world were carrying out similar experiments, there are few places that are as inhospitable as the Antarctic and the scientists aboard the Discovery went through countless hardships including scurvy, hunger, extreme cold leading to frostbite, death and months of the ship being trapped in the ice.
The RRS Discovery Tour in Dundee features both an opportunity to explore the ship (and its eerie manikins and creepy fake cat), as well as a fascinating museum about both the ship and Scott’s expedition itself. The ship itself has been restored and several dioramas and displays have been recreated to depict life aboard the ship right down to the books on the shelves.
The museum features amazing displays about not only the journey and hardships that the crew experienced while doing their research, but also far more interestingly, to me at least, how the crew entertained themselves over three years they were stuck in the Antarctic.
As a writer it gave me a great sense of satisfaction to know that one of the most eagerly awaited events each month was the latest edition of The South Polar Times. This newspaper featured articles contributed by officers and crew, as well as poetry, drawings, puzzles, and of course reports about the experiments and research of the rest of the crew. In fact, the newspaper was so popular that a second magazine, The Blizzard, was published to include the pieces that would not fit into The South Polar Times. The drawings and articles in the newspaper are fantastically insightful and give us an unbelievable insight into the sailor’s day to day lives. Of course the newspaper wasn’t the only source of entertainment on board; there were also games, debates, lectures and amateur theatre productions performed by the fantastically nicknamed Royal Terror Theatre.
While spending several hours browsing the museum I was struck how normal life was despite the subzero temperatures and I promised that I would never complain about the weather ever again… At least until I was stuck in the pouring rain later in the afternoon.