Brief outing for a Bronze Age boat

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THE substantial remains of the oldest sea-going boat in northern Europe will go on public display in Dover this weekend - before disappearing for two years of preservation treatment.

Conservation and repair work on the 3,000-year-old vessel - discovered in Dover last year - will cost up to pounds 1m, and archaeologists involved in the project are setting up a charitable trust to help raise the funds.

They hope that, after the conservation work, the Bronze Age boat will go on permanent display in a special gallery in Dover Museum in 1996. It will be the only display of its type and size in Britain.

Later this month, the boat will be immersed in polyetheline glycol which will drive out and replace the water from the timbers' cellular structure. Then, after a year immersed in increasing concentrations of the chemical, the boat will be taken to a special laboratory in York or Portsmouth to be freeze-dried in a vacuum chamber for up to nine months. Then it will return to Dover to be studied and reassembled in a process which will take a further six months.

The boat was discovered during road-building work in Dover in September 1992. Up to two-thirds of the 50ft oak vessel was recovered. It was made of several timbers and sewn together with ropes made of yew fibres.

The boat is on display today and tomorrow, from 10am to 4pm, at Warehouse No 3 in Cambridge Road, Dover.

(Photograph omitted)