Stretch gives ship an extended life

BRITAIN'S biggest research ship, RRS Discovery, sails for the South Atlantic from Barry, South Wales, tomorrow on its first working voyage since being sawn in half and stretched by 30 feet.

The new-look vessel will take part in a three-month series of experiments, costing about pounds 1.5m, designed to learn more about the oceans and how they distribute heat and carbon dioxide around the planet - crucial elements in the complex equations of the greenhouse effect.

New laboratories and equipment on board will help scientists to understand how, for instance, deep underwater currents distribute huge quantities of heat from the tropical seas to the colder regions of the North and South Atlantic.

The Discovery will also take part in an international effort to study the large 'blooms' of phytoplankton - microscopic plants - that occur each spring as the winter ice recedes from the seas surrounding the North and South Poles. Researchers believe this plankton plays an important role in soaking up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

The Discovery has a distinguished pedigree. The original icebreaker, launched in 1901, took Scott and Shackleton in search of the South Pole. The present vessel was built in the early Sixties and was well beyond its expected 20-year lifespan when its operators, the Natural Environment Research Council, convinced the Government of the need for an pounds 11m refit, about half the price of a new ship.

Over a period of 30 months, Portuguese shipbuilders stripped the Discovery of its aluminium superstructure, leaving a rusty hulk which they cut in two during a hazardous three-day operation. Hydraulic machinery pulled the front and back ends of the hull apart on steel plates covered in grease. At one point the bow section slid dangerously out of line. Ship welders then fitted in a 12- metre wide section to increase the overall length to 90 metres. This made the new-look Discovery more stable in rough seas and provided extra space for the 28 scientists and their equipment.

The refit was completed with a wider aft section, housing heavy machinery for towing and pulling in equipment from the sea, and new engines and superstructure housing cabins and laboratories. The original propellor and shaft were left as they were.

A gravity meter in the centre of the vessel measures the smallest variations in Earth's gravitational field as the ship travels. Miles of cables are stored in the winch- room with pulleys able to lift 20- ton loads out of the sea.

(Graphic omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
Barn owls are among species that could be affected
charity appeal
News
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
Sport
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricketEoin Morgan reportedly to take over ODI captaincy
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas