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World's oldest sailing clipper in London for final farewell

by Chris Rann on 3 Nov 2013
City of Adelaide on barge - so far so good SW
After a 14-year campaign, the world's oldest clipper and the only surviving purpose-built passenger sailing ship to bring migrants from Europe to Australia is in historic Greenwich, London, for its formal farewell prior to its final voyage back to Adelaide. A renaming and farewell ceremony was attended by the Duke of Edinburgh.

The City of Adelaide, atop a large barge, moored for several days in the Thames near her younger ‘sister’– the world famous Cutty Sark, a Greenwich landmark for decades - before continuing her journey via a quarantine and 'preparation stop' in Europe. She is expected to arrive in Port Adelaide between February and April next year (2014).

The voyage will end an extraordinary 14-year campaign by engineers, maritime historians, ship enthusiasts, descendants of the ship’s migrants and supporters.


This project to save the 1864 vessel has received worldwide support. The Australian government contribution (announced yesterday) of $850,000 towards the transport of the clipper, together with contributions and support from the Scottish and South Australian governments, private business and individuals will now see the ship preserved for future generations.

'The saving of the City of Adelaide is a most significant maritime heritage achievement. It has been an extraordinary outcome achieved by an Adelaide based group of volunteers supported by the community and governments,' said Clipper Ship City of Adelaide Ltd. (CSCOAL) director and spokesperson Peter Christopher.

'The ship will form part of a seaport village in Port Adelaide, South Australia, enabling future generations from across the globe to be part of living history.'

The City of Adelaide was regarded as unrecoverable from the banks of the Irvine River in western Scotland. For many years the ship was stranded by a heavily silted river and experts feared she could never be extracted as the adjacent delicate wetlands prevented the option of dredging the river to rescue her.


Despite being listed as part of the UK’s National Historic Ships Core Collection, the Trustees of the Scottish Maritime Museum were being forced to vacate the site where the clipper sat. With the ship stranded, they in turn had to request permission to demolish the A-Listed ship. That is until CSCOAL, the Adelaide-based volunteer organisation, stepped in.

'Our group essentially identified that there was a feasible solution to recover the ship that did not require dredging near important bird breeding-grounds. We were supported in writing by none less than former Prime Minister Bob Hawke and a number of former Premiers and Lord Mayors,' Mr Christopher said.

'We even had letters of encouragement and support, over a number of years and as recently as this year, from the Duke of Edinburgh who has so willingly and graciously agreed to be part of today’s (Friday’s) event.

'Recognising the opportunity of saving the world-heritage ship, Scottish culture minster Fiona Hyslop took the positive decision to call a study into any options for saving the ship. The Australian team’s strategy stood out, and offered the additional advantage of enhancing Scottish and Australian cultural ties in the process.

'But we still had to convince heritage authorities the length and breadth of the UK that South Australia had the expertise and knowhow to pull off an intricate piece of work.'

Intricate is something of an understatement. Engineering firms from across South Australia worked together to create a prefabricated steel cradle that would allow the ship to be rolled across a temporary bridge over river mudflats and onto a low-draft barge.

She will now embark on the first stage of a voyage half way around the world – back to SA for the first time in more than 125 years.

Weighing 100 tonnes and worth more than $1.2million, the cradle was shipped to Scotland in five shipping containers, before being assembled and tested, and then disassembled again for installation beneath the 450 tonne clipper piece by piece.

'This has been a team project from the start, and the level of commitment and passion has been quite extraordinary. We are volunteers; not amateurs. The expertise and access to resources within the team is demonstrated by the work carried out to date,' Mr Christopher said.

'We have had great support from the Australian and Scottish governments and local councils, but nearly a third of the money required to get her back has come from public donations and a similar amount from South Australian industry.

'Once she is safely in South Australia we will be establishing her as the flagship of a non-profit Seaport Village in Port Adelaide, to be run along similar lines to Sovereign Hill in Victoria.'

About the City of Adelaide:
The clipper City of Adelaide was renamed HMS Carrick when purchased by the Royal Navy in 1923. This was to avoid confusion with the new cruiser HMAS Adelaide that had recently been commissioned in the Royal Australian Navy. In 2001, the clipper's name reverted to 'City of Adelaide' after a Conference convened by HRH Duke of Edinburgh to discuss the future of the historic ship. The formal renaming ceremony will take place today (Friday 18/10).
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The City of Adelaide clipper weighs over 450 tonnes. In her sailing days she would have weighed 1500 tonnes. In its current state (hull only), the clipper is 54 metres long, which is longer than an Olympic swimming pool (50 metres). Originally - with jib-boom - she was 74 metres – 4 metres longer than a 747 aircraft.
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The City of Adelaide was built in 1864, five years before the Cutty Sark. She is one of only four surviving sailing ships to have taken emigrants from the British Isles to any destination in the world, and the last survivor of the timber trade between North America and the United Kingdom. She is the world’s fifth oldest surviving merchant ship, and was designed and built specifically to serve the colony of South Australia.
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The City of Adelaide is famous for being specially designed as a passenger ship. Over a quarter of a century the City of Adelaide carried thousands of English, Scottish, Cornish, German, Danish, Irish and other migrants to South Australia. Today, the descendants of her passengers can be found throughout Australia.
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Greenwich has played a key role in the story of Britain's sea power for over 400 years and today its many museums celebrate its maritime history. Greenwich, at the world’s Prime Meridian, is on the portion of the Thames from where the City of Adelaide departed for each of its 23 annual voyages from London to South Australia. These attributes, combined with close links to England 's Tudor and Stuart sovereigns, give Greenwich an unrivalled symbolic presence.

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