The world's oldest clipper ship has started the first leg of what it is hoped will be her final journey - half way across the world from Irvine in Scotland to form the centrepiece of a museum in South Australia in the city which shares her name - City of Adelaide.
City of Adelaide in her prime
About 1000 people said farewell this week to the 1864-built City of Adelaide which once plied her trade between the UK and Australia, establishing the colony.
She was being towed from the Scottish Maritime Museum at Irvine for London, where she will be put onto a cargo ship to head to her final resting place in the city she is named after.
In her day she made 23 return voyages between London and Adelaide and 250,000 South Australians can link their roots to her.
She is expected to arrive in Port Adelaide between February and April 2014.
The voyage will end an extraordinary 14-year campaign by engineers, maritime historians, ship enthusiasts, descendants of the ship’s migrants and supporters.
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.
Weighing 100 tonnes and worth more than AU$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.
'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', said Clipper Ship City of Adelaide Ltd. (CSCOAL) director and spokesperson Peter Christopher.
'Once she is safely in South Australia we will be establishing her as the flagship of a non-profit Seaport Village in Port Adelaide.
City of Adelaide in Irvine, Scotland, before she was moved
The world’s oldest clipper ship came very close to destruction. The CITY OF ADELAIDE was built by William Pile, Hay and Co. in Sunderland, England, and was launched on the 7th May 1864. From 1864 – 1886, CITY OF ADELAIDE made 23 voyages to South Australia carrying passengers south and cargo north. Approximately a quarter of a million Australians are descended from the passengers who sailed on the CITY OF ADELAIDE.
In 1887, she was laid up, then returned to service as a collier between Tyne and Dover in England. She then was sold to T. Dixon and Son of Belfast, Ireland who re-rigged her as a barque for the North Atlantic timber trade. In 1893, the Southampton Corporation purchased her for £1,750 and converted her into a hospital isolation ship on the River Test, moored off Millbrook in Southampton.
In 1923, CITY OF ADELAIDE was sold to the British Admiralty for £2,500, re-named HMS CARRICK, moored in the Firth of Clyde and converted into a training ship for the Clyde division of the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve.
By 1949, she was moved to Greenock for use as a Navy Drill Ship. Finally, she was deemed past her usefulness and the British Admiralty presented her to the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve Club who used the ship as a meeting room and club house until 1990 when she was sold to the Clyde Ship Trust for £1 while still moored at the Glasgow Customs House Quay.
In 1992, she was identified as part of the National (UK) Historic Ships Core Collection and was given an ‘A’ class heritage listing. At that time, she was claimed to be the only 19th century sailing ship in Britain still able to float. CITY OF ADELAIDE became the property of the Scottish National Maritime Museum, after the Clyde Ship Trust was dissolved. Partially restored to her clipper ship design, she was moved to her present location, a slipway at Irvine, Scotland.
Lack of funds to maintain the restoration program and the on-going cost of slipway rental forced the Scottish Maritime Museum into a difficult position to appeal for funds.
In 2000, the Museum offered the clipper ship for sale to maritime and preservation organizations and museums but no bids were tendered. The slip owner eventually needed the land cleared and the Trustees of the Scottish Maritime Museum applied to have her ‘A’ class heritage listing removed to allow them to demolish her.
In spite of the long campaign to save her, the City of Adelaide remained on the verge of demolition until 2010.