The most important of the Antarctic expeditions in course of preparation when the twentieth century dawned was that one which, organised under the auspices of the. British Government and the Royal Geographical Society, was designed to sail in the ship Discovery. The movement, initiated in 1889, made most gratifying progress. For the purpose the colossal sum of £120,000 was required, and with the Government's subscription of £45,000, a munificent donation of £23,000 by Mr L. W. Longsta, of Wimbledon, and other contributions, over £90,000 —the figure which was originally aimed at—was received. On 10th Jan, 1900, the Committee in charge of arrangements placed in the hands of the Dundee Shipbuilders, Limited, a contract to build a vessel at a cost of over £50,000. The Committee were well advised inentrusting the work to such experienced and capable builders. No time was, lost by the contractors, and on March 7th 1900, the first part of the keel was laid down, and progress thereafter was very rapid. The Discovery is a wonderful piece of marine architecture, combining grace and beauty of outline with a structural strength hitherto unattained. Generally speaking, the Discovery embodies all the characteristics of a modern whaler. Rigged as a full barque, the vessel is 178 feet long by 54 feet broad, with a mean draft of 20 feet, and a displacement of 1570 tons. Her coal capacity amounts to 240 tons, while the engines, which were fitted by Messrs Gourlay Brothers, are of 450 horse-power.
Every care was taken to make the vessel as Strong as Possible with the result that she is possibly the most powerful craft of her kind ever built. Scottish oak forms the principal element in the steamer's construction, while, to impart additional resistance, she has been given an outer sheathing of green-heart and iron bark. Some idea of her immense strength may be gathered from the fact that her stem from outside to inside is about nine feet in thickness, and the sides, in the way of the main deck, show a thickness of 2½ feet of solid timber. Each frame is double, and averages in thickness 12 inches, having all its butts and sides dowelled together, in addition to being securely fastened with bolts. As regardsstrength, the bows have been most carefully constructed, so that the vessel may be able to ram with safety the heavy ice. On the upper deck a powerful steam winch will be fitted aft. Laboratories have been constructed amidships on either side. In the centre of the upper deck a magnetic observatory is placed and for a radius of 30 feet the fittings of the ship are entirely of brass, thus ensuring immunity from magnetic influence. By an ingenious contrivance the rudder and propeller can be lifted on deck whenever heavy ice is encountered. On the 'tween decks forward the navigating party will be berthed, while a sick berth and another laboratory are alongside. In the centre, round a large ward room, cabins have been construct forthe captain, navigating, and scientific officers. Anovel arrangement has been effected with the object of preventing the penetration of cold blasts when a person enters from the outside, the doors being doubled, and the lobbies forming what are practically air-locks.
The Lower hold is fitted with store rooms, water ballast tanks, and an auxiliary space for coal; while the after part of the vessel is reserved for the machinery, so that the scientific laboratory is perfectly free from any undue magnetic influence. The vessel is fitted throughout with electric light, the current being generated by a dynamo placed in the engine-room. In the Antarctic regions a windmill is placed on deck, to drive a separate dynamo. Included in the outfit is a large woollen felt covering, extending over the whole length, which will be utilised during the winter months to insure as far as possible a protection from wind and snow. The under part of the deck is lined with asbestos as a non-conductor to obviate the extreme cold. The Discovery is furnished with a full complement of boats, built specially for exploring work, and us part of her equipment she carries a, captive balloon. Possibly the most striking feature in the vessel's design is a peculiarity in the modelling, by which, should she be severely nipped or tightly enclosed in the ice she will rise above it as the pressure increases.
It was arranged that the Discovery be manned by members of the Royal Navy, from the captain down to the ordinary seaman, and thus a capable crew was assured. The command was entrusted to Captain R, F. Scott. He is only 30 years of age. Next in command was placed Lieutenant A, B. Armitage, an officer who had experience in Polar expeditions, having occupied a similar position in the Jackson-Harmsworth expedition to the North Pole. Lieutenant C. W, Rawson Royds is third in rank and first executive officer. Next was Lieutenant- Michael Barne, Mr Shackleton, the third executive officer, is a Sub-Lieutenant in the R.N.R. The important duties of chief engineer fell to Mr Reginald Skelton. The crew numbered 30. Including officers and scientists, there were to be 41 hands, all told, on board.
The scientific work was under the charge of Professor Gregory, of Melbourne University. Mr Hodgson was biologist. Mr Shackleton was physicist, and Dr Koettlitz and Dr Wilson were medicoa1 men.
The Discovery was built to the design of Mr W, E. Smith. Mr Smith, who is Chief Constructor for the Admiralty, is a native of Portsmouth, and from his earliest years has been associated with ships and naval affairs. The ship was described as a credit to the constructors and to the port of Dundee. It was built under the careful supervision of Mr R. Paterson, the manager of the yard, and Mr M, Bates, who represented the promoters. Perhaps no one took a more active interest in the construction of the Discovery than Mr John Smith, Mr Paterson's henchman. No one in the British Isles has a wider experience of wooden ships or a better practical knowledge of their construction.
Never in the annals of the port has launch of ship orsteamer occasioned such widespread and general interest as that exhibited on Thursday, 21st March. The ships berthed in the Harbour were gaily decorated with bunting, and work in, many departments was at a standstill for the time being. Long before high water there was a constant stream of visitors, long shore and city ward towards the Panmure Shipyard. On the Marine Parable thousands assembled. The masts and yards of vessels in the neighbourhood which dominated the stocks on which the Discovery rested were manned by interested spectators, The yard itself—or at least such portions of it as could be occupied without interfering with the course of operations—wasdensely crowded, On either side of the Discovery, as far as the barriers would permit, other interested spectators fell into line to witness the good ship take the water. All classes were represented—ship-brokers, city men, workmen in everyday garb, old salts, and retired gentlemen foregoing for once their afternoon constitutional at the Harbour. Photographers, amateur and professional, were present in force. For ceremonial purposes aspacious platform was erected in front of the ship's bows, and on this a considerable number of the guests were accommodated.
To the clang of the hammers striking off one by one the fetters which bound the Discovery to Scottish soil, the company continued to file into the yard. At three o'clock the gangway—the last link which connected the ship's decks with terra firma was raised. At 3.15 Sir Clements Markham, President of the Antarctic Committee and Lady Markham were ushered into the front of the platform, whereat a space was reserved. They were accompanied by Captain Scott, commander of the expedition; Lieutenant and Mrs Armitage; Lieutenant Royds, Mrs, and the Misses Royds; Mr R. Skelton; Mr William Low, Chairman of the Directors, and Mrs Low; Mr Andrew Leitch and Miss Leitch, Mr Thomas Winton, Mr William Rettie and Mrs Rettie, Mr Henry Gourlay; Mr R. Patenson, manager, and Mrs Paterson; Mr O. Kidd, Secretary of the Company, and Mrs Kidd. Among other invited guests were Lord Provost Hunter; Sir Reginald Ogilvy, Bart., Mr Herbert Ogilvy, and Miss Ogilvy; Sir James and Lady Low, Dr Keltie, Dr and Mrs Koettlitz; Mr Cyril Longhurst, Secretary of Antarctic Committee; Dr Mill; Mr George Murray, British Museum: Mr David Bruce, London; Mr G. W. Baxter, LL.D,, and Mrs Baxter; Surgeon Browne, R.N.; Colonel Bailey, R.E.; Bailies Urquhart, Barrie, and Melville; Treasurer Ritchie; Mr J. C. Higgins, U.S Consul; Mr F. W. Emett, Mr and Mrs Edward Maitland: Dr and Mrs Bruce, Edinburgh; Mr I. J. Weinberg, President of the local branch of the Geographical Society, and Mrs Weinberg; Mr Wylie, local Secretary of the Society; Captain Austen; Colonel Cantley, R.E.; Captain Wilson Barker, R.N.R.; Lord Dean of Guild Bell, Captain F, Abbot Anderson, Mr H. W. Srnythe; Professor D'Arcy Thompson,C.B,; Mr T. Carlaw Martin, Mr Grant Barclay, Mr Charles G. Gourlay, Mr J. G. Lyon; Messrs Howie and William Morrison, of Lloyd's; Mrs Stuart Gray, Kinfauns; Mr T. E. Fielding, H.M. Customs, Dundee; Mr N, A. Pattullo and Miss Pattullo; Mr James Henderson. The Gows; Mr J. L, Henderson; Captain Alexander McKay, R.N.R.; Mr R, B, Don, Mr W.H. Ferguson and Mrs Ferguson, Mr F. Sandeman, Dr Sinclair, Mr A. B. Gilroy, Mr Robert Murdoch, Mr James Mitchell, Mr John Mitchell, Mr A. Watt, Mr George Rollo, Mr W.E. Methven, Rev A.J. Forson and Mrs Forson, Rev W. Wood, Mr J.P. Newton, Mr Robert Kinnes, Mr Otto Lindberg, Mr B.L. Nairn, Mr W. Kinnear, Mr R.V. Scroggie, Mr E. Henderson, Mr James Duncan, Mr D. Scott, Mr James McFarlane, Mr E. Bates, Mr & Mrs James Stiven, Mr & Mrs R. J. Leitch, Mr F. Stephen, Mr Allan Mathewson, Mr Alexander Hutton, Mr J. B. Mills, Mr William Thomson, Mr John Henderson, Mr L. U. Garriock, Captain Yule, Captain Young, Captain H. McKay and Mrs McKay, Captain Guy and Mrs Guy, Captain Robertson and Mrs Robertson, Captain Adams and Mrs Adams, Captain Milne, Captain Speedy. The Company now comfortably installed in their places were interested spectators of the operations of the workmen.
At a signal from Mr John Smith, the yard foreman, under whose superintendence the constructive work had been conducted, the shores were one by one knocked away and the Discovery was allowed to rest upon the cradle which was to carry her into the river. At 20 minutes past three a whistle sounded, and Lady Markham stepping to the front of the platform, severed a cord which liberated a bottle of wine, beautifully garlanded with flowers, suspended from the bows of the ship. Amid a rousing cheer the glass was shivered on the iron-plated stern and her Ladyship christened the ship the Discovery. A few moments elapsed. A dead silence pervaded the crowd. Slowly the Discovery began to move, and quickly gathering way rushed down the declivity into the water, a great cheer arising from the crowd in the yard and from the thousands of spectators assembled on the Marine Parade. As the vessel receded from the ways the spectators were afforded a fine opportunity of seeing unfolded one by one her beautiful lines and the admirable conformation of the hull. At the moment when the ship floated, a Union Jack was hoisted on the bows, and the blue ensign of the Naval Reserve was run up over the stern. In waiting for the Discovery were a couple of tugs, which promptly took her in tow, and in presence of the crowd, which had not yet dispersed, towed the ship down the river, the broadside view thus exposed giving a new and adequate view of her proportions.
After the launch, on the invitation of the Directors of the Shipbuilders Company a number of those who had been present at the ceremony were entertained at lunch in the Queen's Hotel, Mr William Low, the Chairman of the Directors presided. The Chairman, in proposing "Success to the Discovery," said they in Dundee had always displayed a decided aptitude for these two branches of science, which, combined with the commercial instinct said to be peculiar to the Jew and the Scotchman – Laughter – had encouraged them to take a deep interest in the Arctic regions. But thanks to the frequent visits of the Adamses, Robertsons, and other noted Whalers, nature had all but given out in the North Polar Seas, and, geography of itself being a profitless study to Dundonians, he trusted Commander Scott would keep a weather eye open for the "right" whale, and give them the hint where it was to be found in the Antarctic (Applause.)
In replying, Sir Clements Markham said they were excessively ignorant of everything in connection with the Antarctic region, but he had great hopes of what might be achieved by a good ship and a resolute captain. They must not hope for too much, but for his own part he felt certain of a fair amount of success. But that was not all they had to do, There was scientific work to be done, and a magnetic survey to be made. A good custom had been introduced into the navy of writing on the hatchway or some other place the great deeds done by the namesake of the ship. If they recalled the older Discoveries they would find that most of them had done valuable work. Discovery 1 had explored Hudsons Strait, Discovery II, explored Hudson's Bay, Discovery III was one of Captain Cook's ships, Discovery IV was under Captain Vancouver, Discovery V along with the Alert, reached further north than any other ship, and that Discovery VI would be as successful as the others was their most confident anticipation, (Applause.) A number of other toasts were proposed, and the proceedings were of an interesting nature.