Last Discovery Expedition
RRS Discovery set sail from Southampton on 8 October on her last expedition for UK science. During 50 years of service, the royal research ship has helped scientists push the boundaries of ocean knowledge. It has been a research platform, laboratory and home to many scientists, officers and crew.
To celebrate Discovery's final research cruise a blog site has been set up that is devoted to memories of working on Discovery: http://memoriesofdiscovery.blogspot.co.uk/
Despite her advanced years, Discovery’s last expedition will undertake up-to-the-minute climate research: investigating changes to Atlantic Ocean currents. Dr Gerard McCarthy will be collecting data from an array of moorings between the Canaries and the Bahamas.
“The data we collect will continue to tell us about the strength of the Gulf Stream and its recirculation in the ocean overturning that contributes to Western Europe’s temperate maritime climate. Significant change to this system of currents could alter the climate quickly, which is why the programme is called RAPID Watch – monitoring the ocean for signs of rapid climate change. There are over 30 stations where instruments record temperature, salinity, bottom pressure and the strength of the currents, from the surface to the ocean floor.”
Dr McCarthy and his team will be at sea for 41 days, making it one of Discovery’s longer expeditions.
Discovery will be taken out of service on her return to Southampton, a half-century of science that has included surveying the ocean floor, measuring ocean currents, monitoring climate change, and discovering new species around the globe. In addition to increasing a body of scientific knowledge, the ship has also grown – by 10 metres. During a refit in 1990-1992 the hull’s middle section was extended, increasing her length to 90.2 metres.
Earlier this year researchers, officers and crew associated with Discovery met to celebrate the scientific and technological achievements made over the years. When RRS Discovery was launched in 1962 there was no satellite navigation (this didn’t begin until 1969); Harold MacMillan was Prime Minister; there was no GPS (this was fitted in 1986); and John F Kennedy was President. The blog site http://memoriesofdiscovery.blogspot.co.uk/ has contributions from scientists, officers and crew recalling their first expedition and life on board this distinguished vessel.
Discovery follows in a line of distinguished ships dating back to 1602 when the East India Company commissioned the first recorded Discovery to explore the waters now known as the Hudson Strait in the long search for the elusive North-West Passage. In the 20th century a new Discovery was specially commissioned for the British National Antarctic Expedition of 1901-04. The Discovery Expedition included Antarctic heroes Captain Scott and Ernest Shackleton.
Owned by the Natural Environment Research Council and operated by the National Oceanography Centre, Discovery will be withdrawn from use at the end of the year. The building of a replacement vessel, also to be called Discovery, is under way.