Fire devastates Cutty Sark
Fire today ravaged the Cutty Sark, turning the 19th century tea clipper, permanently moored in south London and one of Britain's most important maritime treasures, into a blackened wreck.
The Cutty Sark is the most famous tea clipper built, and is the only one to survive. She was launched at Dumbarton on the River Clyde, Scotland, in 1869. The name comes from Robert Burns' poem, Tam O'Shanter; Tam meets a group of witches, most of whom are ugly, but for Nannie, who is young and beautiful and is described as wearing only a "cutty sark", i.e., a short chemise or shirt. The ship's figurehead is a representation of this witch.I notice that efforts to put out the fire were delayed by forty five minutes while local residents were evacuated because a gas cylinder was spotted near the scene. The ship was undergoing a £25 million renovation but it doesn't seem that much of the money was spent on security or fire precaution.
The Cutty Sark's sleek lines and enormous area of sail made her the fastest ship in the race via the Cape of Good Hope for the then particularly money-spinning tea trade with China. Unluckily for her owners, the Suez Canal, which is not navigable by sailing ships, was opened in the same year as her launch. Her last cargo of tea was carried in 1877.
In 1922 she underwent a refit in the Surrey Docks, London, and was driven to shelter from a storm in Falmouth harbour on her way home. A Captain Wilfred Dowman saw her there, and bought her from the Portuguese owners, returning her to British ownership again. On Capt. Dowman's death in 1938, his widow presented her to the Thames Nautical Training College at Greenhithe on the Thames, where she was used as a training vessel.
After the Second World war she was towed to Greenwich and placed in a specially constructed dry dock in 1954. After a lot of restoration work she was opened to the public in 1957. Since then more than thirteen million people have visited her.