World's most historic ship on fire
Monday, 21 May 2007
cuttysark.jpgCutty Sark Trust chief executive Richard Doughty said he was told the blaze was being treated as suspicious.

"The chief fire officer on the site has told me the ship is 100 per cent alight in the hold. They are treating it as suspicious at moment," he told the BBC Radio 4 Today program.

He said the fire was a tragedy.

"When you lose the original fabric, you lose the touch of the craftsmen. You lose history itself," he said.

"What is special about Cutty Sark is the timber, the iron frames, that went to the South China Sea. To think that is threatened in any way is unbelievable. It is an unimaginable shock."

The only remaining tea clipper, the Cutty Sark made its first voyage in 1870, and is one of the most famous ships in the world.

Sky News showed amateur footage of massive flames climbing towards the sky.

No one was reported injured in the fire, police said.

An evacuation operation had started and residents were being taken to a Greenwich hotel, Scotland Yard said.

Police had erected a 200m safety cordon, the British Press Association said.

The fire was expected to cause heavy disruption to morning commuters.

The ship has been in dry dock in Greenwich since 1954.

The 137-year-old Cutty Sark, was given a £11.75 million ($28.21 million) National Lottery grant for a restoration project that would see the vessel being lifted 3m.

The ship was said to be in a serious state of deterioration before it was closed in November for the work.

A glass "bubble" was also going to be attached at the ship's waterline to give year-round protection to visitors in the dry berth and to the lower hull itself.

The Cutty Sark was originally used to deliver tea from China in the 1870s.

Built 1869 by Scott & Linton, Dumbarton, the Cutty Sark is the sole surviving extreme clipper, designed to be very fast.

She was one of the last tea clippers built, but as this trade was taken over by the steamers using the Suez Canal, she turned to general trading including transporting wool from Australia.

It was during this time that she made her legendary fast voyages.

Captain Dowman of Falmouth decided she should be preserved and in 1922 bought the ship and made her part of a floating nautical school he was operating.

In 1938, his widow presented the ship to the Thames Nautical Training School at Greenhithe.

They maintained the ship until 1952 when the Cutty Sark Preservation Society was formed under the leadership of Frank Carr, Director of the National Maritime Museum, and the patronage of HRH the Duke of Edinburgh.

The ship was permanently installed in a stone dry-dock at Greenwich on the Thames, and fully restored to her appearance as an active sailing vessel. (Source: news.com.au)