Brunel, part 2: A Visit to the SS Great Britain

The iron hull

In the previous post, I wrote about Isambard Kingdom Brunel, depicted as a cigar-wielding luminary of the industrial revolution in the opening ceremony of the Olympics.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.

The bow

That post ended on Brunel’s three ocean-going steamships, one of which—the SS Great Britain—sits now in the same drydock in which it was built in 1843, an attraction for historically minded visitors.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.

Remarkable gilt decorations on the bow

Being an historically minded visitor, I went along to Bristol a while back, and visited.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.

The stern, showing the water seal that makes the ship appear to float

A glass seal keeps the elements from corroding the iron hull;  visitors can go below the seal and see the hull up close, while climate control systems minimum corrosion. A few inches of water on top of the glass completes the effect so that the ship appears to float.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.

The ‘Mr Brunel’ I met on my visit

Very clever design – but then, clever design is what made Brunel famous.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.

The dining room for first class passengers

And the Trust that maintains the ship and museum is passing that legacy on to promising schoolchildren by naming a few “Future Brunels”.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.

Steerage, anyone?

These are 11- and 12-year olds chosen for their interest and aptitude in science and engineering and for their ability to work well in groups.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.

The deck, with a budding mariner at the ship’s wheel

They take part in 6 activities per year for 5 years, including such events as trips to an amusement park to study the physics and engineering behind the mechanical rides.
.
.
.
.
.
.

Only way to have fresh milk during the voyage was to bring along sufficient livestock

Fortunately, you don’t have to be a Future Brunel to visit the ship and the museum, which together make up an award-winning heritage attraction on the Bristol waterfront.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.

Brunel’s innovative propeller

If you can’t get there yourself, please click on the Featured Link and have a look at the SS Great Britain‘s official website.

Advertisements

6 Comments

Filed under Culture, History, Technology, Travel

6 responses to “Brunel, part 2: A Visit to the SS Great Britain

  1. These are great ships. So far ahead of their time.

  2. Malcolm

    It’s just amazing to remember that around 130 years ago this pioneer ship was permanently anchored in the Falklands and used as cheap storage. I like to think there was an elusive ‘something about her’ that prevented people from breaking her up. Even when she was deliberately scuttled, just before the last war, nobody sent for the oxyacetylene torches. And then came that heroic and hazardous tow, almost the full length of the Atlantic, to bring her home at last to Bristol, back in 1970. We visited the dock shortly after that and could not help wondering if they would ever return her to a state worth exhibiting. But look at her now! The crowning touch is the skim of water on which she appears to float; I wish they had done that with the Cutty Sark.

    • Yep — and his next (and last) ship, the Great Eastern, almost twice as big as the Great Britain, ended up laying cable all over the world, before being turned into a floating funfair and then a floating billboard. Ignominious fate indeed.

  3. Candida

    Oh wow, now you’ve both made me go and look at what they DID do to the Cutty Sark. And I wish I’d never seen it. I last peeked at that through the hoardings after it was burned, and while it did look like any restoration was going to be along the lines of the favourite broom that’s only had two new heads and three new handles, it would have been kinder to give the poor thing a decent burial. Or relight the fire and let her go out Viking style.

    But this is beautiful! I’m going to have to do a proper engineering-themed visit to Bristol soon to see all this stuff. I’d no idea something this good had been done there.

    • The Great Britain makes for a great visit, there’s no doubt about it.

      As for the favourite broom, the American version of that is Abraham Lincoln’s axe. It’s had X new axe heads and Y new handles, but it’s still Abraham Lincoln’s axe…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s