Thursday 7 November 2013

What do CSS Acadia and the Rock Star Sting have in Common? Part 2

The Museum's steamship CSS Acadia and the musician Sting share the same birthplace: Wallsend, a neighbourhood of Newcastle-on-Tyne in Northern England. Acadia was built in 1913 at the Swan Hunter Shipyard in Wallsend, at the time, the world's largest shipyard. Sting was born in Wallsend in 1951. His latest album, The Last Ship, explores growing up in the shadow of this giant shipyard.

 1) CSS Acadia at the outfitting wharf at Swan Hunter with one of the yard's floating dry docks looming behind. Just built, she has been temporarily registered to the port of Newcastle. After delivery to the Canadian government, she was registered in Ottawa but her crew would never paint Ottawa on her stern.
MMA, MP28.36.27 Courtesy Vancouver Maritime Museum

CBC Television recently discovered that Acadia is the last Swan Hunter-built ship in Canada. (A few other Swan Hunter ships like the cable ship Intrepid visit Canada regularly, but research by Halifax ship watcher Mac Mackay indicates that Acadia is the last ship from Swan Hunter under a Canadian flag.)  Here is a link to Susan Ormiston's story on the CBC's National about Sting's musical exploration of his industrial roots.


2) Looking from the bow of the newly launched Acadia. The frames of yet another Swan Hunter ship can be seen rising from one of the shipyard's many building slips in the background.
MMA, MP28.36.28 Courtesy Vancouver Maritime Museum

Swan Hunter, or to use their full name Swan, Hunter & Wigham Richardson was launching new ships almost weekly at their height but you can see in these carefully composed builder's photographs that they were very proud of this state-of-the-art research ship. Acadia changed little in 100 years that followed. This makes her a remarkable time capsule of life at sea in 1913 as well as an enduring example of Swan Hunter's work in their glory years. 

3) Acadia at Newcastle in 1913, left, with the Swan Hunter Wallsend yard stretching off into the distance and Acadia as she looks today, right, in her permanent home at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic. MMA, Media Mechanics Photo 

Acadia left Newcastle in June 1913 and arrived at Halifax on July 8, 1913. She was soon off to her first expedition, charting Hudson Bay. It was the beginning of a research career that would last until 1969, exploring almost every part of the coastline of Eastern Canada and far into the North. She also served the Royal Canadian Navy in both world wars, protecting Canadian waters as HMCS Acadia.

4) Acadia steams along on her trials at the mouth of the Tyne River in 1913, just before she headed off to her new home in Nova Scotia.
 MMA, MP28.36.35 Courtesy Vancouver Maritime Museum 

5) The beautiful builder's plaque from Swan Hunter as seen today bolted above Acadia's engine.
Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, Gerry Lunn photo

Seeking the birthplace of our ship in 2008, I made a pilgrimage to Wallsend in Newcastle to see the Swan Hunter shipyard. I knew the yard was no longer building ships as the troubled naval contract for their last ship, Lyme Bay spelled the end of shipbuilding at Swan Hunter in 2005.  However, I wasn't prepared when I arrived to find the yard was actually being demolished. Half of the yard was a wilderness of weed-choked rubble. In the other half, the cranes were being dismantled to ship to a new shipyard in India.

6) The centre of the Swan Hunter shipyard at Wallsend, Newcastle in 2008 as cranes take apart other cranes, including the big red hammerhead crane on the right which has been decapitated.
Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, Dan Conlin photo

7) The already demolished portion of the yard. Near as I can tell, the 1913 builder's photographs of Acadia were taken at the centre of this view where a group of people can be seen watching the empty river.
 Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, Dan Conlin photo

8) Looking farther south at the completely leveled Neptune Yard of Swan Hunter. You can see on the right the beginning of the classic rows of terraced worker's housing which bordered the yard. Some locals told me how the massive hulls of ships under construction would block the sunlight for entire streets, so much that the shipyard would pay for home electric bills since the lights had to be on all day long.
Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, Dan Conlin photo

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