A full-scale replica of one of the most famous ships in the history of maritime exploration was hoisted into the air last week as part of a move to transport the vessel from Stockton to Whitby.
HM Bark Endeavour is one of only two life-size replicas in the world of the ship commanded by explorer Captain James Cook for his first voyage to Australia and New Zealand.
The ship was put up for auction last year and bought for £155,000 by a Whitby businessman, beating bids from Dubai, Portsmouth and London, which safeguarded the vessel’s future as a North East visitor attraction. Owner, ex Naval man Andrew Fiddler now intends bringing it back to the coastal town which is also where the original Endeavour was built in 1764.
However the Tees Barrage and the narrowness of the lock gates, which effectively created a landlocked status for the vessel, needed to be negotiated before it could continue its onward voyage.
As the Endeavour’s hull is three metres wider at the broadest part than the six-metre width of the lock gates, a team of contractors, engineers and divers lifted the vessel five metres into the air at the Barrage’s lock to clear the gates before then slowly lowering it back onto the seaward side of the river.
To do this the team, led by global specialist ALE and working in partnership with the Barrage owners, the Canal and River Trust, fitted lifting equipment and heavy straps under the hull of the ship.
Over the course of around four hours a huge 750-tonne crane with a 63-metre boom then lifted the 183-tonne and 33-metre long Endeavour above the lock gates before being lowered.
From there, the Endeavour was towed downstream to A&P Tees - a facility owned by global ship repair, conversion and marine specialist A&P Group. On arrival at A&P Tees, the Endeavour was dry docked and a six-week refit and refurbishment programme began, including essential repairs to make it seaworthy.
Once the Endeavour has been transformed into a visitor attraction, the vessel will begin the final leg of the journey, a 40-mile tow by pilot boat following the North York Moors National Park coastline southwards to Whitby.
After a further short period of internal refurbishment, the Endeavour is scheduled to re-open as a visitor attraction and centre of learning for schools later this summer.
The replica, the only one in the Northern Hemisphere, was constructed in 1993 before being transferred to the River Tees where latterly she was used as a venue for hosting corporate events and functions. Unlike the other replica which is berthed at the Australian National Maritime Museum in Sydney, this one wasn’t designed for sailing under its own power.
The vessel’s arrival in Whitby where she will be berthed on Endeavour Wharf, will be all the more momentous as 2018 marks 250 years since the famous ship, with Captain Cook in command, left UK shores to observe the transit of Venus at Tahiti, circumnavigate and chart New Zealand and chart the East coast of Australia. The voyage departed from Plymouth on 26 August 1768.
Cook grew up and began his career in the North York Moors National Park which included a spell working at a shop in the coastal fishing village of Staithes before learning his trade as a seaman in Whitby.
Andrew Fiddler commented: “It’s taken a huge amount of preparation and overcoming logistical challenges to get here. Therefore I’m delighted we are now at the point where the journey can begin and we can move closer to seeing visitors enjoying the on-board experience and discovering more about life on an 18th century ship.
“In her current state the Endeavour is dilapidated and very much in need of essential structural repairs as well as the authentic restoration of certain features, before the next stage in her journey back to full glory.”
Jonathan Brown, Project Engineer for ALE adds: “We are proud to be involved in such a landmark and prestigious project, providing the heavy lifting, ballasting and mooring. This was a technically challenging project, with low bridges and a narrow lock to negotiate. After discussing different methodologies, we engineered a time-efficient solution that meant the ship could pass under the bridges and be lifted over the lock.”
Reece Huggill, customer service operator for Canal & River Trust at Tees Barrage, said: “HMS Bark Endeavour has been a part of the Stockton landscape for 25 years and we were very sad to see her go, but we are also proud to have been part of her story.
“We’ve worked with the Bark Endeavour team over the past few months to ensure everything goes to plan, utilising all the barrage’s technical and mechanical capabilities to carefully manage the water levels to ensure the ship gets under the bridges safely.
“It’s been a pleasure to be home to the Bark Endeavour and to assist the new owners in realising their vision for this important vessel.”