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The Phantom of the RRS Discovery

By the close of the 19th century, the once thriving whaling and jute production industries of Dundee were facing decline. Nevertheless, the expertise amassed by those who had worked within them was not lost.


When the Royal Geographical Society commenced planning for the British National Antarctic Expedition in 1900, they sought the input of Dundee's shipbuilders. The captains of the whaling fleets possessed invaluable experience in navigating the Arctic coastline, creating maps that detailed the landscape and natural harbours. Furthermore, the shipbuilders were skilled in the task of constructing ships capable of enduring harsh weather conditions, as well as repairing returning vessels by identifying weak points.


The Dundee Shipbuilders Company received the commission, resulting in the creation of the Royal Research Ship (RRS) Discovery. Although the ship's design was based on whaling vessels, significant modifications were necessary due to the requirement for exclusion of metals within 30 feet of the ship's sensitive magnetic observatory to prevent interference.


In addition, coal engines were integrated for situations when conditions restricted or prohibited the use of sails. The crow's nest, towering some 110 feet above the deck, also underwent adaptation. Observation holes were introduced in the sides, affording the unfortunate individual sent up the mast the opportunity to crouch down for shelter from the weather while still being able to survey the surroundings.



Under the leadership of Captain Scott, the ship set sail. Initial concerns regarding its stability arose due to the shallow hull. However, this design had been tailored for navigating through ice fields. Once the ship reached the Southern Hemisphere, it demonstrated its capability to withstand extreme weather conditions.


Despite the RRS Discovery becoming trapped in the Antarctic ice caps for approximately two years before being liberated by relief ships in 1904, the expedition was deemed a resounding success. Numerous scientific breakthroughs were achieved, and this previously nearly inaccessible region was meticulously mapped. Captain Scott subsequently led an ill-fated expedition to the ice caps in 1910.


The RRS Discovery proceeded to undertake further expeditions. However, by 1979, it had fallen into a state of severe disrepair. With support from a grant provided by the Maritime Trust, restoration efforts commenced. In 1986, the ship returned to Dundee, thanks to the Dundee Heritage Trust. Today, the Discovery stands as a premier tourist attraction in the area.


Paranormal Activity

Both visitors and staff have reported inexplicable encounters, particularly in one specific area of the deck. These experiences encompass hearing approaching footsteps when alone, sensing being watched, and generally feeling uneasy.



These occurrences have been attributed to one of the crew members named Charles Bonner. This unfortunate young man had been perched high on the main mast, potentially in the crow's nest, as the ship departed from the dock in New Zealand en route to its inaugural expedition. Tragically, he lost his balance and plunged headfirst to the deck, impacting the iron deckhouse and crushing his skull.


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