Survey work to give the most accurate picture yet of the condition of HMS Unicorn has begun.
A thorough examination of the timber started this week and the results will help the Unicorn Preservation Society finalise their plans to move the nearly 200-year old frigate into dry dock.
It is hoped that getting the boat out of the water at City Quay, Dundee, will prevent deterioration and “future proof” it.
How is the survey being done?
Experts from Gloucester-based boat specialist firm T. Neilsen & Company have travelled north to carry out the survey.
Dominic Mills and Jason Streather travelled from the English city earlier this week for the job. The pair have created their own social bubble and had taken coronavirus tests prior to travelling.
The painstaking work entails testing the wood section-by-section — separating the five decks into port and starboard and then those halves into roughly one metre segments using wooden beams as a guide.
From there, a number system is employed and then each section of wood is tested using a hammer and knife, if necessary.
Making extensive notes as they go along, a thorough picture of where there are issues such as rotting is made clear.
They are initially testing the interior but will return to Dundee in the coming months to survey the exterior hull above the water.
Mr Mills said they “marvelled” at how much of the ship is still original.
He said: “For it’s age it’s remarkable that so much of it is from when it was first built.
“We’ve worked on a lot of ships from the era, such as the HMS Victory, and there’s typically not as much of it that’s original as what we’re seeing here.
“It’s remarkable that people were able to build ships like this centuries ago that are still around today.”
What happens next?
The work from the survey, and from previous scans of the hull beneath the water, will allow for an accurate picture of how the shape of the ship has changed over the years.
From there, experts will be able to extrapolate how it may change in future. It is hoped getting into dry dock will slow that process.
Eric Fraser, chairman of the Unicorn Preservation Society’s steering committee, said: “We raised quite a lot of money from a crowd funder and that amount was matched by some other trusts, so that allows us to now move on to the next stage which is this survey work.
“We have heard many memories of just what the ship means to the people of Dundee and some of their family histories, such as people getting married on it, so that has been great.
“This will allow us to future-proof the ship as much as possible and develop plans for a maritime heritage centre.
“Now that the Tay Cities Deal has been signed, we are being encouraged to present our full business case, and this work is essential in allowing us to do that.”