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Tragedy Strikes one of the World's Greatest Historic Ships: Cutty Sark Burns

Posted by: Chuck Meide in LAMPosts

The news is spreading in our community as fast as the flames horribly consumed her: the famous clipper ship Cutty Sark, one of the most glorious and fastest ships of her time, was engulfed in flames Monday morning where she has been on display since the 1950s in Greenwich, England. She was one of the last few and best-preserved remaining clipper ships, the only complete example left of the fastest types of sailing ships ever designed, a testament to the heyday of sail at its height, and just before its obsolescence.

There can be no overstatement of this tragedy, which may have been caused by arsonists.

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(above photo courtesy of www.metro.co.uk)

Twenty foot high flames consumed the ship, and the London fire brigade rushed to the scene in attempt to save the 137-year-old vessel. After battling the flames for several hours, the fire was finally extinguished by around 8 am. The hull smolders on still.

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(above photos courtesy of Associated Press)

The maritime archaeological and historical community is in shock this morning. According to reports from colleagues, many of the ship's fittings have been removed, but the most serious concern now is that the internal iron framework (Cutty Sark was a composite ship, constructed of iron framing and wooden planks) may have warped and twisted from the intense heat.

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(above photo courtesy of www.metro.co.uk)

Here is a picture I took of the Cutty Sark in all of her glory in May 2000.

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Another picture from January 2005, with myself and colleagues at the stern:

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Here she is as seen after the blaze:

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(photo courtesy of Yahoo!News)

The only good news is that she was under a serious restoration, so it appears that all of her masts and rigging had been removed and were thus saved from the blaze. Many of the artifacts such as an extensive historic figurehead collection were probably also not in the ship during this work. Many of her supporters are optimistic that she will eventually be completely re-built. But make no mistake, this is one of the greatest maritime tragedies in history.

Here are some newstories so you can read more about this very sad event:

CNN:
http://www.cnn.com/2007/WORLD/europe/05/21/fire.cuttysark/index.html

Yahoo!News:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20070521/ap_on_re_eu/britain_cutty_sark;_ylt=AoKe4dRvED2luaqqHv1tAf2s0NUE

www.Metro.co.UK:
http://www.metro.co.uk/news/article.html?in_article_id=49771&in_page_id=34

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