by Bill Little, Turriff & District Men's Shed
The Turriff and District Men’s Shed recently responded to a call from a local family and their two young boys - Ollie, 11 and Harry, 9 - to support their latest project.
The project involved building two scaled down replica wooden ships of HMS Erebus and HMS Terror, both one meter long from the original 1839 admiralty drawings. It also involved fitting tracking and data collecting sensors for a sail of over 20,000 km/13,000 miles within the Antarctic Circumpolar Current and encompassing three of the world’s oceans. This will replicate the Ross scientific expedition of 1839-1843.
Shed members Gerry Quinn (ex Royal Navy oceanographer) and Bill Little (retired offshore worker) offered to build the replicas for the boys to finish off and fit out. Bill has been building a prototype to establish the buoyancy and stability characteristics in his home workshop since the Men’s shed has been closed.
The boys and their father, MacNeill Ferguson, will test this prototype in the North Sea for stability and buoyancy to determine the correct ballast requirements. The ships will be fitted with a ballast system constructed with a modified keel to act as a drogue to utilise the current in driving the ships forward. They will also be fitted with satellite trackers and instrumentation to record temperature and wave height. These instruments will be powered by solar panels shaped as sails.
The wood (elm) for the building of the two models has been kindly donated by Peter Kenyon of Harbro Aberdeen and the milling of the wood has been undertaken by the local hardwood specialist, Dave Piercy, of Elmhardwoods.co.uk.
The ships will be sent in October from Aberdeenshire to Bristol, on to the Falkland Islands and then on to South Georgia where they will be launched into the Antarctic Circumpolar Current 100 miles North of South Georgia. The Antarctic Circumpolar Current is the earths strongest current and displaces 180 million cubic meters of water per second more than 100% all of the world’s rivers combined.
It travels constantly in an Easterly direction and separates the Antarctic seas from the 3 warmer oceans - the Atlantic, Indian ocean and Pacific - allowing the Antarctic to remain cold which is essential for the world’s climate.
The boys hold a Guinness book of records certificate for the longest journey of a toy boat and after launching their own one called "Adventure" in 2017 from Peterhead in Aberdeenshire. It was found and reported in Sweden, Denmark, Norway, East Africa and the Caribbean and it is currently in Florida undergoing repairs prior to being launched into the Atlantic for its final journey back to Europe on the trade winds. An article can be seen here from the launch at Peterhead: Young Scottish brothers take on a list of 500 adventures - CBS News
Funding for the project was secured from sponsors identified by Aberdeen Voluntary Action (AVA) and crowd funding. Any surplus funds will be donated to Canada’s Underwater Archaeology study and conservation of HMS Erebus and HMS Terror. These two ships were part of the ill-fated Franklin expedition in1845 who were sent to find the North West passage from the Atlantic to the Pacific through the Arctic seas above Canada. Both ships were trapped in the ice for 2 years and the crews had to abandon the ships as they were crushed by the ice.
The crews attempted to walk across the ice hauling their lifeboats filled with materials and provisions on sledges to Canada. Subsequent rescue attempts found evidence of cannibalism at their campsites. No members of the crew ever made it back to civilisation although graves were found in 2014 with preserved bodies due to the permafrost in that area.
The boys are making a model kit of HMS Terror to show on their blog site and share their enthusiasm with their school friends and followers. This is a truly inspirational adventure for two ambitious young boys. And the Turriff and District Men’s Shed - even though we are closed - are happy to provide help along with the support of local companies to inspire youngsters within our community and across Scotland. Seeking to push forward their ambitions. Let’s beat the lockdown and create adventure for all.