Cutty Sark Reopens After Disastrous Fire

The famous tea clipper Cutty Sark will be once again open to the public this Thursday after years of restoration work to repair damage from a fire in 2007. The Queen will perform an official reopening ceremony on Wednesday.

Located in Greenwich, London, this beautiful ship has been a longtime favorite of Londoners. It went on its maiden voyage in 1870 and is the last surviving tea clipper in existence, a reminder of a time when sailing ships brought loads of tea to London from China. Steam-powered boats passing through the Suez Canal soon took over that route, though, and the Cutty Sark was transferred to the Australian wool route. It broke the speed record for that run and became one of the most famous ships on the high seas.

But as steam ships became increasingly common, the Cutty Sark became more and more outdated, being relegated to lesser runs for poorer shipping companies. The ship was saved from a sad end when it was bought by an admirer in 1922 and lovingly restored to its former glory. It opened to the public in 1957.

A fire broke out in 2007 while it was being refurbished. Its decks were burnt through but since much of the ship’s fittings and contents had been moved away while work was being done, these were saved. Now after a long restoration, you can stand on the deck of this remarkable vessel again and learn about daily life aboard her with a guided tour. The BBC has an interesting slideshow of the restoration work here.

[Photo courtesy Visit Greenwich]

Pyramids and monasteries among the many ancient monuments under restoration

Around the world, ancient monuments are crumbling. As our heritage wears away through neglect, “development”, or simply the harsh treatment of time, some countries are doing something about it.

The pyramid of Djoser, the oldest of the pyramids of Egypt, will be the object of a major restoration effort. The government recently announced that funding has been earmarked for restoration after the people previously working on the site put down their tools, saying they weren’t getting paid. The money that’s owed to the company would be paid and workers would be assured their salaries, said Mohammad Abdel-Maksoud, Egypt’s new Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities. The famous Zahi Hawass was let go during the recent revolution. Hawass was briefly replaced by Abdel-Fattah al-Banna, but al-Banna quickly resigned amid criticisms of his lack of credentials.

The Djoser pyramid at Saqqara was constructed from 2667 to 2648 BC and is a step pyramid rather than a true pyramid. It now suffers from numerous structural problems and a crumbling facade.

In Tibet, the Chinese government is investing almost $9 million to restore monasteries and homes of the 10th century Guge Kingdom. Among the attractions in the ruins are some colorful Buddhist murals, caves, palaces, and pagodas. BBC News has an interesting video showing of the site here.

It’s not all good news, though. Many treasures of the past are under threat. While Rome’s Colosseum is being restored, several structures in Pompeii collapsed last year. In Red Rock Canyon, Nevada, volunteers and experts had to clean away graffiti sprayed on Native American rock art. In England the Priddy Circles, a collection of Neolithic earthworks from 5,000 years ago, were half destroyed when someone bulldozed them.

It’s nice to see some governments working hard to maintain their monuments, but lack of funding and simple human stupidity are making their job difficult.

[Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons]

St. Paul’s Cathedral in London finishes 15-year restoration

After fifteen years and £40 million ($65 million), a massive restoration of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London is finally finished.

The timing is perfect because it coincides with the 300th anniversary of the cathedral’s original completion.

Much of the restoration was actually a cleaning to get years of accumulated soot and grime off the structure. This dirt is acidic and can damage the fine white stone, as has happened at many historical buildings. Architectural details and interior decoration were repaired and restored to their original luster.

Located at the end of the Millennium Bridge on the north bank of the Thames, St. Paul’s is one of London’s greatest landmarks. A church has stood here since 604 AD, a time when much of England was still pagan, and this spot has remained spiritually important for Londoners ever since. A later version of the church burnt down in the Great Fire of 1666. Christopher Wren, the leading English architect of his day, was commissioned to rebuild it and made it his masterpiece.

A complete visit takes at least two hours, preferably three. One highlight is the Golden Gallery atop the dome, reached by climbing 530 steps. I think the view from here is the best in London. While the London Eye is taller, St. Paul’s is in the middle of the historic heart of London and so the view from here is more interesting.

The crypt holds the remains of many famous people such as William Blake, John Constable, and of course Christopher Wren. In his later years he used to sit in St. Paul’s and admire his masterpiece. His grave is marked by a simple plaque that reads in Latin, “Beneath lies buried the founder of this church and city, Christopher Wren, who lived more than 90 years, not for himself but for the public good. Reader, if you seek his monument, look around you,”

To celebrate the remodel, St. Paul’s is hosting a photo competition. Take a shot of the exterior of the shiny new/old building and you could see your work displayed in one of London’s most visited buildings.

[Image courtesy user Diliff via Wikimedia Commons]