Cutty Sark is the world's only surviving tea and wool clipper
These fast merchant sailing ships crossed the Atlantic and
Pacific Oceans in the 19th century.
The Cutty Sark's name is taken
from the poem 'Tam O'Shanter' by Robert Burns which describes
a witch wearing only a 'cutty sark', a corruption of the French
'courte chemise' or short shirt. The figurehead on
the prow of the Cutty Sark is dressed in a similar garment.
Launched in 1869 as a tea carrier,
this ship won the annual clippers' race from Shanghai to London
in 1871, in a time of 107 days. However, with the coming
of steam power and the opening of the Suez Canal, the usefulness
of sailing ships began to decline. The Cutty Sark made
her last voyage in 1938 and was put on display here in 1957.
Wander around the beautifully
restored ship, with her gilded teak fittings, and gaze up
at the rigging on her three masts (capable of holding 30,000
square feet of canvas).
The crew's quarters below decks
reveal how the merchant seamen worked, lived, ate and slept
in the very limited space. Exhibitions show the history
of sail and the Pacific trade. The Cutty Sark also contains
collections of naval prints and relics and largest collection
of carved and painted ships' figureheads in the world.
A video display of archive film shows the life on board the
great square riggers in the 1920s and 1930s.
On summer weekends costumed storytelling
sessions are held on the Cutty Sark, illustrating life aboard
to the Cutty Sark, and dwarfed by comparison, is the yacht
Gipsy Moth IV. It was in this ketch that Sir Francis
Chichester made the first single-handed round-the-world voyage
in 1966 - 67, in nine months and one day covering 30,000 miles.
Chichester, who was 66 at the time, had to endure cramped
conditions on the 54 foot vessel. His achievement earned
Chichester the distinction of being knighted by the Queen
on board Gipsy Moth IV, using the sword with which Elizabeth
I had honoured her great sea captain Sir Francis Drake.