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SS Explorer
File:SS Explorer Leith 2012.jpg

SS Explorer Leith 2012

SS Explorer at Leith, 2012
Career (UK)
Name: SS Explorer
Owner: Scottish Home Department
Operator: Department of Agriculture & Fisheries for Scotland
Port of registry: Leith
Ordered: 1954
Builder: Alexander Hall & Co. Ltd., Aberdeen
Yard number: 747[1]
Launched: 21 June 1955
Sponsored by: Lady Rachel Stuart
In service: 1955
Out of service: 1984
Homeport: Leith
Identification: Official number: 303098[1]
Fate: Restoration
General characteristics
Class & type: Lloyds 100 A1
Type: Fisheries Research Trawler
Tonnage: 862 [1]
Length: 202 ft 9 in (61.80 m)[1]
Beam: 32 ft 9 in (9.98 m)[1]
Depth: 14 ft 2 in (4.32 m)[1]
Ice class: Lloyds 100 A1
Installed power: Triple Expansion Steam Reciprocating developing 1000ihp
Propulsion: 1,000 ihp (746 kW) triple expansion steam engine
Range: 8000nm
Boats & landing
craft carried:
2 24ft open aluminium lifeboats
Crew: 38

The SS Explorer is one of the last surviving sea-going steam trawlers and is registered to Leith, the port of Edinburgh. She has been placed on the National Historic Ships Register and the SS Explorer Preservation Society is currently restoring her in the Edinburgh Dock, Leith. It is planned that she, along with HMY Britannia will become a central part in the regeneration of Leith, a living exhibition, and a symbol of the vital part Scotland and her community have played in maritime history.

Ship history

The FRS Explorer was launched on the 21st June 1955 by Lady Rachel Stuart, wife of the Secretary of State for Scotland. Explorer was built by Messrs Alexander Hall & Co, Aberdeen for the Scottish Home Department; to replace a 1917 built vessel of the same name. The Fishery Research Ship Explorer entered service in 1956 and was operated by the Marine Laboratory in Aberdeen. The role of the Explorer was to investigate fish breeding and feeding grounds so as to establish fishing levels and species types for the British market. In addition pollution and fish diseases that might adversely affect catches were monitored. The classic lines of a Deep Sea Beam Trawler were well suited to working in the traditional Fishing Grounds, and extra strengthening of the hull prepared her also for service in the Arctic waters off Greenland & Iceland, and the Barent and White Seas north of Russia.

From a technological standpoint the vessel represents the zenith of triple-expansion steam technology, which is combined with the very best of Scottish shipbuilding and innovation at a time when shipyards were moving away from traditional methods. The ‘SS Explorer’ was built using riveted steel to ice-strength classification, but fitted with an aluminium superstructure, and although her main engine was a tried and tested design, a pioneering hybrid diesel-electric power system was installed to power her auxiliaries. ‘SS Explorer’ also boasted one of the very first onboard computers for a vessel of her type, something now commonplace along with diesel-electric hybrid power.

In 1984 the first service life of ‘SS Explorer’ came to an end and she was sold for disposal. The Aberdeen Maritime Museum visited the ship to purchase the engine for exhibition ashore due to its historical importance as it had been the last built in Aberdeen. They were so impressed with the whole vessel though that it was bought complete and towed to the Cromarty Firth while a berth could be negotiated in the city to create a floating heritage attraction. Ten years passed without the museum being able to secure one, so a decision was taken to sell the vessel for scrap. This led to public outcry and the formation of ‘The SS Explorer Preservation Society’ which aimed to rescue ‘Explorer’ and preserve it for future generations.

Thanks to charitable donations and fundraising, the society was able to purchase the vessel from the ship breakers almost intact. Initial preservation work began while the ship was re-anchored once again in the Cromarty Firth but a secure berth was required. Wildlife, vandals and the harsh weather were taking their toll. In 1996 following an insurance payout as the result of a collision between ‘SS Explorer’ and an offshore oil support vessel, the Society brought her home to Leith, her port of registry, for restoration.[2]

Explorer was added to the National Register of Historic Vessels in 1996.[3]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 "Aberdeen Built Ships Database". Retrieved 28 November 2012. 
  2. "History of the SS Explorer". SS Explorer Preservation Society. Retrieved 28 November 2012. 
  3. "SS Explorer". National Register of Historic Vessels. Retrieved 28 November 2012. 

External links

Coordinates: 55°58′42.9″N 3°09′40.67″W / 55.978583°N 3.1612972°W / 55.978583; -3.1612972

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