Modern Technology In Historic Ships

Bernt Kure, DK.
The selfgoverning Institution Fregatten Jylland
Strandvejen 4
8400 Ebeltoft, DK.
Phone: 0045 86341099
Fax: 0045 86342714

Photo of Jylland

By the planning of the restoration of Jylland, as by any other ship, some very specific requirements were set up, which the ship was supposed to meet in its later use. Often, these demands conflict with each other, and therefore causes the greatest problems in shipbuilding. This also applies to museum ships.

Besides being mainly a museumship, which meant a number of max. 450 visitors aboard at one time, the Jylland, for instance, also had to meet requirement set up to hold 300 people dining on the orlop deck, to be handicap friendly, to design the lighting to live up to modern standards. Furthermore, as the Jylland was to rest permanently in a drydock, it was subject to the safety measures laid down from both the Building Control Department and the ship inspection authorities. This implied a number of service- and safety related installations, which never would be found aboard, and these, for the greater part, being of a rather characteristic kind, and therefore counteracting the purpose to show the ship as authentically as possible. This applied to anything, from refuse baskets to firefighting equipment.

The differences in ordinary maintenance due to the service of a ship - and in restoring, are many. By restoring, You retrospectively "freeze" the ship in a certain expression. Concerning the Jylland, for instance, the first unoriginal technology used in the ship, was seen at the turn of the century, when the ship was converted into a depotship for cadet training. At this time, a central heating plant was fitted, consisting of 3 - at that time - ultra-modern Perkins-stoves, as well as electricity was installed. The technicians were proud of this, and the technology was installed in a very eye-catching, even glaring way. For instance, all the cableclamps, where the cables were to pass the iron deckknees, were fitted by drilling holes into the knees, and after that, cutting thread for machine screws - something that an electrician, even in his wildest dreams, would not think of today. Later, when the ship during the First World War served as a radiotelegraphic station for the Army, even more technology was introduced aboard, and it was all installed quite haphazardly.

By restoration projects, the matter is somewhat different; here this necessary technology and installation has become a problem, which from time to time has been tackled in many different ways - all after the ruling principles, which have been the guidelines at that certain moment, or out of the fantasy and enterprise of the single, individual project-makers.

The beautifully restored clipper Cutty Sark is just one example. It was one of the first, larger, purposeful ship preservation projects and is an example of built-in new facilities, made in the same idiom as the ship originally was built. The emergency exit in the ship«s bottom, leading out to the dock, has been made in the old style, with varnished panels, columns and railings, which at first gives the visitor the impression, that the exit was also there, when the ship was in active service! Hatchways, doors and stairs has been made wider and less steep, taking the visitors into consideration, but likewise still made in a way, that one gets the impression, it has always been like that.
This is one way to do it. Other projects may even seem to be obsessed with hiding the technology. Here You find built-in burglar alarms and fire prevention devices in rumbarrels, where just a tiny eyehole in its top reveals, that the visitor is not facing an old, historic barrel, but a container filled with complicated electronic. Following this concept, there are no limits to what modern technology can produce, from artificial cobwebs to lifelike rats and shippigs, where technology can be hidden.

By the restoration of Jylland, we chose, as a principle, not to hide the later, added technology. Fire alarm box, detectors, evacuation facilities, burglar alarms, elevator, sprinkler systems etc., were installed so that anybody would be able to recognize them as new installations in relation to the ship«s original appearance. Electrical cables and pipeline works were naturally done with thoughtfulness, and where possible, they were milled into grooves underneath the deckplanking. In this connection we were lucky that the restoration - including the technical installations - could be planned at one time. By many similar projects, due to doubtful finances, we experience the short-sighted way of restoring, without any realization and recognition of the final goal, having as a result, that things are not carried out in the proper order and therefore blocks each other. The consequence has often been, that one gives up when facing the installations and therefore fits pipes and cables at random, as it would be too expensive and complicated to change the present state of things.

As an example of what these laid down guidelines have resulted in aboard Jylland, one can mention the railing on the poop deck. It had to be recreated, but as the spanker boom had to move freely over it, it was very low. At that time the rigging had first priority - the safety of the crew was secondary. But instead of increasing the railing to the height fixed by law - which could have been done without any problem, as the spanker boom now is fixed - we however chose to make the railing in the original version, and next, to make an off roping with the correct height inside the original railing. In that way, we saved the characteristic silhouette of the hull, while still, the visitor doesn«t doubt that the high roping-off is a new addition.

One of the real large foreign matters aboard is the handicapelevator, going through all the decks of the ship. A lot of proposals were "on the table" - from letting it rise through the funnel - to having it stand on the outside of the hull, like a tower. Again, we chose not to hide it, but let it stand inside the ship as what it is: an elevator. After various negotiations with the elevator company and the National Labour Inspection, we had it reduced in size and had it shaped as to not assert itself too much - without reducing the function or safety for the visitors and the technicians maintaining it.

One certain chapter was the room lighting. Originally the interior of the frigate has presented a dark spectacle. At daytime, light advanced only through the skylights in the deck, the small windows in the gunports and the few bullseyes at the orlop deck. At night the decks have been pitchdark, and down below, lamps were only found at the hatchways. The cabins have not been lit; should an officer for instance read, he had to make a requisition at the Lantern Master«s. For the sake of the public«s safety it has not been possible to recreate this atmosphere, so characteristic of the warships. Here we chose to illuminate the deck by modern lamps. On the gun deck, copies of the old lanterns were fitted, rebuilt for electric current, and in a larger number than originally, whereas on the orlop deck, due to the use as a party room, modern lamps were fitted between the gun deck beams. The hold is illuminated by a large number of shielded spotlights to accentuate the beautiful timber construction, which thus protrudes quite sculptural - without any connection whatsoever with the original atmosphere once found here. Again, one of the hard choices You«ve got to take.

One of the wooden ship«s large problems is, as You know, to keep the decks tight. The problem is smaller when having the ship at sea, when the decks are washed regularly, and the ship constantly have different angles with the sun, but regarding Jylland, which is fixed, having the same areas exposed to the sunlight day out, day in, the need for wetting decks is great, and as it has no crew, obviously, we found it necessary to install an automatic sprinkler system, which floods the deck once every hour in the nighttime. Most of the rather extensive system, which is stretched out along the ship«s sides, was hidden in the hammocknetting on the gunwale, where only a little nozzle, peeping out between the rosettes in the ornamentation, reveals the presence of a sprinkler system. This arrangement, however, was not possible on the poop deck, where the stainless steel pipes are fully visible.

The above mentioned phenomena, along with a great deal of others, today form natural parts of the frigate Jylland. On the question, put to the visitors at the exit, whether there was an elevator aboard, or, what did the illumination look like, most people reply that they didn«t pay attention to this. This is thought-provoking and may indicate, that the visitor just sees what he wants to see; whether the elevator is hidden or not, doesn«t mean so much. The impression left in the visitor«s mind, is the overall impression of the museumship and the details, he had a special interest in.

Ebeltoft, DK in march, 1997 Bernt Kure.

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