The Blyth Tall Ship Project – Celebrating the 200 year anniversary of the discovery of Antarctica

We have a passion for the outdoors here at Berghaus as you would expect, but sometimes that can be taken to the extreme, literally!

Our Clothing Category Manager Paul Cosgrove is part of an ambitious project that will sail a tall ship to Antarctica to celebrate the British discovery of the continent on the 200 year anniversary in 2020. What’s exciting is that you could join too!

We spoke with Paul about the expedition.

Ok, so let’s start at the beginning… a question everyone will have on their minds, the project has a tall ship in the same style as one that discovered Antarctica 200 years ago? How did that come about and how did you get involved?

Yes our charity the Blyth Tall Ship project has a tall ship that we are currently renovating getting ready to sail to Antarctica next year.

It was realised about 15 years ago by a few individuals including myself that the small town of Blyth has a remarkable connection with Antarctica. In 1820 a small tall ship from Blyth crewed by north east sailors made the first ever sighting of the Antarctica continent.

I have always been fascinated with polar history since a young boy and when I realised this long forgotten fact it blew my mind. I just couldn’t believe that the boat Williams and Captain William Smith had come from my home area. I thought in the late 1990’s as a teenager that someday it would be fantastic to recreate the voyage on the anniversary. Luckily 10 years ago an ambitious group led by the Port Of Blyth had the same idea and I immediately became involved doing as much as I could to help the project.

What is the aim of the project?

Fundamentally the project aims to inspire an entire generation in the north east by rediscovering its fantastic past and unique connection with Antarctica.

We run courses in carpentry and boat building, unique skills that our young people are rediscovering. Blyth in particular was ravaged through the 1980’s with the decline of industry in the area and our project plays a small part in helping to showcase and revive this brilliant town and its people. The transformation over the past 10 years has been remarkable and Blyth is a vibrant town.

Who is involved?

We have a brilliant team led by Clive Gray which is composed of enthusiastic individuals from the Port of Blyth, Newcastle University and Northumberland Council.

We are proud to have Sir Chris Bonington, Sir Ranulph Fiennes and the Duchess of Northumberland as honorary patrons. But most importantly we have hundreds of volunteers from the north east community involved, from young people to councillors, experts from the marine industry, professors, engineers and artists.

We even have a small community of knitters making us special Gansey sweaters for the expedition! Jonny Bell our Master Shipwright has done an exceptional job of leading the restoration team in Blyth getting the boat ready.

How did you get the Tall Ship?

We were very lucky to have numerous funding streams including the fantastic Heritage Lottery Fund and Northumbrian Water. We got into a position where we could buy a tall ship for the town of Blyth. So we spent a year tall ship shopping! Eventually we found a boat in Denmark that was remarkably close to the original Williams tall ship 200 years ago. We were so lucky with that.

So the boat is Danish originally?

Absolutely, she is a Baltic Sea Trader built over 100 years ago!

The North Sea was basically one community and boat designs were very similar around the North Sea. She has a thick hull designed for dealing with ice in the Baltic Sea whilst carrying timber and clay from port to port.

We are so excited because she is a close to the original as you could possibly get.

When did you bring the Williams II tall ship to Blyth?

Almost 3 years ago we went out as a small team and spent two weeks readying the boat to sail back to Blyth. It took us 10 days to sail her across the North Sea to Blyth.

It was a pretty adventurous voyage in itself as the boat needed a lot of work and we were discovering all of her quirks! When we arrived at Blyth almost 100 boats as a flotilla came out to bring us into port and on the quayside we had 15,000 people wave us in! We were in shock and it was so incredible.

The passion the town has for the project is truly amazing and sustains everyone.

What’s the plan this year?

We are completing are renovation work which has been ongoing now for 2 years, assembling our core crews and beginning sea trials and training. All so we are ready for the big year next year.

When do you leave?

The plan is to circumnavigate the UK in May 2019 showcasing the expedition and our sponsors in ports and cities around the coast. We will then return to Blyth and make the final preparation for the expedition with the aim of leaving Blyth early September 2019.

When will you be in Antarctica?

We need to be off the coast of the Antarctic Peninsula on the 30th January 2020 to celebrate the day William Smith and Edward Bransfield laid eyes on the Antarctic continent for the first time in human history!

How can people get involved?

We are recruiting for crew now! Visit www.williams-expedition.com to apply now! It will be an amazing adventure and we want to make sure as many people as possible have the chance to apply.