Not all days go as planned and usually the last minute ones are fraught with spontaneity. I won a competition to tour around the RRS Discovery. The plan was for my partner and I to visit London without the kids and spend the day, onboard the ship and visiting a few galleries, stopping off for a bite to eat along the way. However like most plans in my household they never get set in stone and more often than not they just don’t happen, for one reason or another. But I wasn’t going to let not being able to get a babysitter stop me from visiting this ship.
When I was at school my dream job was to become a vet, this was when I was in infant school. As I grew older my ambitions changed and I left school wanting to take up Art. Again this didn’t happen but I did go to Agriculture College where I studied Animal Care, my goal, to become a Marine Biologist. This plan as you may have figured out didn’t get followed through, I found out at an early age that I had a hole in my heart and for all you none divers out there, you can’t dive when you have a hole in the heart, the risk of the bends is very high apparently. So all my conservation and exploration adventures are fed on land. So as you can see this was a big deal for me, it was a chance to see how life may have turned out it genetics hadn’t gotten in the way.
I decided to go alone and booked my train ticket and tube pass for London and RSVP’d my space on the RRS Discovery. The night before I was due to travel, I had the overwhelming urge to take my eldest son along with me. I knew he was interested in science and thought it was something we could enjoy together, and him being like a big sponge ready to soak it all in. I booked him a ticket too and up we got, first thing the following morning ready to catch our 8:05am train to London. After the hour and forty minutes journey we arrived and casually made our way to the tube station heading towards London Bridge. As we approached the river themes all that we could see was HMS Belfast, her huge length dwarfing the Discovery.
The original RRS Discovery was sailed to the Antarctic by none other than Captain Scott, and this ship resides in Dundee. However the one we had come to see was modern, a high tech vessel purpose built for the UK Marine Scientists to undertake scientific research within our planet’s many oceans. At almost 100m in length and weighing almost 6000 tonnes the ship is equipped to carry 52 passengers including scientists and crew and can stay at sea for 50 days before needing to refuel. Housing laboratories, submarines, compression chambers and all the surveying, monitoring and mapping equipment you could ever need plus much more this ship plays a very important role towards governing decisions on planetary matters such as CO2, the health of our fisheries and how plastics are affecting ocean habitats.
As part of the tour we got free entry on to the HMS Belfast, this ship which is now a permanent floating attraction in the themes, used to be a part of the Royal Navy and was launched in 1938. It saw active service during WWII and assisted with many missions throughout its combat years until it was placed into decommission in 1963. The ship was going to be scrapped but in 1971 the government decided to preserve her to become part of the Imperial War Museum which she continues to be a part of and allows visitors to experience the cramped, smelly conditions which our service men would have had to endure at the time she was in service.
After visiting both ships we spent a little time with some of the scientists on the bank of the themes watching different experiments and listening to some of the exciting talks. We then grabbed a couple of touristy paintings before heading off to lunch.
Having stuffed our faces, taken in some of the sites and smells we spent a small amount of time sitting by a fountain before heading back to the station to catch our train.
Such a simple day yet one of my most enjoyable ones in London, away from the crowds and a nice perspective of one of the many iconic buildings that London has to offer. It also gave me the chance to get some one to one time with Reiss and get to know him a little better.
So when it comes to plans, unless its an interview or important meeting, experience has taught me to go with the flow because they always offer the best surprises, journeys and memories.