Work to preserve ss Great Britain continues remotely during lockdown

The ss Great Britain's curators and engineers are managing to preserve Bristol's iconic attraction remotely during the lockdown with the help of modern technology.

Isambard Kingdom Brunel's ship is widely acknowledged to have changed history, and is unquestionably unique, but it now needs to be looked after in exactly the same way as other national treasures and museums during the pandemic.

A sea of glass surrounds the great metal hull. Credit: ITV West News

There are so many times during her life and salvage when she only survived because of the love, care and innovation of the team looking-after her, and that’s exactly how we’re going to get through this as well.

Nicola Grahamslaw, Conservation Engineer
Remote control: the dry dock environment is maintained by dehumidifiers which are being operated from home. Credit: ITV News

Years of restoration have left the ss Great Britain looking almost as good as new above ground, but it is science holding it together below.

Brunel's 175-year-old metal hull is surrounded by a sea of glass and it requires round-the-clock care - not easily achieved at present.

The dry dock is filled with dehumidifiers to maintain absolute dryness and ensure the underside will not degrade and rust any further.

The dry dock requires round-the-clock care. Credit: ITV News

The air in the dry dock is as dry as the Arizona desert - that’s what these machines do. By doing that we’re able to stop the iron from rusting and that helps to keep the ship safe so that when we open again she’ll be in good condition.

Nicola Grahamslaw, Conservation Engineer
Anniversary celebrations have been postponed because of the coronavirus outbreak. Credit: ITV News

The engineers are having to steer the ship through uncharted waters during the current Covid lockdown, and it has also forced them to chart a different course for the half-century celebrations of the ss Great Britain's return to Bristol.

We were supposed to be celebrating (the 50th anniversary) this July as part of the Harbour Festival, so it's really sad that’s now been cancelled. But you can rest assured that our team are working really hard to put together something really fun for later on in the year that the whole city can get involved with.

Nicola Grahamslaw, Conservation Engineer
Credit: ITV News