Friday, 16 January 2015

Flood protections go in

Geoff, Kev and Colin, MNH Technicians, have just installed temporary flood defenses outside Peggy's cellar. These should see us through the upcoming high tides until we get Peggy out in ten days time...

Looking towards Peggy in her cellar

Looking away from the cellar door, across the dock

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Coconut Conservation

I am currently preparing exhibits for the new Quayle Gallery at the Nautical Museum. The idea of the gallery is to tell the story of Peggy and of George Quayle during the absence of the boat itself.
We are planning to show some of the objects from last year's archaeological dig. Some, like this coconut (one of two), are rather unusual.

Drinking coconut with marine accretion

It would appear that the conservation of marine archaeological coconuts is a new or at least rare discipline! Would the two hundred year-old coconuts (fashioned as posh drinking cups) shrink and crack when dried out? Would sea salt destroy them as they dried?
To counter any possibility of the latter they have been soaked for several months in clean water. I measure the amount of salt in the water regularly to see at what point it is at a negligible level.
One of the coconuts was squashed and split when we found it. I am now allowing this one to dry, and I'm recording the width of the cracks and splits to see if they change as it does so. I'm not expecting any dramatic changes, after all and as my colleague Matthew Richardson pointed out, coconuts have evolved to withstand long periods floating in the sea - it's a primary means of propagation.

Monitoring the split coconut while it dries

Thursday, 8 January 2015

Deadline Dawn

I often recall the title of Anthony Booth's hostage drama Deadline Dawn at times of intense activity and pressure. Our sixth form production of it was stoked with hysterical tension and was totally over-cooked.
Readers would be surprised therefore to witness our calm, in spite of the fact that we are working furiously in the lead up to removing Peggy, finally, from her cellar on the 28th of this month (January 2015).
The Conservation Facility is in our possession now and we will be painting the floor next week. I will be buying material to make a temporary, insulated, climate-controlled enclosure there for Peggy. In the next few days we'll be installing flood barriers at Peggy's cellar to protect her from the tidal flooding predicted for 22nd/ 23rd of January, and we will be preparing the scaffold platform outside the cellar for Peggy, and putting up a temporary roof over the yard to protect her from the wind and rain. Gallas Foundry are making last minute adjustments to the lifting cradle. The crane and lorry drivers are lined up to undertake the lift and transport, and the necessary road closures are in place. Our staff photographer will be on-hand to record the proceedings and we will be filming the lift from a remote controlled drone.

As Harrison Ford might say, "punch it, Chewie".

Monday, 8 December 2014

Delays, delays

Running a complex conservation project can be quite a challenge. Fund raising is the most obvious headache; it isn't possible in advance to identify everything you'll need to spend money on, nor indeed how much. As many people know, embarking on such a venture is a bit like starting to swim without knowing where land is.
Another difficulty is dealing with delays and minor set-backs. In the end they don't amount to much but it can be very hard to put up with them nonetheless. At the moment we are suffering a significant delay to our programme due to the slow conveyancing of the new building into which Peggy will be installed for conservation. Conveyancing is the legal process of passing a building from seller to buyer.
As a result of the delays in conveyancing, we will have to take evasive action on site to protect Peggy from the predicted high tides in January and February 2015. Fortunately, since the museum is closed to the public at the moment, we can install as many unsightly flood defences we want. Also, because we have excavated the dock outside the cellar, we can now ensure the cellar threshold is properly sealed.

We have no choice but to sit out the Spring tides. If we can, we will try to get Peggy out in February, but our January window is now firmly shut.

Monday, 24 November 2014

Archaeological conservation

In the new gallery at the Nautical Museum that we are building, we'll be telling the story of George Quayle, his life and times, as well as that of Peggy and her conservation.
We hope to show some of the weird and wonderful stuff that was excavated from George's dock earlier this year. We can't hope to show all of it, and a lot is very fragile.
One of the most interesting finds was a small cast iron box inside which was a real muddle of things - the kind of stuff you might find in your dad's shed - some large washers, musket balls, a small canon ball, a hook, nuts and bolts, the mechanism of a flintlock pistol, scraps of lead, a key, a door knob, etc.. Most of these objects, as well as the box itself, are made of iron.
If we were to dry these things out and put them on display, it wouldn't be long before the sea salt inside them began to rust them to bits. That's why they have been stored in tanks of sea water since they were found. Now we have to try to draw out the salt, which should make looking after them much easier.
To 'de-salinate' the objects I am soaking them in a warm bath of sodium hydroxide and sodium sulphite. This process will take a couple of months, after which I can slowly dry them ready for display.

Flintlock pistol mechanism

Assorted washers

Final preparations for lift-off

We are making the final preparations for lifting Peggy from her 200 year-old resting place. In this photograph of Geoff's work-bench you can see laid out the drawings and components for the mechanism we'll now be using to roll her out. We've had to alter our plans pretty radically since the discovery of the dock outside Peggy's cellar, but it doesn't pay to be too precious about the details .....

White nylon rollers, axles and threaded rod, alongside assorted tools and drawings, this morning 

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

A new beginning for the Nautical Museum in Castletown

We are currently on hold with Peggy pending completion on her new home. Meanwhile we have not been idle!
The Nautical Museum without Peggy, for the duration of conservation works, is beginning to take shape. Today we began the process of clearing one of the galleries, installed in 1967, in which we plan to present a display centred on George Quayle, Peggy, her conservation and our plans for the future of George's boat house and stables.
The first object to come out is this 19th century ship's tender, which is quite a rarity in its own right, albeit overshadowed by it's larger neighbour.

Builder Stan Rsyack makes a large hole in the museum wall....

The tender is up-ended in a wooden support frame...

... and is then loaded into a waiting van.

The little tender is due to be conserved alongside Peggy in the new conservation facility.