The Cutty Sark in Greenwich, London, England, for its 150th anniversary
© Grant Rooney Premium/Alam
The Cutty Sark turns 150
We're featuring the Cutty Sark in today's image to mark the 150th anniversary of its launching on November 22, 1869. Built for speed, the Cutty Sark began its abbreviated career as a tea clipper racing across oceans 'at a clip' (hence the designation 'clipper ship') to deliver the season's first tea harvest from China to England. While at times considered one of the fastest ships in the world, the Cutty Sark’s practical use as a cargo ship was ending almost as soon as it was launched. That's because steamships using the much shorter route through the newly opened Suez Canal were able to deliver the highly anticipated tea harvest faster and more cheaply. In 1883, the Cutty Sark began hauling wool from Australia, but within 10 years steamships also disrupted this business.
By 1922, the Cutty Sark was the last clipper ship still in use when it was sold to Wilfred Dowman, who had it restored and turned into a cadet training ship. In 1954, it was docked at Greenwich, England, restored again, and opened to the public. The ship was closed again for the Cutty Sark Conservation Project in 2006 but was damaged by a fire the following year. Fortunately, the original masts and many planks were in storage at the time and the Cutty Sark was able to reopen, fully restored, in 2012, with most of the original features still intact. Today, visitors to the Royal Museums Greenwich can explore all facets of this one-time pinnacle of sailing technology, which is part of Maritime Greenwich, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.