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Clipper ship Cutty Sark to welcome visitors after 50m pounds restoration

London, Mon, 02 Apr 2012 ANI

London, Apr 2 (ANI): After five years and a 50-million-pound restoration project, Cutty Sark is almost ready to greet the public again.

Historically-minded tourists will be able to step aboard the vessel in Greenwich, South London from 26 April onwards, and individual tickets have already gone on sale.

The Cutty Sark is the world's last remaining tea-clipper, and was almost destroyed by fire in 2007. Although pictures of its charred carcass convinced many it was beyond repair, dedicated restorers have managed to piece it back together again.

Despite the extensive fire damage, around 90 percent of the fabric and fittings visible on the refurbished ship belonged to the original 143-year-old clipper, the Daily Mail reported.

The precious items were saved because conservation work had already begun on some areas of the ship, and the mast, rigging and parts of the cabins had been removed when the fire struck.

Now primped, polished and ready to receive visitors, the ship has been raised on 11ft steel supports which will ease the strain on its weathered hull and iron frame - and allow the public to view the underside of the hull.

Trustees of the Cutty Sark say they hope the repair work will guarantee the clipper's survival for at least the next 50 years, and the bank HSBC has agreed to sponsor the Trust to ensure the ship's future.

Built on the River Clyde at Dunbarton, the Cutty Sark was launched in 1869 to carry tea from China.

She was then the most advanced ship in existence, and could carry more than 1.3million pounds of tea in a single voyage - equivalent to 200million cups.

While her creators envisaged the Cutty Sark would have a working life of 30 years, she remained in service until 1922, and was put on display in Greenwich in 1954.

Conservation teams working on the ship have paid particular attention to her iron frame, which was twisted and corroded by decades of exposure to rain and seawater.

Careful restoration work saw the rust sandblasted from the framework, which was then treated with red oxide and painted.

The refurbished hull has also been a labour of love, requiring around 1,400 cubic feet of 19th-century Indian teak reclaimed from a building, and 565 cubic feet of larch.

Experts working on the project removed about 550 planks from the hull, and any rotten areas were cut away and replaced with new timber.

When the ship opens for viewing in a few weeks, visitors will be able to see the largest collection of historic figureheads in the world, which was assembled in the early 20th century by an avid collector of merchant shipping memorabilia and given to the Cutty Sark in 1953.

The unique collection will be displayed in a new exhibition space created in the dry dock beneath the ship's hull.

Many of the figureheads are over 200 years old, and the famous faces on show include Prime Ministers Gladstone, Disraeli and Pitt the Younger, as well as Florence Nightingale - who sadly lost an arm during her years on the ocean wave.

The impressive haul was amassed by Sydney Cumbers, who became known as Long John Silver because he wore an eyepatch to cover an eye lost in a childhood accident.

The Cutty Sark's own figurehead - the witch, Nannie - has naturally been restored to her former splendour. (ANI)

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