Sunday, May 15, 2011

Day 5 Dundee and Aberdeenshire

Saturday 30 April, 2011. To travel from Edinburgh to Dundee, you cross the new Forth road bridge from where there is a fine view the old Forth Railroad bridge. A cantilever bridge, is considered to be the 8th wonder of the world. Completed in 1890, it was the world's first major steel bridge and still carries many trains a day. The bridge has only been closed down 5 days in its history for repairs.

Here is the Dundee lies on the River Tay and is known for 'jute, jam, and journalism.' It was once known as “Jutopolis.” Over 50,000 workers worked in the jute mills. Verdant Works Jute Mill, built in 1833 , was the 16th largest of 61 mills. The last of the jute mills closed in 1997. Verdant Works is now a museum depicting the days when jute was king in this

Jute fiber was brought by ship from India. Large bales were brought to the factories where it was processed, spun into yarn and woven into cloth. Boys only worked in the mills until they were 18, when they were made redundant.

Women comprised the majority of the workers in the mills and had a lot of power.

We had an excellent guide, Earl Scott, who led us through the interpretive displays. He dresses as Jute Baron from the late 19th century.
The visit starts with a film showing the history of the industry. Another excellent film shows current jute industry in India where most of the world’s burlap is woven today. The museum has working machinery that shows the process from the receiving of the raw fiber to the to the finished cloth. Much of the jute was woven into fabric for sacks and canvas and also used for rope. Here is a simplified synopsis in images.

There are no jute mills left in Dundee. Some of them have been torn down, others turned into housing and others refitted for other industry. But no industry since has matched the success of the jute mills in the 19th and early 20th century. A number of songs tell the stories of working in a jute mill. My group, Straw into Gold has recorded 2 of them, Sheena Wellington’s “The Weavers o Dundee” and Mary Brooksbank’s “The Jute Mill.” You can listen to this second song at, by clicking on the revolving musical symbol on the home page.

A beautiful three-masted, 30’ x 128” ship, the Discovery, sits in the Dundee Harbor. Built in 1901 as a research vessel, it was designed for the artic with a 27” thick hull comprised of 3 layers of pine, oak and fir. You can see the saltboxes in the hull that were filled with salt and pushed into the hull, like drawers, to absorb any excess moisture between the hulls. The ship was powered by a double expansion engine, made in Dundee, which was powered by two boilers. These boilers were fed coal. For the first Antarctic voyage, 400 tons of coal was stored in the hold and 40 tons on the deck.

Captain Robert Falcon Scott led an expedition of 47 men to the Antarctic for scientific research. Scott desperately also wanted to be the first to reach the South Pole. The The crew included 37 sailors, 5 officers and 5 scientists. The scientific study focused on the five areas of geology, meteorology, magnetism, zoology and biology. With space for only 18 sleeping hammocks in the crew quarters, the men worked and slept in 12 hour shifts. The main meal was as noon. Each crew member was given 1 glass of rum with lunch. In New Zealand the ship took on 40 sheep that were slaughtered and hung frozen on deck. The diet was supplemented by penguin, sea birds and seals. 100 pounds of dry mustard was in the ship’s pantry to disguise the bad taste of the penguin and other birds. Every person was given a dose of lime juice each day to prevent scurvy.

Officers had a finer sleeping and galley area, but it was also the coldest place on the ship. The officers would wake up with their blankets frozen to their beds. When the ship reached the Antarctic, they became frozen in sea ice and remained there for 2 winters. The scientists conducting research made significant discoveries in the areas of plant and animal life, climate, and geology. Hartly T. Forrar studied the geology of the Antarctic and published the first description of Antarctic geology in 1903. Today, that book has been modified, but not replaced.

During the Southern Sledging Journey of 1902-1903, Scott, Shackleton and Wilson traveled for 95 days attempting to reach the pole via foot. The 19 dogs brought on the journey to pull the supply sled all died. The mission was unsuccessful. In Feb 1903, the pack ice broke up freeing the Discovery to sail back to Scotland. Scott did reach the South Pole on his second journey but was not the first. Norwegian explorer Roald Amundson beat Scott by 33 days. Scott died while sailing back home.

We dined tonight at Gadies, the restaurant attached to Touched by Scotland gallery in Oyne. Robin and Jan offer food that looks beautiful and tastes delicious. They utilize many of the agricultural products from the fertile land of Aberdeenshire.

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