Sadly, this is going to ring the City of Adelaide bells:
Falls of Clyde, the last steel-hulled four-masted full-rigged ship in the world, and formerly a main attraction in Honolulu Harbour, will be sunk next month unless a buyer comes forward with the millions of dollars needed to save it. Plans to sink the 128-year-old ship, which has been serving as a centerpiece for the Bishop Museum's Maritime Centre, could be carried out in a matter of weeks, according to Blair Collis, vice president and chief operating officer of the museum. Unless someone comes forward by September 1st with a plan to save and restore the vessel, it will be sunk 15 miles off Honolulu Harbour. The museum is spending several hundred thousand dollars each year on insurance, labour costs and supplies associated with maintaining the ship, which has been closed to the public since last year. "We don't want to dispose of the vessel but it's a very difficult situation," said Collis. "This is a burden the museum is unable to continue to bear."
The Falls of Clyde is listed as a National Historic Landmark. Before she was de-rigged last month, she held the distinction of being the world's last remaining four-masted, steel-hulled, full-rigged ship. She is currently leaking badly and kept afloat by shore-based electrical pumps. Workers yesterday were preparing the ship to be towed from the harbour. The U.S. Coast Guard have been doing safety inspections to make sure the ship is in proper condition to be moved from its current berth. Tentative plans had been set earlier this week to sink the ship on Tuesday, and the museum had already contacted the Coast Guard to prepare for the imminent operation.
Some members of the local community are outraged, claiming that museum directors have "given up" on the ship. The Friends of the Falls of Clyde, a loosely organised group that has been trying to save the decrepit ship, said yesterday that it will make a last-ditch effort to save the vessel. The group is in the process of registering itself as a nonprofit organisation. "We're not giving up," said Friends member Chris Woolaway. "There are people out there who are working really hard to find solutions to save her. This is a part of our history, and it has international interest, too. If they sink her, well, that's it. If she's gone, she's gone."
For about a month and a half, members of the group have been meeting with Bishop Museum officials once a week to negotiate the fate of their beloved ship. Woolaway and others are working to raise awareness about the museum's plans to sink the ship, hoping that public outcry can slow down the process. "We've been talking to the Bishop Museum under the assumption that they were negotiating in good faith. Then all of a sudden word came down that they have plans to scuttle the ship on Tuesday," said Woolaway. As a result, there is now a feeling of distrust among the negotiating parties.
As of Monday afternoon, neither the Friends of the Falls of Clyde nor the Coast Guard had been informed that the museum had decided to delay the Tuesday sinking. The date was changed when museum officials became aware that three different parties are interested in adopting the ship. Two of the parties are from Hawai'i, while the third is an individual from Australia. "The situation changes quite rapidly," Collis said. "We don't have a new date set for its sinking but it could be set for later in the week, later in the month or beyond."
Collis said that the individual from Australia - dubbed by those involved as a 'white knight' - provided a detailed memorandum which prompted a decision to push back the sinking of the ship. He has been asked to fly to Honolulu immediately, but no formal agreements have been signed yet, and museum officials have yet to meet with the man.
Joseph Lombardi is project manager with Ocean Technical Services, which has been hired by the museum to get the ship ready to be towed out of the harbour - whether it is sunk or sold. The firm conducted a structural survey, concluding it would cost $24-32million to restore the ship to "a level of presentability at which the public can be aboard."
If someone were to come forth with a plan to transfer the ship, it would cost upwards of $9million just to stabilise the ship for offshore towing. Transferring the ship to Australia would require putting it in drydock, which would cost millions more. In the meantime, workers continue to prepare the ship for sinking. "Right now, because we don't know what the 'white knight' is all about, we're going to have to assume that we're going to sink the ship," Lombardi said. "We've already cleared the ship of 250 cubic yards of debris, stabilised her curatorial items, and taken down her rig to make her more stable. She's in really tough shape, and I think she knows her days are limited."
However the coin lands for Falls of Clyde, we'll be bringing you updates as soon as we have them.