“ Address: Discovery Quay / Dundee / DD1 4XA / Scotland „
Tayside Dundee branded itself as the "city of discovery (or Discovery?)" and the attraction complex called the Discovery Point holds a prime spot on Dundee's riverside, not far from the Tay Bridge, a stone's throw from the train station and just next to the main city Leisure Centre and pool complex.
The Discovery Point consists of the modern (but built with turn-of-the last century references) rotunda of the Point and the RRS Discovery itself, moored just by the side of the building and covered by the same entrance ticket. "Discovery" is known as Captain Scott's ship and thus is bound to bring to mind associations with the doomed South Pole expedition, but as this was actually undertaken on a different ship altogether, Terra Nova, a surprisingly small amount of space is devoted to it (and frankly, is all the better for it).
The vast bulk of the Discovery Point displays are concerned with the vessel itself and with the British National Antarctic Expedition for which Discovery was built and which took place between 1901 and 1904.
Organised under the auspices of RGS and the Royal Society, the expedition set out to conduct scientific research and geographical exploration in what was then uncharted area. It was certainly a landmark in the history of British exploration of the Antarctic. The expedition was hailed as an immense success, despite the fact that a relief mission was needed to free Discovery from the ice and it started the heroic age of polar exploration, in many ways embodying all that was best and worst about the British approach to such ventures.
The exhibition in the rotunda is excellent: one can sometime doubt the number of stars awarded to attractions by Visit Scotland, but in this case the five-star rating is very justified. The displays combine modern multimedia and hands-on displays with more old-fashioned display-case-based parts as well as life-size-models of people and objects.
The history of the Discovery is told on a broad background of the Dundee's shipping and whaling industry, and the realities of the existence on-board are brought to life by displays that show and describe the food, the lodgings, the clothes and similar.
There is a rather revisionist attitude to Captain Scott nowadays, and his people-management and leadership skills have been frequently questioned. The Discovery Point displays manage to track a middle route, without making a particular judgement: areas of conflict and Scott's pig-headedness are shown, but not particularly stressed and one gets a feeling that both the man himself and his opponents get a fair hearing.
A lot of space is devoted to scientific research that was raison d'etre for the Discovery expedition, and the individual scientists as well as their observation results are presented, with additional displays devoted to the current state of the knowledge about the Antarctic.
The history of the Discovery post-Scott expedition is also covered (she served as a cargo ship and then returned to her role as a research ship in the Antarctic until the 1930's).
The ship itself is moored in a purpose-built dock and is very worth visiting: gleaming brass and wonderful wood outside, interiors from the engine room to the galley, mess and the quarters of the crew and the expedition members: in fact you can still dine in the officers mess on Discovery and buy ship-branded port - it's available for private hire, though I am not sure whether seal steak or ptarmigan roasts feature on the menu).
In addition to the main museum, there is a gift shop (OK-ish) and a cafe (quite good actually, with great photos on the walls).
All in all, a very good attraction indeed, and much more engaging than somebody not particularly interested in Captain Scott would find interesting. Small children should probably skip the audio-visual (especially the 20 minutes long film), but otherwise anybody from 3 year olds to grandparents should be educated and entertained.
April - October Mon - Sat - 10am-6pm (Sun 11am)
November - March
Mon - Sat - 10am - 5pm (Sun 11am)
Closed 25th & 26th December and 1st & 2nd January
last admission 1 hour prior to closing
Adult GBP 7.50
Concession/OAP GBP 5.75
Child GBP 4.50
Family (2 adults and 2 children) GBP 20
under fives free
Every visitor who buys a ticket can get a free annual pass - handy if you live locally.
I've passed by the RSS Discovery many times without visiting and when I had some Tesco days out vouchers to use up I decided to visit as it is next door to the Olympia leisure centre which the kids love visiting.
The Royal Research Ship Discovery is the ship which Captain Scott used for his groundbreaking Antarctic expedition in 1901 and it has now been lovingly restored and sits in a custom built dock on the Firth of Tay near to the famous Tay road bridge.
The first part of the exhibition is in the Discovery dome which is split into nine separate areas which tell the story of how Discovery was built, the Antarctic expedition and the men aboard the ship.
The first exhibit you come to is a cinema which tells the story of the men involved in the expedition; most will have heard of Captain Scott but there were 45 men in total on Discovery's maiden voyage. The actors playing each of the men in this short film were excellent and the 3d effects were spectacular and it seemed as though the men were looking directly into my eyes as they spoke.
Shipbuilding was an important part of Dundee's history and it was the city's experience in building boats for the Whaling industry which led to Discovery being built there. It is really interesting learning how the ship was built to withstand the Arctic conditions and when you see the simple tools used in building such as hand drills then the feat is even more amazing.
Other exhibits focus on the scientific discoveries made in the Antarctic during the expedition and it is clear that the wealth of biological and geological knowledge gained was really important in helping us understand the world better.
The part of the exhibition I found most interesting was the part that covered conditions aboard the ship. Many companies were keen to donate supplies for such a groundbreaking voyage and the ship even carried sheep to be slaughtered, dogs and a cat. The men supplemented their diet with meat caught in the Antarctic and apparently penguin tastes like rotten fish!
After you have explored the dome it is time to board the ship and see for yourself the conditions that the men endured during the expedition. After I climbed the gangplank and boarded the ship the first thing that struck me was how small the vessel was. It is remarkable that such a small and relatively primitive boat was able to travel so far and withstand Antarctic conditions and proves that the standard of engineering involved must have been really high.
Below deck there are three levels which show the living and working conditions that the crew endured including their sleeping space, cooking and food storage and leisure materials. The inside of the ship felt a bit claustrophobic to me so I can't imagine being cooped up with 44 others for a long period of time here. Scott ran the ship on strict Naval protocol and there was a sharp division between the officers and crew; the crew sleeping in basic cabins and the officers perfectly preserved single rooms are beautiful but still sparse compared to modern living conditions.
There are guides on board the ship who are answer questions and one of them spent ages talking to my kids and telling them various stories about the ship.
The ship itself is not suitable for wheelchair users and there is a separate video for those who can't get onboard. The stairs on board are very steep so may present difficulty for some, the passages are often narrow and some of the floors below deck are sloped.
There is a café and gift shop inside the dome. The café seems reasonably priced for lunch and coffee and the gift shop had a wide range on offer from tartan tat to really expensive artwork.
Discovery has been given 5 stars from the Scottish tourist board for quality and I agree that it is a brilliant exhibition and I learned a lot from visiting. I took a couple of kids with me and one gave it the thumbs up and the other the thumbs down although I think that it was just because her swimming trip was delayed! There are a few interactive exhibits and activities for kids but I don't think there is much here to appeal very young children. Discovery is best visited on a dry day, although most of the exhibition is indoors it started spitting with rain when we were there and the deck of the ship and some of the stairs leading to the lower level were slippery. We spent a total of just over two hours going round the exhibitions but you could probably stretch it into a trip lasting a whole morning or afternoon.
Discovery is an interesting place to visit if you are in the Dundee area. It is within ten minutes walk of the city centre and with other attractions like the Olympia leisure centre or Verdant Works nearby you can have a whole fun filled day out.
A family ticket costs £20 for two adults and two children in 2009.
All visitors are entitles to a pass allowing them to visit as often as they want for a year but you need to send a passport sized photo in for a photo card and the cost of getting photos taken for this means I'm not going to bother taking them up on this offer.
The Royal Research Ship Discovery (RRSD) is a wooden three-masted. This ship set sail in 1901 for exploration to Antarctica.