Survey shows historic trawler could make voyage home

A SURVEY has shown that the world’s oldest steam trawler is capable of being refloated – despite having been abandoned for years in one of the most remote corners of the world.

Surveyors spent four days recently examining Viola, which was built a century ago in Beverley, where she now lies beached on South Georgia.

They believe that with a bit of patching up they can refloat her – to possibly load her onto a barge and bring her back to Hull in time for City of Culture celebrations in 2017.

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However, all depends on funding – it will cost between 
$500,000 (£317,000) and $1.5m (£953000), and finding a suitable location for her in the city.

Yesterday historian Robb Robinson, together with MPs Graham Stuart and Alan Johnson were meeting officials from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport in London to see whether money is available from a First World War commemoration fund.

Mr Robinson, who has written a history of the ship and led on the campaign to repatriate Viola, said: “Hull firms have stumped up the money for the survey and we are going to see if they can be reimbursed and if we can access money to move this forward. The survey said time was running out – maybe we have a couple of years to do this. There are a number of technical difficulties, but generally the feeling is they are not insurmountable.”

Mr Robinson said one possibility was putting both the Arctic Corsair, the city’s last side-winder trawler, which is currently in a berth behind the Streetlife Museum on the River Hull, with Viola together in a dry dock, which would protect them from the corrosive effects of sitting in water.

He said: “Ships are part of any port’s built environments and in Hull we are a bit short of them.”

The Viola was launched from Grovehill shipyard in Beverley in January 1906. She helped sink two U-boats in the First World War and was later sold to Norway as a trawler and whale catcher and finally to South Georgia, as a sealer and exploration vessel.