Previous ships called Discovery
- Tons: 55-70.
- Hull: wood
- Comp.: 17
- Built: England; <1602.
At the beginning of the seventeenth century, England's East India Company was eager to find a sea route to the Indies that was not dominated by the Spanish or the Portuguese. At the time, two of the most promising alternatives were the Northeast Passage, over the top of Russia, and the Northwest Passage across the top of what became Canada. One of the most hard-worked ships in that exploration was Discovery, which made six voyages in quest of the Northwest Passage.
In 1602, Discovery was one of two "Fly-boates" of 70 tons (the other being Godspeed) that sailed under George Weymouth with a combined complement of thirty-five provisioned for eighteen months by "the right Worshipfull Merchants of the Moscovie and Turkie Companies." On May 2, they sailed north from the Thames to pass through the Orkneys, then south of Greenland until June 28, when they "descried the land of America, in the latitude of 62. degrees and 30 minutes; which we made to be Warwickes foreland" in the southern part of Baffin Island. Heading south, they approached the entrance to Hudson Strait but were kept out by ice and fog. Turning north, the ships returned to 68°53 where on July 19 the crew mutinied and "bare up the Helme" for England. On the return south they sailed into Frobisher Bay, past the entrance to Hudson Strait (named for Discovery's next master) and Ungava Bay in northern Quebec. Discovery returned to England at the beginning of August and Weymouth reported that "truely there is in three severall places great hope of a passage, betweene the latitude of 62. and 54 degrees; if the fogge doe not hinder it, which is all the feare I have."
Discovery next appeared in sub-Arctic waters in 1610, sailing for the Northwest Company under command of Henry Hudson. The year before, Hudson had sailed in the Dutch East India Company's ship Halve Maen to ascend the Hudson River as far as present-day Albany, New York. Back in the employ of his fellow countrymen, Hudson sailed from Gravesend on April 17, 1610, and Discovery was the first ship definitely to enter Hudson Strait. Hudson cruised south along the east coast of the bay that bears his name and into James Bay where on November 10, he and his crew were frozen in with scant provisions. Over the harsh winter, the near starving crew became increasingly hostile to Hudson's command and on June 22, 1611, they mutinied. Led by Henry Greene, who "would rather be hanged at home than starved abroad," the mutineers put Hudson, his son, and seven of the infirm crew in Discovery's shallop and sailed away. Hudson was never heard from again. En route home, four of the remaining crew were killed by Eskimos in Hudson Strait—in a rare clash between Eskimos and Europeans—and one more died of starvation before they returned to England under the command of Robert Bylot. Despite the severity of their crime—the masters of Trinity House said "they deserved to be hanged"—none of the mutineers was brought to trial until 1616, partly, it is believed, because of their claim that they had indeed found Hudson Strait.
Backed by the Prince of Wales, the Northwest Company next dispatched an expedition in search of the Northwest Passage under Thomas Button in Resolution, accompanied by Discovery under John Ingram; curiously, Ingram's orders included no mention of a search for Hudson or his crew. The ships sailed from London on April 14, 1612, retracing the now familiar route. Button named Resolution Island at the entrance to Hudson Strait and then sailed southwest across Hudson Bay to the site of present-day Fort Nelson. Several of the crew died over the hard winter, but in June 1613 the survivors resumed their search for the Northwest Passage, visiting Churchill River, Roes Welcome Sound, and Mansel Island. The ship's next voyage, under William Gibbons, was cut short by unusually severe ice that embayed them for ten weeks at Gibbons Hole (possibly Saglek Bay).
In 1615, the ship was acquired by William Baffin, and on March 15 again set forth the Discovery, a ship of fiftie five tunnes or thereabouts, which ship had beene the three [sic] former Voyages on the action. The master was Robert Bileth, a man well acquainted with that way: having been employed in the three former Voyages: my selfe [William Baffin] being his Mate and Associate, with fourteen others and two Boyes.
They reached Resolution Island, sailed along the south coast of Baffin Island and Mill, Salisbury, and Nottingham Islands, Foxe Channel, and Southampton Island. Bylot and Baffin also judged, correctly, that Frozen Strait offered no outlet to the west through Hudson Bay. They returned to England on September 8.
The following year, Bylot and Baffin sailed again under the auspices of the Northwest Company and explored western Greenland as far north as Smith Sound. They passed Cary Island and discovered the entrances to Jones and Lancaster Sounds (the true entrance to the Northwest Passage) and reached a farthest north of 77°45N. This was Discovery's last voyage in search of the Northwest Passage though she remained in service until 1620. Despite Baffin's carefully charting of all the coasts of Baffin Bay over the course of two separate voyages, geographers decided his discoveries were false and the information was gradually removed from maps until John Ross, sailing in Isabella, rediscovered Baffin Bay in 1819. Discovery's farthest north would not be exceeded until Sir George Nares's expedition in the ships Alert and Discovery in 1876.
- Ship (3m). L/B/D: 99.2 keel × 28.3 × 15.5 (30.2m × 8.6m × 4.7m)
- Tons: 330 tons
- Hull: wood
- Comp.: 100
- Arm.: 10 × 4pdr, 10 swivels
- Built: Randall & Brents, London; 1789.
In 1789, the Spanish and English were at loggerheads over control of lands in the Pacific Northwest. In anticipation of a favorable resolution of the Nootka Sound controversy, the English prepared an expedition to sail under Captain George Vancouver. The primary aims were to survey "the direction and extent of all such considerable inlets ... as may be likely to lead to" a Northwest passage between Cape Mendocino (30°N) and Cook Inlet (60°N), and especially "the supposed straits of Juan de Fuca." The Admiralty furnished two vessels for the purpose, Discovery (named for the vessel in which Vancouver sailed as midshipman on Captain James Cook's last voyage to the Pacific), and Chatham.
The ships departed Falmouth on April 1, 1791, and sailing east called at Tenerife and Cape Town, making a landfall at Cape Chatham, Australia, on September 28. They then rounded Tasmania and landed at Dusky Bay, New Zealand, on November 2, 1791. From there they proceeded to Tahiti and, in early March 1792, Kealakekua Bay, where Cook had been killed in 1779. After two weeks in the Sandwich Islands, the ships sailed for North America, arriving off Cape Cabrillo, 130 miles north of San Francisco Bay, on April 17, 1792.
Sailing north, twelve days later Chatham and Discovery met with Robert Gray's Columbia, the first ship they had seen in eight months, and then sailed into the Strait of Juan de Fuca and proceeded to Discovery Bay about 70 miles east of Cape Flattery for repairs. From that base they explored Puget Sound (named for Second Lieutenant Peter Puget, who commanded Chatham from November 25, 1792) and the San Juan Islands. Here they encountered the schooners Sutil and Mexicana, which were conducting surveys of the coast in conjunction with Spanish claims to the area; relations between the English and Spanish were friendly.
In October, Vancouver turned south and, leaving Chatham to cross the bar at the mouth of the Columbia River, proceeded to Yerba Buena (now San Francisco) where on November 14 Discovery became the first non-Spanish ship to sail into San Francisco Bay. The ships remained on the Spanish coast until January 15, 1793, when they sailed from Mendocino for Hawaii, arriving on February 12. While in Hawaii, Vancouver wanted to punish the murder of two men from the storeship Daedalus who had been killed en route to Nootka Sound the previous year. He also wanted to mediate a truce between King Kamehameha and King Kahekili, and to persuade them to accept the protection of the King of England. After Chatham sailed for the Northwest, Discovery remained in Hawaii making surveys of the islands, including the first of Pearl Harbor.
Discovery returned to Nootka, arriving on May 20, two days after Puget had sailed on an independent survey. The ships continued to survey Queen Charlotte Sound, including Elcho Harbour on Dean Channel just two months before Alexander Mackenzie completed the first crossing of North America north of Mexico on July 21. By the end of the second season, Vancouver's expedition had charted 1,700 miles of coast from 29°56N to about 56°N. During the expedition's third visit to Hawaii, Vancouver completed his survey of all of the major Hawaiian islands and Kamehameha formally put his islands under the protection of Great Britain.
In mid-March 1794, the ships sailed for Cook's Inlet, Alaska, which Vancouver had visited in 1778. Discovery and Chatham separated shortly after departing Hawaii and did not find each other until May 6. Discovery made a landfall on Chirikof Island and proceeded to Cook's Inlet on April 12. After determining it was not a river—it had been thought a likely candidate for the Northwest Passage—Vancouver sailed around the Kenai Peninsula for a survey of Prince William Sound. Farther east, in Yakutat Inlet, they encountered a party of 900 Russian-led Kodiak Islanders employed in the seal trade. The Yakutat resented the Russians whom they viewed, in the words of the expedition's surgeon-botanist Archibald Menzies, "as intruders in their territories, draining their shores & coasts of Seals Otter & Fish on which their subsistence chiefly Depends & that too without making the least return for their depredations."
In the late summer, they completed charting of the northern end of the Alexander Archipelago, having stopped at Cape Decision at the southern end of Chichagof Island in 1793. The ships sailed for California and finally left Monterey on December 2, 1794. After stops at Maria Magdalena, Cocos Island, the Galapagos, and Valparaiso, they sailed into the Atlantic to arrive at St. Helena on July 3. There they learned that England was at war with Holland, and Vancouver seized the Dutch East Indiaman Macassar, which had sailed from Cape Town in ignorance of the fact. Chatham was dispatched to Brazil as an escort. Discovery sailed on July 15 and Vancouver landed in the Shannon on September 13, 1795. Discovery and Chatham both arrived at Deptford in late October.
Though Vancouver hoped that his survey would "remove every doubt, and set aside every opinion of a north-west passage, or any water communication navigable for shipping, existing between the North Pacific, and the interior of the American continent within the limits of our researches," the search continued. The expedition gave names to scores of places, many of which are in use today. (The city of Vancouver, British Columbia, was not so named until 1886.) Moreover, in the course of the five-year voyage, only five of the Discovery's crew died—only one from disease—and none of Chatham's. Converted to a bomb in 1799, Discovery was made a convict ship in 1818 and broken up in 1834 at Deptford.
- Bark (3m). L/B/D: 171 × 33.8 × 15.8 52.1m × 10.3m × 4.8m)
- Tons: 1,570 disp.
- Hull: wood
- Comp.: 39-43
- Mach.: triple expansion, 450 ihp, 1 screw; 8 kts.
- Des.: William E. Smith. Built: Stevens Yard, Dundee Shipbuilders Co., Dundee, Scotland; 1901.
Despite numerous expeditions to the waters around Antarctica in the 1800s, by the close of the century the continent itself remained all but unknown. To remedy this, Britain's Royal Geographical Society proposed a National Antarctic Expedition to explore the interior by sledge. Private and public funds were raised for the construction of the purpose-built research vessel, which was modeled on the design of the whaleship Discovery (ex-Bloodhound) that had accompanied the Arctic Expedition of 1875-76. Designed to be marooned in the ice, the new Discovery had a massively built wooden hull, and was equipped with a hoisting propeller and hoisting rudder. She was also equipped with scientific laboratories and a magnetic observatory.
On August 6, 1901, she sailed from Cowes and after stops at the Cape of Good Hope and Lyttleton, New Zealand, entered the Ross Sea and discovered Edward VII Land in January 1902. Commander Robert Falcon Scott established winter quarters near Mount Erebus on Ross Island, McMurdo Sound, in early February and it was not until the following September 2 that the weather permitted the first sledge journey. Later that Antarctic summer, Scott, Ernest Shackleton, and Edward A. Wilson reached 82°16S, about 500 miles from the South Pole. Discovery remained icebound through 1902-3, but she was resupplied from the support ship Morning. Among the expedition's other accomplishments were the first flight in Antarctica, via the tethered hydrogen balloon, Eva, on February 4, 1902, and the first use of electricity in Antarctica, generated by a windmill. With help from the supply ships Morning (which had visited in 1902-3) and Terra Nova, Discovery finally broke free of the ice in February 1904, and after stops in the Balleny Islands, Macquerie Island, New Zealand, and the Falklands, arrived at Portsmouth on September 10, 1904.
The following year she was purchased by the Hudson's Bay Company and converted for use as a merchant ship. Between 1905 and 1911 she made seven voyages to Charlton Island, James Bay, at the southern end of Hudson Bay. Laid up from 1912 to 1915, during World War I and into 1920 she traded under charter to European ports from Archangel to the Black Sea, and in 1918-19 she made one last voyage to Hudson Bay. In 1916, the company loaned her to the government to rescue Shackleton's party marooned on Elephant Island after the loss of Nimrod. These men were saved before Discovery's arrival, and she loaded grain in South America for the return passage.
In 1923, she was purchased by the Crown Agents for the Colonies for an expedition to undertake "scientific research in the South Sea." Designated a Royal Research Ship, between 1925 and 1927 she cruised 37,000 miles between Cape Town, Antarctica, and Drake Strait, conducting research on whaling grounds and oceanographic surveys. Two years later, she was employed in the British, Australian, and New Zealand Antarctic Research Expedition (BANZARE), during which Sir Douglas Mawson and Hjalmar Riiser-Larsen agreed on 45°E as the boundary between Norwegian and British claims in Antarctica, and the British claimed sovereignty over all lands between 73°E and 47°E.
Discovery was laid up from 1931 to 1936, when she was acquired by the Boy Scouts Association for use as a stationary training ship and hostel at London. During World War II she was similarly employed by the Admiralty and her engines were scrapped. She reverted to the Sea Scouts in 1946, and from 1955 to 1979 was used jointly by them and the Royal Naval Reserve. Transferred to the Maritime Trust and restored to her 1925 appearance, in 1986 she was opened to the public as a museum ship in Dundee.
In the day-to-day world of Shuttle operations and processing, Space Shuttle orbiters go by a more prosaic designation. Discovery is commonly refered to as OV-103, for Orbiter Vehicle-103. Empty Weight was 151,419 lbs at rollout and 171,000 lbs with main engines installed.
Discovery benefited from lessons learned in the construction and testing of Enterprise, Columbia and Challenger. At rollout, its weight was some 6,870 pounds less than Columbia. Two orbiters, Challenger and Discovery, were modified at KSC to enable them to carry the Centaur upper stage in the payload bay. These modifications included extra plumbing to load and vent Centaur's cryogenic (L02/LH2) propellants (other IUS/PAM upper stages use solid propellants), and controls on the aft flight deck for loading and monitoring the Centaur stage. No Centaur flight was ever flown and after the loss of Challenger it was decided that the risk was too great to launch a shuttle with a fueled Centaur upper stage in the payload bay.
Discovery underwent a nine-month Orbiter Maintenance Down Period (OMDP) in Palmdale California. The vehicle was outfitted with a 5th set of cryogenic tanks and an external airlock to support missions to the international Space Station.
After the tragic destruction of the Space Shuttle Columbia, the orbiter program was grounded until mid-2005. After a major overhaul and analysis of every system and structural feature, NASA chose the Discovery orbiter to return mankind to space and re-start the space program through the "Return To Flight" program.