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4 January, 2007

Make history

Forty years ago today, presumably to within a couple of hours, Bluebird K7 flipped over at 320mph on Coniston Water, killing Donald Campbell on what seemed likely to have been a successful attempt at the world water speed record.
An appropriate moment to play Marillion's 'Out Of This World' again, I think.

Bluebird K7 was recovered from the lake bed almost six years ago, but endless debates about whether to restore the craft to a pristine condition or preserve the wreck as-is have only recently been resolved. The Heritage Lottery Fund twice refused to fund the former alternative, but as the BBC reports*, the restoration project is proceeding well at last, funded privately and without HLF involvement.

See Fish-lookalike Bill Smith's wonderfully opinionated diary of the whole process for details of the engineering project and his side of the 'restore or preserve' argument.

I'm not entirely sure how I feel about it myself.
My instinctive preference would be to stabilise the remains of Bluebird K7 in her damaged state, with the crushed cockpit and outriggers. A pristine replica would be a valid project, but a different one. I still stand by the comments I made in 2005, though I have to acknowledge I may have been reacting to Gina Campbell's reportedly petulant attitude.
However, I can understand the desire to restore the original, and I have little doubt that Smith's team are conducting the project with the greatest respect for conservation of the wreck as a historical artefact. The craft is being painstakingly dismantled and an astonishing number of seemingly ruined parts are being reused rather than replaced. Even the failed faces of the original welds are being preserved, just in case future analytical techniques enable researchers to determine something of interest from them.

*: Somewhat misleadingly. The BBC's opening paragraph implies Smith just happened to find the wreck accidentally, but he had actually been searching for it!

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