HMS Unicorn - Buoyancy Project 2020

by HMS Unicorn in Dundee, Scotland, United Kingdom

We did it
On 9th October 2020 we successfully raised £20,231 ( + est. £3535.00 Gift Aid ) with 467 supporters in 35 days

HMS Unicorn is a ship of international importance. This campaign is an early project, aimed to keep the ship afloat, securing her future.

by HMS Unicorn in Dundee, Scotland, United Kingdom

New stretch target

This project sits within the first phase of a wider initiative to ultimately preserve HMS Unicorn in dry dock conditions near her current berth. Any additional funds raised will go towards realising this larger ambition for the future of this important ship.

HMS Unicorn - A Dundee Landmark

A feature of Dundee's extended waterfront since 1873 few know that HMS Unicorn is the most original old ship in the world and a key reason why we are keen to secure your support for this important crowdfunding effort. 

Built in peacetime at Chatham Dockyard, Kent HMS Unicorn launched in 1824. 


That HMS Unicorn is one of Dundee's oldest 'built' landmarks is really quite remarkable and testament to the skills and construction techniques of the time. 

When she arrived in the city, Dundee was at the height of its involvement in the jute trade, just imagine the changes she has seen over the intervening 147 years!1598549990_1598548798590.png

Ambitious plans

The care of old ships is a lengthy, continuous, increasingly specialised and expensive one.

While in remarkably good condition for a ship nearing 200 years of age it is now time to consider the long term future of the ship, so that she might continue to be enjoyed by generations to come. 


Having cared for HMS Unicorn since 1968, the Unicorn Preservation Society is now advancing plans for an ambitious project to move the Unicorn into dry dock near her current berth (see artist's impression below which captures HMS Unicorn as part of a proposed wider marina development). This move will better support ongoing conservation work, significantly slow the effects of the environment and improve access for the visiting public.


It is hoped that this wider project could be completed to coincide with HMS Unicorn's 200th birthday in 2024.

Early steps

Currently berthed approximately 50m to the West of the East Graving Dock, potentially the Unicorn's final resting place, there is considerable preparatory work to be undertaken before the ship can be moved. The success of our wider ambitions is very much dependent on careful planning and early interventions that hope to prevent further deterioration of the Unicorn's hull. 

Why we need your help

Over a very long period of time, the hogging of HMS Unicorn's hull, a condition caused by the Bow and the Stern of the ship being heavier and therefore less buoyant than the middle of the ship, has become increasingly evident.

A dive survey in July 2020 provided more detail related to the "hog" and wider areas of disrepair, including the ship's keel.

Given this deterioration, there is growing concern about the ship’s overall structural integrity and unanimous agreement amongst Trustees that immediate measures must be taken to arrest further changes to the hull’s shape and physical condition.

Description of the project

The purpose of this project is to arrest the tendency for HMS Unicorn's hull to "hog" by placing two five tonne buoyancy bags at the fore end of the ship and four at the aft end. Divers will be engaged to design and supply a support system whereby the lift provided by the buoyancy bags is spread along the keel. To achieve this the divers will need to carry out a preliminary dive to take measurements for strops and for support cradles for the line of the keel.   

Following fabrication of support cradles, a second dive would take place to install the bags so that they are placed just below the surface of the water. A compressor will be supplied so that the bags can be replenished with air from time to time, with semi-permanent hoses fitted to the bags for this purpose.

Project costs are estimated as:

Preliminary dive, includes mob/demob, crane and cradle              £ 5,894.90

Purchase & installation of 6 buoyancy bags, including cradles       £48,300.00

Operational costs for bags (12m)                                                       £ 3,036.00

Total excluding VAT                                                                             £57,230.90

The project has been anticipated to take one month to complete once commissioned albeit with weather as an unknown factor, particularly in terms of diving conditions, we have allowed for two months.

A complex project

This current project, to preserve HMS Unicorn's buoyancy, is one of the first in a complex and challenging wider project to deliver the ambition highlighted above. This larger project has a number of phases and which are shown in the diagram below.  


We ask that you consider giving to this important campaign so that we might advance this important project before winter sets in. Every pound raised will help secure the future of HMS Unicorn and even more as every £1 donated will be MATCHED up until the halfway marker. Thanks to a grant secured from the Heritage Emergency Fund, the first £15k raised will be matched. 

Thank you for considering our request.

The Unicorn Preservation Society - Project Team

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