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A Life-Boat In the Antarctic

Ix 1946 Colonel Niall Rankin, F.Z.S., F.R.P.S., F.R.G.S., of Calgary, in the Isle of Mull, went out to the island of South Georgia in the South Atlantic.

He sailed in October in a whale factory ship, taking with him a motor yacht, the Albatross, and as crew, two voung men from the Shetlands who had served in the Mercantile Marine. His intention was to spend the summer cruising round South Georgia and studying the life of Antarctic animals and birds. He tells the story of his cruise in Antarctic Isle, published by Messrs. Collins.

Search for a Boat His first care had been to find the right sort of boat for his adventure, and in 1944, when he was on sick leave from the Army, he went round a ship- ping yard on the Clyde to look at small boats requisitioned by the Admiralty on the outbreak of war. He thus describes what he saw: "They were drawn up in rows, for- lorn, deserted. I wandered round the yard among scores of such vessels.

Then I caught sight of a hull which instantly attracted me. It was dirty, the paint was cracked and chipping, and in two places it was patched with metal sheets, but it bore the unmis- takable imprint of a Royal National Life-boat. . . . Forty-two feet long and 11 feet beam, she had been built with a double skin of mahogany, about thirty years ago and had seen all her service in the north of Scotland.

Sold two years before the war she had been converted by her new owner, then, on the outbreak of hostilities had taken her place in the Clyde Patrol. . . .

This was the very craft for my purpose.

. . . An expert examined her timbers for me and pronounced them sound in every way, adding that such beautiful workmanship was rarely seen in these days." She must have been the Lady Rothes, a motor life-boat of the self- righting type, 42 feet by 11 feet 6 inches, with a 40 h.p. engine, built in 1915 and sent to Fraserburgh. She was a gift to the Institution from Mr.

T. Dyer Edwardes, of London, and he gave her "as a thank offering to Almighty God for preserving the life of my only child from a great peril on the foundering of the White Star liner Titanic in May, 1912." His child the Countess of Rothes, well deserved to have a life-boat named after her, for, said an article in The Life-boat of November, 1915: "She gave an example of coolness and courage which materially contributed to calm and comfort the boatful of terrified women and children with whom she found herself. There were only three sailors in charge and, in order to assist, Lady Rothes took the helm and held it for eight or ten hours, in spite of the cold and fatigue from which she suf- fered." The Lady Rothes remained at Fraser- burgh until 1937 when she was sold out of the Service to a purchaser at Dunbar. During her 22 years at Fraserburgh she was launched on service 66 times and rescued 65 lives.

Penguins for Zoos With this old life-boat, and his two Shetlanders, Colonel Rankin arrived on the 26th of November, 1946, at Leither Harbour, South Georgia, added to his crew a Norwegian pilot, and spent the Antarctic summer cruising round South Georgia, in what he described as "one of the smallest vessels ever to set out on a deliberate cruise in Antarctic waters." WThat he found there is graphically described in his book. On the 20th of April, 1947, he and his boat were shipped on board another whale fac- tory ship and returned to Liverpool, bringing with them, among other things, penguins which are now in the zoos of London, Edinburgh and Glasgow.

From the building yard at Cowes to Fraserburgh, from Fraserburgh to Dumbarton to be converted into a yacht, then, two years later, to war service in the Clyde Patrol, then 9,000 miles across the world to study the birds and beasts of the Antarctic! Old life-boats have gone to varied and strange duties, but none, in her old age, has had a more interesting career than the Lady Rothes of Fraserburgh..