One of the downsides to having an open-air museum is that your ‘artefacts’ are exposed to the elements, and in a subtropical climate like Durban’s that means harsh sun, serious humidity, and sometimes, exceptionally heavy rainfall. In fact the Durban harbour, which is home to the Port Natal Maritime Museum, on one occasion experienced such a deluge that volunteers and staff had to rush to the rescue of the listing ex-SA Navy minesweeper, SAS Durban, that was taking on water.
Fortunately the minesweeper was berthed alongside the ex-harbour steam tug, JR More, whose support prevented the SAS Durban from capsizing. The navy ship had been barred to visitors for some time on account of the rotten condition of her decks, which allowed the rainwater to enter the ship.
Realising that there was a need for urgent maintenance of not only the SAS Durban, but also a number of the other exhibits that make up the museum, earlier this year the Maritime Museum set about restoring their various vessels. Later this month the JR More will slip her moorings and set out across the harbour to the floating dock of SA Shipyards, for a much-needed hull inspection and general refit.
The harbour tug, Ulundi, also in need of some love, is being restored in situ at the museum as it’s unable to go for dry docking. New steel plates have been fitted to the tug, replacing rusted sections.
And of course there are plans in place to restore the SAS Durban to her former glory – hopefully restoration will be complete before the summer showers arrive and wreak havoc all over again!
Images courtesy of www.sanavalfraternity.org