Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Bluebird Afloat Again

Three hundred miles an hour on water
In your purpose-built machine
No one dared to call a boat
Screaming blue
On January 4, 1967 Donald Campbell attempted to set a world speed record for boats on Coniston Water in England. His craft, like the many cars and boats raced by his father and other family members, was called Bluebird.

Campbell's target was 300 miles per hour. His first run averaged 297.6 miles per hour.
At such speeds, things fly
On the return run, at over 320 miles per hour, only 150 yards from the end of the measured mile, disaster struck. The nose of the craft got air, it flipped over, and the nose plowed into the surface of the lake. Campbell was killed and Bluebird sank.

The only reason I know about that story is that Marillion wrote a song about it, "Out of This World" (from whence the above quotes came), for their 1995 album, Afraid of Sunlight. It's a haunting song, which utilizes some of the radio transmissions from the time of the crash:

The song sparked an interest in raising Bluebird from its resting place. That happened, in 2001, with the Steves Hogarth and Rothery (Rothers providing photographic services) along for the ride.

Since then, it's been the goal to get Bluebird restored, repaired, and back on the water. Now they will have the chance, and have been given the green light for a 100 mile per hour run back on Coniston Water:
[Project director Bill Smith] added: 'This means so much to me personally because I started looking for the wreck in 1996 and to my mind it is obvious that Coniston is the right place to attempt to get it back in the water.'

'Gina [Donald Campbell's daughter] will be thrilled. She wants to see her father's memory brought to the fore. She sees this as a fitting memorial.'

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