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The Forgotten Years

Hudson Bay Company

In January 1905, Discovery was sold to the Hudson’s Bay Company for £10,000; a fraction of her cost. Discovery was placed in a graving dock for repair, refit and adaptation for use as a cargo vessel. From 1906-1911, Discovery undertook the yearly run from London across the Atlantic to the Hudson Strait into the Hudson Bay and south to James Bay, to unload at Charlton Island. In 1912, Discovery was replaced as the Hudson Bay supply ship, and in October 1913, it was agreed to sell Discovery. A deposit was paid for an expedition which never sailed; the expedition leader dying in 1915 aboard the torpedoed ship, the Lustiania. For the time, she remained owned by the Hudson Bay Company.

Discovery in polar conditions under Hudson Bay Company ownership (DUNIH 2017.7)

First World War and Russia

In the First World War, Russia became isolated due to blockade by Germany. Archangel in the White Sea became a key port for vital resources. As a northern port, Russia needed icebreakers to sail into Archangel – theirs being blockaded by Germany. Discovery was identified as suitable for this task and began to carry munitions to Russia under the code Steamer No. 141. For a time, she was loaned for the rescue of Shackleton.

After his rescue in 1917, Discovery carried supplies to the White Russians during the Russian Civil War. At the end of the hostilities, various companies chartered Discovery for work in the Atlantic. However, outdated and outclassed by more modern merchant vessels, she was laid up until being given to the 16th Stepney Sea Scout troop in 1922 until 1925.


In 1916, a Shackleton Relief Advisory Committee was set up to rescue Shackleton and the crew of Endurance. They recommended the despatch of Discovery to examine the shores of the Weddell Sea. When news came from Shackleton in May 1916 it was thought a rescue vessel would be found from nearby. However, no ship was available, and Shackleton asked for the Discovery to be sent to rescue Shackleton’s party who had become marooned on Elephant Island. The Hudson Bay Company loaned the Discovery free of charge for this voyage.

Discovery began her voyage to rescue Shackleton on the 10th of August 1916. Meanwhile, the Yelcho, a small Chilean naval vessel, was successful in rescuing the crew of the Endurance. Therefore, at Montevideo the journey was no longer needed, as the stranded men had been rescued. Discovery returned to her work as a cargo vessel.

Endurance (ROY.30.1.62)

Uncover more stories from Discovery’s ‘Forgotten Years’ here at Discovery Point! Walk aboard Captain Scott’s famous ship, and step back in time through our interactive galleries.

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