Celebrations to mark the 40th anniversary of ss Great Britain's return to Bristol Dock begin

It has been 40 years since Brunel‘s ocean liner, ss Great Britain, was rescued from the seabed off the coast of the Falkland Islands.

The BBC is marking the anniversary with a range of programmes on radio and TV charting the extraordinary efforts of the team who worked tirelessly to bring her back to Bristol, where she was first launched in 1843.

A documentary called When Brunel’s Ship Came Home, available on BBC iplayer from 12 to 19 July 2010, pieces together archive footage and personal memories of the people involved in the tricky salvage effort in 1970.

The 322ft oceanliner had lain rusting on the seabed in Sparrow Cove since she was scuttled in 1937 and the huge masts made it difficult for the team to raise the boat.

Malcolm Macleod, a Royal Marine who was stationed in the Falkland Islands and helped out with the operation, watched the boat rise out of the water onto the floating pontoon which would take her the 8000 miles back to the UK.

“There was a moment when the bow of the ship broke surface and the sun was shining on the bow.”

“The bow of the Great Britain is like a clipper ship. It’s a really beautiful piece of naval architecture covered in barnacles. I was just completely spellbound by that sight”.

The anniversary will also be marked with a new exhibiton, opening on 17 July 2010, curated by the ss Great Britain Trust.

The ss Great Britain’s Director Matthew Tanner MBE commented, “The ss Great Britain’s salvage captured the world’s imagination but she could so easily have remained in the Falkland Islands, abandoned and breaking up in Sparrow Cove.”

“Today the ss Great Britain is regarded as a national treasure and Bristol icon, recognised internationally and with many prestigious awards. None of this would have been possible without the heroic vision of a few and the support of many.”

For more information see the ss Great Britain website.

Picture credit: Dave Hamster