Friday 13th April 2001Perfect day to go diving, Friday 13th but we were all safely back on board Predator by the time we realised. Our mission for the Easter weekend was to carry out a "forensic" survey of the impact site. This is the area where Bluebird actually hit the water. In order to do a good job we wanted to deploy a lighting rig put together by our resident inventor Graeme Connacher. When he's not making home made ROV's he's wiring something else up. In this case a four legged "tripod" with 2000watts of lighting power. We were a little sceptical of his creation due to the fact that there seemed to be enough power going to it to light a small town and the whole thing was submerged. It was a bad idea to point this out though, he spent rather a long time explaining the finer points of the design involved in the electrical side of it all and precisely why we wouldn't all get fried as soon as we touched it.We had to firstly position the thing in the middle of the impact site. Blustery wind and a malfunctioning sonar made it a bit difficult. After being blown off station a couple of times we finally had to resort to floating it just above the lake bed suspended beneath a buoy on the surface. Beanie then had to swim about the lake pulling it behind him while we watched its image on scanning sonar. When it was perfectly positioned, Beanie cut it loose and it dropped exactly on target. Oh did I mention that it's 140ft down? Bill and Beanie made a quick dive to look about after we'd had an ROV check that it was upright and that all the lights worked. So far so good.

Saturday 14th April 2001 Two dives by Carl and Beanie today, they took a large plastic container to the bottom and set it in the silt next to the tripod / quadruped lighting rig. They then set about placing small pieces of wreckage in the box. Trouble is that the lake bed is so soft that we had to drive an ROV up to a piece of wreckage and park it there. Once the target is lifted that's about the end of the dive. These are short dives, only about 10 minutes bottom time. The water temperature in the lake has risen to a sweltering 6 degrees Celsius so hypothermia is a little longer setting in.Sunday 15th April 2001 What foot and mouth crisis? Coniston was teeming with holidaymakers today. Once again Carl and Beanie jumped in for the first dip. We've got a new technique. We send a swimming camera down to spot a tempting target, then we send a diver down to grab it and throw it into the box. By the time this has been done there is no visibility whatsoever so the divers just hang on the lighting frame and kick their feet for a while to blow the mud away. The frame is huge so it covers a large area, it doesn't matter where you hang on and kick. When the muck settles again we can send an ROV in to sniff out new bits that were uncovered by all the kicking. There are lots of little smashed pieces lying in the mud.Dive two was carried out by Beanie and Bill, it's a weird sensation dropping through that water. It goes from brightly daylit but green, through brown to absolute blackness by 25metres. It's deathly silent and very still, the only sounds are from the workings of the rebreathers. Gentle plop plop of the one way valves in the breathing loop and the hiss of oxygen as its injected by the computers. At about 32metres there is a green glow below that gets brighter and brighter until suddenly there is a huge area of floodlit lakebed. It's like something out of the abyss. Out on the end of its umbilical sits a small ROV, parked on the mud patiently shining its lights on the next object to be recovered. It's a case of getting your buoyancy sorted so that you're a bit light. Then very gently swim down to the mud, grab the target and float gently upwards without moving a muscle. Even then, the silt boils up as soon as you go near it. Swim back to the box, drop the item in and run for home. We closed the box before we left so that it wouldn't fill up with silt during the night.

 

Monday 16th April 2001We were supposed to take the boat to Ullswater today, we've got a quick job to do there so we set out to clear our junk from the lake bed. Before we started pulling on lines however we like to check for tangles. Down went our new ROV for a final look, we're practising with it so we sent it for a peek. There were no tangles but sticking out of the mud was a piece of perspex exposed by yesterdays thrashing about. We've looked high and low for any sign of the cockpit canopy without success. It could have gone anywhere and it's very important to the crash analysis so there was no option but to go down and grab it just in case it was a piece of canopy. Once again Beanie and Bill kitted in and went to the bottom. Our piece of plastic lay at the outer fringe of the impact site so the floodlights were not much use out there. It was strange therefore to find the ROV with its lights off. Curious thought I, Beanie grabbed the bit of plastic, the visibility blew away and I crashed into the mud. I could feel all sorts of odd things under my hands but there was too much silt to see them. I moved up above the mud and wafted away at it as hard as I could. This reduced the water to impenetrable black ink. We rose above it until we could see the lights and set off for the surface. I was all excited at the strange things I'd felt in the mud and couldn't wait to send the ROV in for a look. Friday 13th had caught up with us, our generator had disassembled itself all over the deck and the ROV had flooded. It had thrusters and video but no lights, our lighting rig had a failed generator. We opened up the ROV and poured the water out but it was out of service for the day and we couldn't get our replacement quickly. We lifted our equipment off the lake bed and set off for home but amongst other things our box contained the first piece of cockpit canopy that the lake has given up. We'll have to go back now and see what else is on that site.There is a good diary piece on the Marillion website written by Steve Hogarth who of course wrote the song that inspired this whole enterprise. He was there with us when the boat was raised and his account makes fascinating reading. There should be a link here somewhere.Wednesday 18th April 2001Had to go to work today before there's no work to go to! we've all lived and breathed this project for so long that we're all in danger of getting the sack.Mud sucking will resume tomorrow, there's still a bit to do but all the front of the hull is cleared out, at some point we need to lift the boat off the cradle and straighten her up, that cradle will likely be her permanent display cradle and she's a bit skewed on it, that'll be a fun afternoon.Here are a few shots from the bottom of the lake just to give an idea of how horrid it is down there, these are stills from the underwater footage shot by divers and ROV's during the recovery operation.We've got another couple of distinguished visitors tomorrow so we'll post some info about their visit. 

A request from Bill
Could everyone E Mail everyone in your address book with this address
Let's see if we can beat lasts months figures of 10051 hits in March

Thursday 19th April 2001We were visited by Anthony "Rob" Robinson today. Rob, as we've always known him grew up with Donald around and referred to him as Uncle Donald.Rob's Mother, Connie Robinson owned the Sun Hotel in 1966 / 67 and Rob was out on the lake in the safety boat with Leo when the crash occurred. Rob was also one of the handful who helped Donald get Bluebird out on Christmas day 1966. He now owns and runs the Coniston Lodge Hotel with his wife Liz. Anyone who's seen "Across the Lake" will have seen the real Robbie transporting his younger self about the lake in a small motor boat, very confusing!Rob is working very hard to get the boat back to Coniston, along with the museum folk, planning people and the Campbell family. He'll do it if anyone will.When Bluebird was first lifted, Rob asked us if he could clean her off with a long brush before she came out of the lake, we knew what the paint was doing and suggested that it wasn't such a good idea. Rob grinned his familliar grin today as he got a close look at the fragile paint and agreed that it probably had been the right decision. It was good to see that grin resored, Rob was a bit upset on the day of the lift, I think he was affected by it more than most.We spent a while poking round in the back of the boat looking for the lead ballast weights that he'd cast and bolted in there to get the boat up on the plane, there was also a tale I seem to recall about a church roof coming off second best in the lead procurement exercise, you'll have to tell me that one again Rob, and I'll post it up here.We've spent many a happy weekend at Rob's place, we were convinced that he sent us off on several wild goose chases so that we'd keep coming back and staying at his hotel, and we were equally convinced that he knew exactly where the wreck was, even going so far as to accuse him of having it stashed under a sheet in his garage. His suggestion that we catch a young pike from the lake and train it to sniff out aluminium was not particulary helpful. When we finally re-located Bluebird, he said "Well at least you earned it" Everyone who ever visits Coniston should stay with Rob and Liz so that they can have the breakfast! Apart from the big plate of Cumberland suasage, bacon, eggs tomatoes etc, there are delicious little touches like home made marmalade and bread with apricots in it. mmmmmmmm"Corporal" Paul Evans was also supposed to be coming over today but he was feeling unwell so we'll have to see him another time. He really badly wants his radio back but we haven't found it yet, apparently, it still belongs to the British Army! Can't imagine they'll still have a use for it.

Robbie inspects the engine and our wreck site map

Weekend of 21 / 22 April, We had a well earned break this weekend, the sonar has gone away for repair, We've got a flooded ROV that's had to go back under warranty. My rebreather is dropping to bits, which always worries me a bit when I remember that the instruction book refers to it as "life support equipment" and the boat is in need of some maintenance. Providing that the kit is repaired for next weekend, it'll be business as usual.Hopefully, I've got a copy of the original divers report from 1967 on the way, it'll be interesting to see how the two surveys compare. I've been looking back through some of the sonar data. We surveyed most of the cockpit wreckage over the winter and I've been working out the order in which it separated.It seems that Bluebird hit whilst facing slightly to the right, the floor went first, it was ripped down over and it separated at the back of the cockpit, then went the right hand cockpit wall as it was blown outwards from the inside, it departed to the right. The back end of the right hand sponson smashed through the side of the boat aft of the main spar and the right hand sponson crashed into the front left side of the cockpit. The left hand cockpit wall hung on a bit longer and finally detached to the right, whilst the complete front spar came back over and smashed through the cockpit canopy before glancing off the water and flying 130 metres to the north and all this took place in that first eruption of water. By the time the boat became visible again it was all over. I've written a proper crash analysis accounting for the wreckage distribution to form a chapter of my book, which is well on the way to being finished (I never thought I'd say that!)We're all off to see Marillion on the 19th May in Manchester, with a bit of luck all the team will be there and I've no doubt that Steve Hogarth will have something to say about the project, he might even sing "Three hundred miles an hour on water" etc etc. If we ask him nicely.Hopefully we'll see a few of you there.

"Corporal" Paul Evans visits Pictures Courtesy of Mark Evans

Tuesday 24th April 2001We've got a new mission! After much deliberation we've decided that the tail end must come off the boat to get the mud out. The entire engine compartment is clear now but from the back of the engine bay to the tail is still pretty full. We can't get it out but we can't leave it in there either. One thing that all our museum, conservation boffin types agree on is that the mud must go, but short of cutting a large hole in the underside (museum boffins don't like this idea) there's no way to get in there. I must speak to Ken about this failure in his design!There is only one alternative and that's to remove the tail end. It does actually come off, or at least it did once upon a time. It appears to be held on with the same quick release fasteners that hold the engine cover, the same cover that is twice as long as the tail section and which would demolish the tail anyway if it ever got loose at speed. However, it's not held on with those things at all, it's got 30 million screws that are only pretending to be quick release. They are seized solid despite being soaked in WD 40 for a month. We set about them tonight. Most of them gave in quite easily but they are in two rows down each side. We theorised that we could remove either both top rows, both bottom rows or one top and one bottom row. After much swearing, sweating and several shattered screwdriver tips we got both top rows loose but the back end remained as solidly fixed as ever. That's when we discovered the 10 million bolts going down into the space frame on either side of the rear section.To be continued!I got a copy of the official diving report from January 1967 today. It was written by CDR John Futcher and as well as a map of the crash site, it details the search that was carried out for Donalds' body. It's interesting stuff. I'll digest it and write a brief comparison between their efforts and our own. It filled in a lot of blanks for us, I'll write it up properly for the book. One of the original dive team came to visit last week, he'll be back soon to spend some time with the wreck and fill in some more blanks.Monday 30th April 2001We've been a bit busy these last few days so the updates have been a long time coming. We achieved very little at the weekend on the lake, we're still hampered by the fact that much of our survey kit is being overhauled after the abuse it took over the winter. We did a bit of diving in the lake but the water was filthy. Visibility was down to about half a metre and that was with 6 torches all pointing in the same direction. Too dangerous!!We finally found the lead ingots that were placed in the back of the boat to get her up onto the plane in 1966. Robbie had a good look round in there for them but they were under the mud in the back beneath the jetpipe. I think that a certain Mr Heath Robinson must have been project director that day!"bits of lead pipe melted down in biscuit tins, tut tut tut, what'll it be next? icebergs?" He forgot to mention that the melted pipe in the biscuit tins was held in with a couple of bits of threaded bar bent into a "U" shape and passed round one of the spaceframe members. The four ends of the threaded bar were then passed through holes in the lead ingots and the whole lot was pulled down with nuts and washers. There's also a bit of string tied to the end of one of the threaded bars that disappears forewards into the mud and squashed buoyancy bag filled bay ahead of the transom. Goodness only knows what the string is attached to or why it's there. Can't wait to dig it out.Despite it's makeshift appearance, the whole lot stayed put in a 200+ knot crash so Robbie did a good job of bolting it all in place. Must ask him what the string was for though.We also succeeded in getting the tail off, in a session lasting late into the night, (Leo would have been proud of us!) we tackled the 10 million 7/16 UNF bolts that held it on and I'm delighted to report that we loosened every single one. There was no drilling, chiseling, grinding, burning gear or any of the other things we considered. It was accomplished using screwdrivers and spanners. Having said that, if it was possible to released seized fasteners by swearing at them, they would all have leapt from their threads and into the box!!!as if 10 million rusted bolts after 34 years of immersion in water wasn't a big enough challenge in itself, they were all in the most inaccesible positions imaginable. There are a series of openings along the side once the 20 million screws have been removed and the strips of aluminium that they hold are lifted away. Each opening is about seven inches long and two inches high. There are two bolts going down into the top of the spaceframe at the rear of each opening and one going back over towards the engine. It doesn't matter what type of spanner, socket, pliers or whatever else you apply to the bolt heads, they will not give more than about one eighth of a turn at any one time. They fought us for every turn as we struggled in the tiny access hatches provided to get at them. I couldn't help but think of the old joke about the gynaecologist who papered his hall through the letterbox!We can now get at the last of the mud in the hull, we'll also have to check out the fire extinguishers, they might be full and we don't even know what they used to contain. There are dozens of flotation bags under the engine, presumably they were blown there in the crash as they would have presented a serious fire hazard under the jetpipe. They are either crushed flat or filled with water, all they need is a goldfish in them. We'll also brush the corrosion out of the underside of the cover, etch prime it and give it a new coat of silver paint. Can't wait to line up the 10 million bolts and 20 million screws!!

Lead and string in the rear hull

The tail removed for mud sucking

Tuesday 1st May 2001We were visited by John Getty of PDS Engineering and Glynn Bowsher today. Although they weren't directly involved with Bluebird, they are seriously involved in the Quicksilver project. They brought a beautiful cast resin model of the new boat to show me. I carefully placed it on top of the photocopier whilst explaining that they would forget to take it away and I could then keep it. They explained that the last thing they would do would be to leave without it, so the last thing they did was leave without it. Thanks guys it looks great on the office desk.Quicksilver is being built of a similar material to the old Bluebird and we have an example of a genuine accident. Tragic as it was, it provided the engineers with vital information that can be used in the new project to improve safety. Glynn had a serious look at Bluebirds engine mountings and showed me some excellent pics of Quicksilver's partially complete spaceframe. We also discussed rescue scenarios and the problems with staying alive in that lake. We've probably got more experience than anyone of putting divers down in the deeper parts of Coniston water and we certainly have an unrivalled knowledge of what's down there. Hopefully we can be of assistance to the team.

John and Glynn inspect the cockpit

The tail's off at last
After getting the bolts that hold the tail on out we're looking for a gynaecologist to put them back in

Wednesday 2nd May 2001 Mud mud all around, apart that is from the dozens of flotation bags that have filled with crystal clear lake water. They appear to be perfectly sealed only full of water. It was difficult to slurp the mud out of the engine compartment because of all the stator blades in the bottom and it's buoyancy bags in the back end. There are also bits of wood, cardboard and what appears to be one of Donald's old shirts that's been stuffed in a hole and is now soaked in paraffin. The fumes were overpowering when it came out. Our mysterious piece of string extends forewards through the next two bays from its anchorage on the lead ingots, without revealing what it's tied to, the next bay is full of mud still but there are only two to go. In one of them is the hydraulic equipment for the water brake which is mounted low down in the hull on the left hand side. Opposite that on the right hand side is a strange box with its lid held on with seatbelt type material. I think we'll have to peer in there tomorrow. There is only one tricky bit left to clean now. There are, or rather were, two heatshields made by Mr Heath Robinson and clashed in the most haphazard fashion into the lower hull. We pulled them out and threw them on the floor. Foreward of them is a proper heatshield that is part of the structure and it obviously harks back to the Beryl installation. It's sure to be full of mud but there's no way of getting in there. We'll think of something. Does anyone want a buoyancy bag? They're stinking of mud and paraffin with about 3 pints of water in each. The perfect present for Christmas or Birthdays! For an extra few quid we'll put a goldfish in there.

Flotation bags

Bill points to the lead

Hull sucked out

8th May 2001At last, the mud is all cleaned out of the hull. We jacked up the front end of the cradle to make the water (and mud) run to the back where the hull is fairly tight. Then we installed a long length of piping from the inside of the hull at the rear to the drain outside and finally we set about the inside of the hull with a pressure washer.It's absolutely spotless in there now! It's probably cleaner than it ever was if the bits of old rag wedged in among everything are anything to go by. There was obviously a fuel leak or quite a spillage because the rags are soaked in paraffin and it stinks when they are pulled out, that's as well as the detrimental effect that they have on the hoover from hell.We also got to the other end of the mysterious bit of string that's tied to one of the bolts holding the lead ingots. It goes foreward through three frames until it turns right and extends across the boat under the turbine. Then it turns right again and comes all the way back to the stern of the boat where it's tied off to a piece of box section. It was complimented with a piece of wood about 18 inches by 4 inches by half an inch thick which was shoved between the underside of the jetpipe and the heatshields. It all seems to be the means by which the additional heat shielding material (which is still on the floor waiting to be hosed off and put back) was secured into the lower hull. It was tied in with string and wedged down with a bit of wood! What was it Donald said about "advanced engineering"!!What on earth are we going to do with all those filthy buoyancy bags as well? I suppose they could go back in there but they'll need a good wash first. In actual fact they were a complete waste of time. If the boat had flooded they would have been easily pushed under the surface where they would have collapsed due to water pressure almost immediately.Now that the rest of the mud is out of there we'll have to wait for it all to dry properly, it'll get a coat of clear wax and we can think about putting the tail back on.Our survey boat "Predator" left Coniston on Saturday, she's on Ullswater at the moment on another job. There are still some bits of Bluebird on the bottom of Coniston water and we'll return to pick them up later in the year.

Predator leaves Coniston

Bill and Beanie arrive at Ullswater

 

The team Cruise to Howtown for a night out

Novie disciplines the team

Cleaning of the inner hull is almost complete, it's spotless in there now. We'll put the heatshields back in (under their string!) and put the tail back on again.I keep hearing the same question, "how much is this costing?" the reality is that it's costing no more than it takes to power a few fluorescent tubes and buy a few tins of WD40. There are one or two other chemicals but in all honesty it amounts to so little that it's not worth discussing. It's all been done under expert guidance so if there was anything expensive I would have been told about it long ago. This whole project has been handled by volunteer enthusiasts and it's quite disgusting that money should be constantly brought into it.We discovered a spanner in the bottom of the hull, it is exactly the right size for the 10 million bolts!! how's that for irony. It presumably belonged to Leo or Donald. I'd love to know what was said when it clattered down into the lower recesses of the hull. It was perfectly preserved by all the spilled paraffin down there. It's almost time to put the tail and the engine cover back on. There's a bit of work to do on the paintwork but the situation is that Bluebird is now in a position where if left untouched, she will be perfectly OK. It would be possible to work on her forever depending on what level of restoration is chosen but that can be done by vounteers when she gets to the museum. Grants will be available for any further work should the services of a professional conservation expert be required. All we need now is for the powers that be to give permission for the museum to house her and work can begin to "home port" her in Coniston village.

The hull is as clean as it gets

Genuine bluebird spanner

Friday 18th MayToday we were visited by Ken Norris and his friend Alan Tallet. What can I say about Ken, in the world of speed record breaking, the successes of Ken and Lew Norris will be a hard act to follow.Both Ken and Alan are real characters, they told us a delightful story of their efforts to fly a plane with which neither of them were familliar. They couldn't find the switch for the instrument lights nor could they find some of the essential flight controls, to make matters worse, neither of them knew the flying characteristics of the aircraft and it was getting dark. They took it aloft anyway with the aid of Ken's pocket torch and a convenient full moon. They finally decided that it would be a good idea to put it down again and by taking advantage of the moonlight, they landed it safely although by that time they were without the help of Ken's torch. Its batteries had gone flat.Is it any surprise that Ken was able to make speed record vehicles work?To be Continued.

Ken and Alan inspect some of the cockpit

Ken shows Bill a model of Bluebirds' spaceframe

19th May 2001The Bluebird Project team enjoyed a fantastic night at the Marillion gig in Manchester. We were looked after by the band, for those who don't know this already, it was one of their songs that inspired the Bluebird Project in the first place. It's called "Out of This World" from the album "Afraid of Sunlight" and it's a sad haunting song about Donald Campbell and Bluebird. The guys played it on Saturday and it got a fantastic reception from the fans that packed out the Manchester Academy. As well as that we discovered that there's a big thanks to the Bluebird Project in the sleeve of the new album "Anoraknaphobia". We ate too many kebabs, drank too much cheap lager and ended up a little worse for wear.When we'd recovered sufficiently to get moving we moved in slow convoy to Coniston for Sunday dinner in the Black Bull. Later we were joined by "Corporal" Paul Evans and his good Lady. We hired a painfully slow electric boat from the long suffering Dave Coxon at the boating centre and went for a cruise down to the crash site. We expect to be back on the lake next week with a boatload of refurbished kit to lift a couple of interesting bits. Of course, we'll let you all know how it goes.

Steve Hogarth and Marillion at Manchester Academy

23rd May 2001Today we travelled to London to have a sneak preview of the documentary. It is currently scheduled to appear on BBC1 on Tuesday June 12 at 9.00pm so make sure that you're either in the house or that your video is set.Our producer man, Mike Rossiter has been back in his true environment for a few weeks now that the project is finished and he's got over his hypothermia. He's been working night and day to put together a programme that captures the true spirit of what we've been trying to achieve and it's amazing. He may be a little lost when it comes to the technicalities of mixed gas rebreather diving but he knows his way around a cutting room and the part of the programme where Bluebird comes out of the water is very emotional. Each to their own eh?We checked out the finished product just in case there were any glaring technical errors and apart from a mention of "oxygen narcosis" which does not commonly afflict divers, it was flawless. (Told you he wasn't a diver though)There is one beautiful scene where Tonia and I are looking over the side of the barge at the wreck hanging on it's bags. The tailfin is out of the water and Bluebird's outer casing is awash, there are press, divers, sightseers and police everywhere and I say "Well, would Donald have enjoyed all this????"You'll just have to watch the documentary to see what she had to say but it made us both smile.Actually, one thing that gratified me immensely, watching the film, is the fact that everyone is excitied and smiling. I didn't have time to notice on the day, we were just too highly strung, exhausted and detached from reality to take it all in. There are some very sad people out there who interpret any sort of joviality as a subtle form of disrespect towards Donald Campbell. They forget that he was as much into drinking and womanising as the worst of us, yet he was a most caring, kind, and generous man who could have been anything that he wanted to be. His bravery and determination went so very far beyond what most individuals could ever hope to match. He loved and lived life to the full. He was spectacular in his life and even more spectacular in his death. Having met most of his family and friends over the past few months I think I'm in a position to comment. Why should we all walk about with long faces because he died? it's certainly not what he would have wanted.I must get round to telling more tales of Ken's visit, maybe tomorrow.We can confirm that at 12 noon on May 28th 2001, we recovered to the surface of Coniston water, a body that we believe at this time to be that of Donald Campbell. This is of course, subject to official confirmation and doubtless we will be informed in due course by the media.We carried out a detailed and systematic survey with the intention of locating Donald's body and we did so at the request of Gina Campbell. She asked us to get her Dad back and as far as we were concerned, if Gina wanted him back then we were going to make every effort to locate him.The body was very carefully recovered in strict accordance with a plan designed between the local Coroner ourselves and the Police. Once recovered the casket was draped with a Union Flag and brought ashore at Pier Cottage, the place from which Donald left in 1967.Everyone involved in the recovery was in total agreement that it was the right thing to do and now Donald can be given a fitting funeral. He will finally be able to rest in peace for there could never be any peace at the bottom of that grim lake with his family wondering what became of him5th June 2001It's been a bit of a while since the diary was updated but it's been a bit of a fraught time with one thing and another. We just about remained afloat in the Sunday press with a scathing attack in the Express balanced by Gina's contribution in the Times. It was more or less expected. If I'm to be absolutely honest, I did once say to Tonia that I wouldn't look for Donald but I never made any promises. Gina asked the team to "Find her Dad" she said "I want to put him somewhere warm" How could we say no? Gina was abroad when her Dad was killed, by the time she returned he'd simply ceased to exist and she's never had a chance to say goodbye to him properly. We were all touched by this and we were in an excellent position to achieve what Gina wanted. There is no justice in this life and we knew that we'd upset someone whichever way we turned, but the bottom line is that wives can come and go, an only Daughter and her Dad is a slightly more enduring relationship. There really was no contest. Against all the odds, we successfully recovered Donald's gold St Christopher from around his neck. Gina had asked us many times whether we thought we could get it back. All I could say was "don't hold your breath". After all it was a tiny gold medal on a piece of cord. It was inscribed "To Donald from Daddy, Nov 1940". When we brought it aboard the boat, five grown men cried. As long as I live I will never forget Gina's face when we gave her that little gold medal on the end of the jetty at Pier Cottage from which her Dad had left 34 years earlier. Of course there are a few bitter and twisted individuals who have attacked us but they still seem to check the website regularly and feel the need to write in our guestbook. Don't suppose they'll watch the documentary though.We're hoping that when the Coroner is finished, Donald can be buried in the cemetary in Coniston near to Connie Robinson and her family. It's generally agreed that she'll be able to keep him in order and there will also be a place where his many admirers can pay their respects, place flowers, spend a quiet moment or whatever. He deserves a fabulous send off, long overdue and much deserved.We haven't forgotten the boat in all of this. Work on her is still going ahead. Now that the lower hull is clean and shiny, we've turned our attention to the upper sections. There is corrosion on the underside of both the tail section and the engine cover though the material is essentially sound.We were asking Tony James and Bill Vanryne about their work on the boat in 1966 and in particular about how the exposed aluminium surfaces were treated prior to painting. They used a chemical which they called "SH 1T" and horror of horrors it was green! despite the fact that Donald hated green, he was totally surrounded by it every time he got into his boat. After much asking around the paint industry, we discovered that SH 1T, is in actual fact a two pack phosphate acid etch primer or something. To cut a long story short, it's lethal. As we've endured enough danger to our health during the course of this project, it was decided to go for a less harmful chemical. The underside of the tail has been cleaned off (300 toothbrushes later) and two coats of our new type SH 1T have been applied (Spose we ought to call it SH 2T). It comes in a particulary appropriate brown colour. When it's dry we'll give it a coat of silver paint and it'll be as good as new. someone can bugger about for a week with a finishing tap in all those thousands of cruddy threads so that the bolts will go back in without the struggle. We'll use Leo's spanner to tighten them down and if it gets dropped back in the hull, it's staying there!!

Bill applies SH2T

SH2T applied to the top two sections

Well, wasn't that documentary a fantastic piece of work? All we did was to run the project as best we could whole these irritating individulas with cameras and what appeared to be a dead sheep on a pole followed us about. They would make our boat handling difficult so that they could have the sunlight where it suited them and they would wait until we'd just concluded an in depth planning meeting before saying "could you just have that conversation again?"But what a result! the finished programme had over 6 million viewers and from what I can tell, they all cried when we brought Donald ashore. The project was beautifully represented, the documentary showed it exactly as it happened and for that we must thank our producer man, Mike Rossiter who spent the whole time bundled up in a strange red hat (almost as strange as mine) saying either "what's going on?" or "what we gonna do?" It seems that he knew what he was doing all along.As for the project, next we have to wait and see what sort of send off our hero is going to get, hopefully it'll be truly spectacular, it should be a true celebration of everything Donald ever was. We've still got some stuff to do to the boat and now that the Coniston end of the project is over we can arrange for some of the volunteers who've offered their services to come over and give us a hand. That should be fun! Our friends Novie and Paul can come up and get their anoraks dirty!19th June 2001 Bit of a slow week in the Bluebird dept. Last friday we brought Predator back over to the North East. She's a very sorry boat after 9 months of abuse in the Lakes. We'll have to give her a good going over before we start our activities in the sea.At the moment I've got the street looking like a yacht marina, we'll have to get it sorted before the neighbours come back off their holidays or there'll be Hell on!I had a good old chat with the Coroner this week, we're about a fortnight or three weeks away from a result on the DNA testing. Although there isn't any real doubt that we recovered Donald, the Coroner is going to perform his duties very thoroughly so that there will never be any controversy about the matter again. Can't balme him for that. This DNA testing business is interesting, it seems that it doesn't actually prove the identity of the person so much as lengthen the odds of it being anyone else to such an extent that you got to believe it. It works best if samples can be taken from two very close relatives but it is also dependent upon the pathologists being able to extract enough source material from the person being identified. If the testing proves inconclusive for any reason, the Coroner will have to open an inquest and the divers will most likely have to give evidence to support the identification. That ought to be fun.We've had an offer to repair the damaged pitot head from the tail by the company that manufactured it in the first place. For those of you who don't know already, we went to extraordinary lengths to ensure that the tail came out of the water undamaged. When the top of the tail came up between the bags there was not so much as a scratch on the paint. We reckoned without a low branch on the way home though, and our precious pitot head ended up bent. If we can remove it without damage it's going to be properly refurbished but as with everything on the boat it's held on with the regulation 3 million screws

Predator comes home for a refit after months of abuse on Coniston

 

Friday 6th July 2001 Hi all,sorry for the absence, two main reasons for this. Firstly there isn't a great deal of activity within the project and secondly we're all still trying to catch up after 9 months in Coniston.I have been checking the guestbook and a couple of things in there are worthy of comment. There is an entry there that suggests that we get the boat out of our factory and into a situation where it can be properly preserved and displayed. With regard to her preservation. She spent 34 years ( a very short period of time from an arcaeological point of view) in a virtually oxygen free environment. She is constructed mostly of aluminium which has remained in excellent condition. Much of her blue paint is still on though inevitably some of it will be lost. Unfortunately there is little that can be done about it and in actual fact, all of the conservation experts that I have spoken with agree that paint is sacrificial. It would be unheard of to try and preserve a car, aircraft or indeed a boat without giving it a fresh new coat of paint. We have treated the Union Flags and the Bluebird logos with a consolidant called Paraloid B73 so they at least will remain original. The undersides of the tail and engine cover panels have been cleaned and painted with etch primer and the hull has been cleaned of mud. We were visited this week by a student of consrevation who is going to spend a couple of weeks writing a proper plan for the preservation work. This plan will be passed to whoever gets the job when she finally makes it to a museum. One thing though that is absolutely certain, Bluebird could sit in the factory for another 34 years and suffer no ill effects. She is stable and will not deteriorate any further.Of course we would like to get her into a museum but these things take time. The wheels are turning, there is an application for planning permission in place for the Ruskin museum in Coniston to build an extension but you can probably guess that it will take some time yet. We'll get her there in the end.Another interesting discussion on the guestbook is this question of Donald not refuelling and it's possible contribution to the accident. It is well established that he had come back without refuelling on several occasions, Christmas day being one of them, and he'd got away with it. Although it has not been mentioned for a while, the most likely cause of the accident remains the failure of the front engine mount. We had a full metalurgical examination carried out on the part, as well as comparing it to the Rolls Royce drawings of the original installation. (Bristol were taken over by RR who still support the engine.) We had the drawings faxed over via the AAIB. The facts are these.

   

1. The upper engine mount was NOT the original Bristol part, it had been re-designed in such a way that the angles through which it acted and the forces it had to transmit, were completely different to those envisaged in the original design intent of the part2. Metalurgical examination proved that although the part was machined from a solid billet of 40 ton steel, the lack of material around the bearing at the top mount made the part almost exactly half as strong as the original.3. Both locking nuts were missing from the adjustable rod that formed the engine mount. Although this wouldn't necessarily contribute to a failure of the upper mount, it does suggest that the build quality wasn't all that it should have been.4. The mount failed in completely the opposite direction to that in which it would have gone in the crash. There is severe impact damage to the top of the jetpipe that could have only occurred if the engine was free to move on its middle mounts.5. All of the engineers who have looked at the forward engine mount installation have declared it completely inadequate for the boat installation. It would work in a plane but not in the boat with the severe shock loading associated with high speeds on water.6. This mount was the only means by which the damping effect of the engine was transmitted to the hull. The gyroscopic effect of the rotating part of the engine provided a great deal of damping to the pitching movements of the boat. Without the foreward mount, the boat would rapidly become unstable.What is most likely is that Donald hit the wash from his first run and the front engine mount let go at its top fixing. This would allow the boat to pitch around the engine which could no longer provide any damping effect. It wouldn't take long before the wind got under the front end and picked it up. Donald would almost certainly feel the change in behaviour of his boat but would be at a loss to explain it. The most sensible thing to do would be to slow down. As the situation developed, he put the water brake out but it was too little too late.

Monday 9th July 2001Got a couple of interesting bits of news today, it seems that we may shortly have an answer on who actually owns the wreck of Bluebird. The solicitors are trying for an early date in court. We're talking in weeks rather than months, I'll keep you in the picture as things develop. It's a bit frustrating not knowing what I'm allowed to say about it but best to be safe rather than sorry. I'll probably write about 2000 words about it when it's done and bore everyone to death!Our second development is that we should shortly have the services of a full time conservator on site. If all goes according to plan, we'll be joined by Mark Campbell (absolutely no relation) who is a third year student of museum conservation at DeMontford University. He will be working towards compiling a proper plan for Bluebird's future in accordance with the correct rules and regulations for valuable artifacts. It will be a job that will take years but Mark will be laying the foundations. He will have the assistance of professional conservators as he goes so this is an excellent opportunity not just for him but for us as well. We will be welcoming him onto the Bluebird Project team in the near future. I'm sure that he'll be more than willing to post details of his work on the website as he goes.

Tuesday 10th July 2001 There are more and more people wondering what happened to all the bits that were recovered from the crash site. In actual fact they were re-assembled into the cockpit section. They were gathered from a piece of lake bed about 120m long by 50m wide and were painstakingly put back together.This was part of the process that allowed us to locate Donald on the lake bed. By rebuilding his cockpit we were able to prove conclusively that he was ejected from the boat the millisecond that it struck the water. This gave us a very small area to search and that is why we were able to locate him. He was lying almost level with the mud, a very difficult target not just for the sonar operator but practically invisible to the ROV's. We wouldn't have had a chance without the evidence from the rebuilt cockpit. Our crash investigator Steve Moss pointed to a spot on the map of the debris field quite early on in the search for Donald. He was almost spot on which proved the benefit of taking advice from experts like Steve. Another expert who so far hasn't been mentioned is Air Commodore Dr Tony Cullen. an eminent RAF pathologist. His information was both extremely helpful and accurate. I must stress that both men gave their time on an unofficial basis. Neither the AAIB or the RAF were involved in a professional capacity.What we actually have now is two big pieces of wreckage, the back end that everyone has seen, and the entire front end complete with front spar. Presumably, whoever owns the big bit also owns the pile of small bits that have been rebuilt. I would hope that the whole lot will be re-united one day in order to go on display. The engine fuel controls are still in the "ON" position, placed there by Donald 34 years ago. It's a strange experience to look into the cockpit.On a different note, I might be wrong here but wasn't Parry Thomas killed in "Babs" on Pendine sands? If I remeber correctly he had his head cut off by a flailing chain, his car was buried, subsequently dug up, restored and put on display somewhere. Just thought of that because someone was bugging me about how horrible it was to think of displaying a vehicle in which someone lost their life.
Help me all you speed freaks....We were thinking of setting the project up again in September to go back to Coniston and recover a few missing bits. The round badge from the nose is missing as is the instrument panel. We know where the cockpit canopy went but so far we only have one piece of it. What does everyone think? should we go back and clear up or should we leave some bits down there to mark the site? Answers on the guestbook or via prvate e-mail.

Thursday 12th July 2001Having pondered the question of whether we should go back for the rest of the cockpit wreckage, We've been flooded with positive input. We particularly wanted to get the instruments back. Of the cockpit equipment we have so far only recovered the high and low pressure fuel cocks. They were both mounted in the right hand cockpit wall and they came up with a piece of space frame and the seat assembly. That piece of wreckage was about the middle of the wreckage trail. The cockpit floor separated into two sections, the forward bit with the flow directors on it and the larger underside of the cockpit where Donald sat. This large section was with the seat and fuel cocks.Donald left his cockpit fowards and slightly to his right taking both cockpit rails with him, from the divers report of 67, we know that the steering column came from the Southern end of the debris trail investigated by the divers back then but they missed the point of impact because it was actually to the West of where their wreckage trail ended. They would have seen no good reason to look West as the boat was travelling South / North and their debris trail followed this trend.Donald, in the meantime was lying at the point of the initial impact. When he left the boat he took the steering column with him and therefore, presumably, the instruments as well. The column travelled about 25 metres from the place where Donald hit it so presumably the instruments travelled some distance too. They wouldn't have been as heavy as the column which had bits of spaceframe hanging from it, so we are probably looking somewhere between the point of impact and the Southern end of the debris trail where the steering column turned up. We'll see.Wednesday 8th August 2001 The waiting is over for the DNA testing on the body recovered by the Bluebird Project back in May. It's conclusive, it's definitely Donald. Of course, we knew this much already but it's very gratifying to hear it from the Coroners office.The Coroner, Mr. Ian Smith, will be opening an inquest at the end of this week. This will involve a short procedure, about 15 / 20 minutes where the identity of the deceased will be established and not much more. It will take several weeks to complete the job as all the evidence will have to be gathered and examined. At some stage, members of the team will have to go to the court to give evidence but at least now, Donald can begin his final journey to his last resting place. The Coroner, Mr. Ian Smith, will be opening an inquest at the end of this week.

 

10th August 2001 Well, it's official. Today the Coroner Mr. Ian Smith announced officially that the remains recovered back in May are those of Donald Campbell. There was never any doubt amongst the team and those close to the event but it's still good to hear it from the voice of officialdom.I wasn't at the opening of the inquest, in a discussion with Ian Smith earlier in the week I was informed that the opening would only be a 15 - 20 minute affair to state that the deceased was indeed the person that we thought it was. There is a great deal more to do in terms of completing the inquest and at some stage the evidence gathered by the Bluebird Project team will have to be heard so providing that it's OK with the Coroner, we should be able to post some first hand accounts of the goings on within the Coroners court.There's been no more word on the legal stuff, it seems that the wheels of the British legal machine are turning at their usual speed, at this rate we could put Bluebird back in the lake and do it all again next year.

 Tuesday 14th August 2001We have a date for the burial. It's not a funeral, funerals are sad occasions for people who died yesterday. All the grieving for Donald was done 34 years ago so he's going to be buried and we are all going to celebrate his life and the great bloke that he was.Gina has got a nice plot for him in the cemetery at Coniston and the service will be held in the village church. It's only a small church so don't turn up and expect to get in unless you've got the right paperwork but the goings on inside will be relayed to the outside by some means, TV monitors, big screen or whatever. It is all happening at 1.00pm on Wednesday 12th September.The coffin is being carried by Donald's three nephews on one side and the three divers (Beans, me and Carl) who recovered his body, on the other side. I can speak not only for myself but also for the other two guys when I say that we are deeply honored. Rumor has it that the RAF are going to do a flypast and there will doubtless be some prominent people there to say nothing of every press reporter, satellite van and photographer in creation. There is a wake in the afternoon but I'm not sure of the details and then we'll most likely end up back in the Sun until closing time. Donald should get a tremendous send off.

Thursday 16th August 2001 I received a rather disturbing letter in the post today, it was written by one of Donald's associates from his record attempts and it suggested that by detailing our findings from the front engine mount failure, we were in some way suggesting that there was blame to be apportioned amongst those who worked on the boat.The offending piece is a diary entry from the 6th of July 2001 which sets out the facts as we know them. As with every other aspect of the project, these findings have been researched out of sight with the best experts we could find. Only the final paragraph is speculation and it consists entirely of my own thoughts based on what we know to be true. However it is not, and has never been our intention to upset anyone. Making these facts public was merely an attempt to make new information available to the thousands of interested people who look at the website. It was suggested that not only was blame being meted out to innocent individuals but that some of these people were no longer around to defend themselves. Assuming that the boat was in perfect working order, properly prepared, operating within its design envelope and that no failure occurred, then the only person left to blame is Donald and he's not here to defend himself either. There is no one to blame, doubtless everyone involved gave their best and even if the failed engine mount was a contributing factor, it was still an accident. What if we'd discovered something absolutely conclusive? Would it have been proper to post it on the website in the knowledge that it would almost certainly be associated with some member of Donald's team? Or would it be better to cover it up and lose the knowledge for all time? It's sometimes difficult to carry the weight of responsibility and do the right thing. I would like however, to apologise for any upset that this may have caused and I would like to assure anyone reading it that it does, in no way, set out to suggest that there is any blame involved.Bill Smith. (Bluebird Project Leader)