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Research and Demonstration Vessels

Page history last edited by Alan Hartley-Smith 5 years, 6 months ago




Elettra I


The original Elettra, the famous steam yacht purchased by Marconi in 1920 was an elegant 67-metre, 700-tonner built in 1904 in Leith, Scotland, for Archduchess Maria Theresa of Austria. The ship was originally named 'Rovenska'. The vessel was never delivered to Austria but instead it was confiscated by the British Admiralty in the Great War.


More details here,  a memorial here, two short videos 1.  2. of Marconi and the wireless rig on Elettra I, and a quotation from MARCONI THE MAN AND HIS WIRELESS by ORRIN E. DUNLAP:


MARCONI bought a yacht, named it Elettra and fitted it for wireless experiments and pleasure trips. Along with wireless he had discovered that work and play can be happily combined. The Elettra afforded an ideal combination; as pleasant as it was practical. Proudly he would carry the banner of Italy into some foreign ports where seldom the Italian colors fluttered. It was 1919. The Elettra before the war was the Rowanski, so named by its owner the Archduke Stefan of Austria. But when the conflict broke out, she was quickly commandeered by the British Government to serve as a ship flying the flag of the Admiral commanding mine sweepers in the North Sea. Seven hundred and thirty tons burden, with an average speed of twelve knots, she had been built by Ramage and Ferguson of Leith. She had beautiful lines, spacious decks ; drew fifteen feet of water, and her eighty-nine-foot masts designed specially to carry the wireless aerials, gave her an appearance of greater speed than she possessed. From stem to stern she measured 220 feet. Marconi never was a laboratory hugging genius as were Edison and Steinmetz. This yacht gave him the opportunity he had long cherished, to roam the sea in the endless conquest of radio's invisible empire in the sky, and at the same time win relief from the land's constant humdrum and demands on his time. Once a man turns his back on the coast, however, he is hemmed in by the narrow hull of a ship, and if he is a dynamic, restless individual his patience may be sorely taxed. The man anxious to get things done often becomes impatient when away from his tools. It appeased Marconi's mind while on a pleasure cruise to know his laboratory was just a few steps down the deck from his parlor. Should leisure annoy him yet he was always asking, "When will I get some leisure?" he could find plenty of work in his sea-going laboratory. By tapping the aerial wires between the masts he could hear a constant flow of human thoughts wafted across the hemispheres. He could experiment with novel devices; try mystic ideas and hear strange sounds, which to his ears might prove to be a symphony of science drumming away at the mind of man to heed some secret of nature.




 Elettra II


The successor vessel Elettra II at 72 feet in length was an altogether more modest vessel, being converted in 1950 by Marconi Marine from a wartime motor torpedo boat built by J. Samuel White Company of the Isle of White.  A new company flag was flown at the masthead. It was used for many overseas demonstration visits including a tour of Norway. It became top-heavy with aerials and radar equipment which made handling difficult and was found to be becoming unseaworthy. It was also deemed not large enough for research and demonstration purposes, so it was scrapped. An order was  placed with Fairmile for a successor vessel.



Elettra III


Similar in design to the luxury yachts for which Fairmile became famous Elettra III  was built by the Berwick Shipyard for MIMCO.  Launched by Lady Radley, wife of Sir Gordon Radley the then chairman of Marconi on a snowy day in March 1962, Elettra III  was designed to showcase the company’s latest marine communication and navigation equipment. Remembered by many former Berwick yard workers as ‘Electra’ .


Elettra III was the  first purpose-built research and demonstration vessel  to be  commissioned by the Marconi Company. Based on the successful ‘Fair Isle’ hull, the new vessel was 82 feet in length with a moulded breadth of 20 feet and a moulded depth of 11 feet.  In load condition the vessel had a draught of 9 feet 9 inches and a displacement of 134.3 tons.  Fuel capacity was 3,000 gallons giving the vessel a cruising range of 3,000 miles at 10 knots.  Power was provided by a pair of Gardiner 6L3B engines each capable of generating 150 bhp.  Auxiliary power was provided by a 20 bhp Gardiner 2LW engine. On trials the vessel managed a maximum speed of 10.45 knots.

At first commission the forward demonstration saloon housed what at the time were state-of-the-art navigational aids including Marconi ‘Argus’ and Hermes’ radar installations that could be shown to prospective customers. A specially-built console housed the 'MIMCO' intercom system panel, a 'Seagraph III' echofinder, 'Metron' visual depth indicator, 'Lodestar' automatic detection finder, 'Argonaut' VHF control unit, and the Chernikeef log


The September/October 1962 issue of Mariner includes an article on the commissioning of Elettra III. 



Elletra III has now been restored by Salish Sea Expeditions in the USA - see herehere and here

(Editors note - why wasn't this done in the UK!!!)



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