End of an era, mighty Ark pays off.
Friday 3rd December 2010, 08:30 on a very cold morning and I've joined the first of many hardy folk who were to muster on the snow covered Round Tower at the entrance to Portsmouth Harbour and also at the Hot Walls, part of the old fortifications that stretch back from the tower towards Southsea. They were there to welcome HMS Ark Royal home for the last time.
View from the Round Tower across Old Portsmouth and the Hot Walls.
Local Council staff under the arches at the entrance to the Round Tower who had chipped all of the ice and snow from the steps to the tower.
The dense mist looked as if it might be blown clear by the icy wind...
...but each time it seemed to come back thicker, this shot looking back across the harbour towards Gosport.
Now coming up to 09:20 and the Round Tower is filling up, more than a few having travelled some distance from different parts of the country.
People were also gathering on the Gosport side at HMS Dolphin...
... and the Millenium Pier at Haslar Marina. Visibility is still not great though!
At last she appears out of the mist at around 09:40 but I hadn't got into one of the best positions and those in front had been clicking away for a few minutes before I took my first shot.
Bet they're cold!
Finally she's in full view, and she looks pretty good to me.
Her Paying Off Pennant can just be made out flying from the mainmast and streaming back into the water behind her. Paying off pennants are traditionally flown from ships (commercial as well as naval) entering harbour for the last time before decommissioning. It is the length of the ship plus 1 ft for each year of service.
The forward (fwd) funnel, which carries away the exhaust from two of her four Rolls Royce "Olympus" gas turbines, marine versions of the engines that powered Concorde. The funnel badge is taken from the famous Ark Royal ships crest.
As she goes past memories of my time onboard follow, great people and great times. Family occasions too as they were always there when we returned from long deployments, also my youngest son was christened onboard.
Not far to go now for them, families are waiting on the jetty in the dockyard. The paying off pennant can be seen more clearly in this shot.
The tugs are there to help her get alongside safely in the windy conditions.
Finally she begins to slip back into the mist again.
With Ark Royal now out of sight people start to drift away to find a bit of warmth, for me it was to a pub (there's a suprise) for a couple of pints in the pleasant company of an old shipmate last seen nearly twenty years ago!
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