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Cutty Sark: A proud maritime relic

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LONDON, England -- The Cutty Sark, one of London's best-loved landmarks, is 137 years old, and the only surviving tea clipper in the world.

Leaving London for the first time on February 16, 1870, she began making highly-profitable trips around the Cape of Good Hope to deliver tea from China.

However, she made only eight trips to China in the tea trade, as steam ships using the Suez Canal replaced sailing ships.

Later the ship made many journeys carrying wool from Australia to Britain. It was during this time that she made her legendary fast voyages -- just 72 days in 1885 via Cape Horn.

Measuring 280 feet (85 meters) in length, the ship weighed 963 tons (979 U.S. tons) and her main mast soared 152 feet (46.3 meters) above the main deck.

Captain Dowman of Falmouth decided she should be preserved and in 1922 bought the ship and made her part of a floating nautical school he was operating.

In 1938, his widow presented the ship to the Thames Nautical Training School at Greenhithe.

The ship was used for training naval cadets during World War II, and in 1951 it was moored in London for the Festival of Britain. Shortly afterwards, the ship was acquired by the Cutty Sark Society.

It now resides in dry dock in Greenwich, London, and more than 15 million visitors have been inside the ship.

In September 2006 it was given a £11.75 million (U.S.$23 million) National Lottery grant for a restoration project that would see the vessel being lifted three metres above her current position.

The ship was said to be in a serious state of deterioration before it was closed in November for restoration work such as mechanical cleaning and applying preventative coatings to begin.

A glass "bubble" was also going to be attached at the ship's waterline to give year-round protection to visitors in the dry berth and to the lower hull itself.

On the bow of the ship is the motto: "Where there's a Willis a way," a play on the name of the first owner, Jock, "White Hat" Willis.

The Cutty Sark delivered tea from China to Britain.



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