Ship model, clipper, "Thermopylae", set at anchor in a moulded seascape (OF). Model of the sailing ship, tea clipper "Thermopylae" in glass case. 17 1/2" x 15" x 7 1/2" (SB).
The "Thermopylae" was one of the best known clipper ships in the late nineteenth century involved in the tea trade between China and England, and in carrying wool from Australia to England. The "Thermopylae" and the "Cutty Sark " were the two fastest ships of their day, the "Thermopylae" beating the "Cutty Sark " by seven days in a race between them from Shanghai to London.
The "Thermopylae" was built in 1868 by Walter Hood & Co., Aberdeen to the design of Bernard Weymouth of London for the White Star Line of Aberdeen. The ship was of composite construction, with rock elm from keel to topside and teak above. A distinctive ship, with white masts, she carried royals, single topgallant and split topsails ,and a white and gold figurehead of the greek god Leonides. All unneccessary weight was eliminated, so much so that there was no planking between decks. On her maiden voyage, she set a record of 63 days from Gravesend to Melbourne. Her prime involvement in the tea trade with China and wool with Australia was truncated after the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869, which allowed steam driven vessels to out-compete wind driven ships. In 1872 she beat her prime rival "Cutty Sark", by seven days in a race between them from Shanghai to London to be named the fastest sailing ship afloat.
First sold to W. Ross & Co, London, and then to Redford of Montreal in 1890, the "Thermopylae" was used to carry rice and timber between Rangoon and Vancouver. Even with shortened masts and her sails cut down to a barque rig, she was still a fast ship, setting a new record of 29 days for crossing the Pacific. In 1895 she was sold to Portugal for use as a naval training ship, and renamed "Pedro Nunes ". Finally she was reduced to a coal hulk and eventually towed to sea off Cascais, Portugal, torpedoed and sunk by the Portuguese Navy 13/10/1907. July 2003, divers found the remains of the ship on the seabed in 30 metres of water.