Bluebird K7 has now been raised from Coniston water. A team led by Bill Smith, an underwater surveyor from Newcastle Upon Tyne recovered her. It was the culmination of over four years of diving and surveying. As early as 1997 Bill contacted family members about plans to locate and film the wreck. To some people the wreck had never been lost. At the time of the crash a marker buoy was placed at the location. Navy divers located the wreckage and lifted various sections. The marker buoy was eventually removed though as a precaution against rogue divers pilfering the site.
Not all of Donald's family were over enthused about the plans Tonia; Donald's wife who lives in America was not consulted at this point. The initial plan was to survey and photograph the wreck, after the team had located it. Bill Smiths team had plenty of references to the location, however, over time the natural visual references that were on film and pictures had changed. Eyewitnesses were consulted but were not positive in their identification.
The team then used modern underwater sonar devices to scan the area in which they believed the boat to be. This was a useful tool as it could effectively see through any silt and murkiness down below. The team also employed the services of Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROV's), which could be used to video the area. In August 2000 they located the main body of Bluebird. They also set about surveying the immediate area and debris. The BBC who were filming a TV programme about Nigel Macknights Quicksilver project, became interested and filmed re-enacted scenes of the discovery. During these dives the question of recovery of the boat was discussed. Gina Donald's daughter, met the team to discuss their plans. However, before any plans were finalised a diver in the team was involved in an accident which left him unconscious. This accident came to the attention of a reporter working for the Daily Telegraph. The newspaper then ran the story that the team planned to raise the wreck.
The team hadn't decided for definite to raise the boat at this point, however the story effectively made the decision for them. To avoid any possibility of the wreck being plundered by unscrupulous divers, they decided to recover her. Another aspect to the newspapers story had been Tonia was informed and was reportedly very much against it. Bill Smith took full responsibility for not contacting Tonia earlier and established contact to apologise personally.
The news that the boat was to be recovered divided opinion, many thought that the boat should remain untouched as a mark of respect. Others were of the opinion that echoed Donald's words "The Craft Stays with the Skipper". Tonia was reported to have used those words herself, although an expanded report from the BBC revealed that Tonia accepted that times change and the boat should maybe be raised. Ken Norris, the boats designer, expressed an interest from an engineering side of things, if it was recovered. Whether or not the recovery would solve any "mysteries" was unclear, although it may dispel a few myths. The team now fully consulted with the family and co-operation was paramount in their plans.
The team now laid plans to raise the boat and on March 2nd 2001 the operation began to recover the craft. The recovery team assembled a barge with salvage equipment on board and headed for the wreck site. Once there they anchored the barge ready for the week's tasks. Over the next seven days the team tethered strops to the main wreckage utilising some of the boats original eye bolts for some of the fixing points. They then secured the strops to a lifting frame they had earlier lowered into the water. The frame in turn was attached to a crane which was to be used to raise the boat off the lakebed. The front of the boat was lifted free first. The rear end was embedded a bit deeper, but with the extra aid of lifting bags it came up. Extra safety strops were then added as a precaution should anything fail. With the aid of lifting bags the boat came up ready to be moved toward the shore.
8th March 2001, the seventh day of the operation saw the project culminate with the raising of the boat. After an early start the team released the barge from its anchors and proceeded to tow the boat, now suspended above the lakebed, back to shore. As the boat headed toward the North shore,the media assembled in anticipation of her arrival. When into shallow water the boat was lowered, then the lifting frames and long strops were replaced with shorter ones, these were than attached to the lifting bags. At 10.45am Bluebird broke the surface of the water as the tail fin came up. The boat was then lowered onto a specially made cradle, and then gradualy winched out of the water.
After silt had been cleaned out, the boat was put onto a trailer and taken to Bill Smiths facility in Newcastle, to be dried out.
Bluebird K7 is now to be dried and preserved, there are no plans to "rebuild" her. Bluebird will then be ready to be returned to Coniston for housing.... or will it?
Paul Foulkes Halbard of owner The Foulkes-Halbard Collection at Filching Manor has laid claim to the boat, he also has reportedly stated that if his claim is substantiated he will take the boat to his museum in Sussex, to get to the bottom of what caused the crash. When asked how he lays claim to the boat, he was non-committal and refused to divulge his reason for ownership. Bill Smith has flatly denied a report in the press that he asked Mr Foulkes permission to raise the wreck. Bill Smith would like to see the Boat at Coniston, which he believes to be it's rightful home. Should Mr Foulkes Halbard substantiate his claim successfully, Bill Smith has offered to deliver to him free of charge!
Whatever peoples feelings about the raising of the boat, it is now raised. But whoever is established as the rightful owner of the wreck would probably face fierce opposition to the boat being housed anywhere other than Coniston.
On the 28th May 2001 A body was recoverd from Coniston Water by the Bluebird Project Team. Gina Campbell, Donalds Daughter asked if the team could locate and recover her fathers body. There seems no doubt that the body is that of Donald Campbell. DNA tests are being carried out to confirm this.
The team recovered from the body a St Christopher, which Sir Malcolm gave to Donald, and which has now been passed on to Gina.
On the 10 August 2001 It was officially confirmed that the body recovered from Coniston water was that of Donald Campbell. Donald was finally laid to rest on the 12th September 2001.
|Donalds body is brought back to land|
In late 2001 the trustees of Donalds estate decided to rebuild the boat. Plans are underway to secure funding for the rebuild and the intention is to house the boat at Coniston. It is hoped to build the boat to full running condition so that demonstration runs could take place.
A fascinating and in-depth assessment of thedevelopment of Donald Campbell's Bluebird K7 Hydroplane.
Expressed in both words and unique detailed illustrations.
The price (inc. P&P within UK) is £20
Release date, is 4th January 2007
Orders are being accepted as from now.
Full details below.
Bluebird Project Website This is the official site of the team who have raised Bluebird.
News Reports of the confirmation of Donald being recovered.
BBC good article this one.
News Report of the discovery of Donalds body.
Link to News Websites after Bluebird had been raised:
BBC Video News Report of the raise.
Pictures from the BBC news site
CNN News site
Link to News Websites after it was disclosed that it had been located:
BBC News Report on the find
Guardian News Report