HMS Challenger

Discussion in 'History' started by Royton, Mar 1, 2009.

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  1. Can anyone give me some details of HMS Challenger please.

    I understand it was built as a Seabed Observation Vessel (SOV) and was built on the Clyde in the late 1980s. From what I can gather it did not leave Portsmouth very often nd the last I heard it had been sold commercially.

    What was its intended role, why did it have a short service life and who bought it for what purpose please.

    I cannot seem to find any information on this ship at all

    Many thanks
  2. You cant have tried very hard to find out!! Look on Wikepedia its all there - available in about 2.5 seconds!!!
  3. I served on HMS Challenger in the late 80s. She was intended as a diving vessel, and she had some of the strangest machinery I can recall. Her main propulsion was via Voith Schneider and bow thrusters at extremely high voltage. I seem to recall doing lots of trails at Portland and an AMP in Gib for 3 or 4 weeks. I was only loan draft to her as a killick Stoker had broken his leg and I was his temporary replacement. I do believe the MOD soon discovered her to be somewhat of a white elephant and got rid of her.
  4. It did 'something', what, we'll never know, it was sold at a huge apparent loss, but we can be sure she earned her keep during her short life with the Navy.
  5. I used their deck on SAR ops when it was on exercise in the Clyde Ex areas in the 80's. It was the nearest resource inthe area that offered a full decompression facilty. (Faslane was further away before anyone shouts).

    A few divers should be along soon to give you the full low down on it's capabilities.

    All I remember being told by their chief medical officer. "We, (Challenger), are the Navies premier diving support vessel", now who was I to argue. I only wanted to get my casualty into a decompression chamber. :?

    As a sub note that TV presenter Jenny ? from the kids version of TISWAS was on there.
  6. And we all believe whats written on that site!!!!! :evil:
  7. I think there were tremendous problems with the piping used for the O2 that was used in the diving air mixes. Was she finally sold or leased to BT?
  8. She's mining diamonds off the seabed off Namibia these days for De Beers…

    As she was…


    After conversion…


    As she is now…


  9. I was on one of the UMS teams in CINCFLEET (P) in 86 and we put together the planned maintenance package for the Challenger. She was having some work done on her in Immingham on the Humber I seem to remember when there was a fire which destroyed most of the wiring system for all the dive systems.

    By that time IIRC the pusser had pretty much decided that this was going to overun on costs and there wasn't going to be much in the way of work for her so the fire was just the opportunity they needed to get rid.

    It was a sodding big maintenance package that went straight into the skip
  10. Seaweed

    Seaweed War Hero Book Reviewer

    Did this ship not have a well amidships for lowering a diving bell etc? I seem to rememebr she was originally to be the replacement for hMS Reclaim, the ship that found the sunken HM S/M Affray and got underwater TV pics of her conning tower to prove it.
  11. She certainly did, it was called the "moon pool" and was a large hole in her mid section that the diving bell was lowered through. She also had the facility to operate an ROV from her stern. Funny the stuff that comes back to you years later......
  12. I worked on Challenger as a civilian in the mid to late 80s while a Field Engineer for British Aerospace. Challenger carried an R.O.V. (Remote Operating Vehicle)
    This was supported by British Aerospace at Bracknell.
    There is a saying about R.O.V.s that there are two types.
    1. Those that have crashed
    2.Those that are waiting to crash.

    Challenger had an extremely good propulsion system of thrusters and could keep station in most sea conditions.

    Best thing I remember was the fantastic senior rates mess, where my mate and I seemed to acquire a rather large mess bill.

    Nice comfortable ship, and great guys.
  13. She also had the most enormous saturation bell and system ever. The sat system was usustainable due to its enormous volume among other things.(helium is Expensive.) The sat bell was on the quayside in fort william when I last checked and was used for shaggin in thats how big it was.
  14. Yes I seem to remember a claim that she could keep station on a object on the sea bed within so many metres in a force 7 sea state. I can't remember the exact figure, too many years ago and too many tinnies too.
  15. I have spent 34 years in the subsea construction industry 20 of which as a saturation diver.The kindest thing you could say about the Challenger was it was not built fit for purpose.
    It would of been more cost effective to hire in purpose built DSV as and when required.Use RN divers but hire in the ship's marine crew and project crew,job done cost effective and safe.No costly refit, new build cost, constant running cost and crew to pay for.
    I read one comment about ROVs in the 1980 there may have been some problems with them then.But these days they carry out complete subsea construction jobs in any depth of water 300 mt plus on a routine basis.
  16. An Oppo of mine from way back was one of the Engineer Officers right at the end of its RN life. I think that contractually it was the same cost to have the hydraulic crane fitted (Sat system Bell?) & accepted as to pull the plug. I think he said it was accepted for 24 hours & then she sailed from Holland to UK to de-Commission. So everything is signed off & project team can fell that it was another mission accomplished.
  17. A DSV with a crane that can not lift more than 100 tons is about as much use as tits on a bull.A DSV that needs a crane to lift the diving bell needs the naval architect that designed it shaged with the rough end of a ragmans trumpet and then shot.
  18. Another picture for you.

    The 6,400 ton Seabed Operations Vessel HMS Challenger turning on a sixpence[/align]

    If I start writing the story of HMS Challenger, I'll be here all night. Suffice it to say that she was a remarkable vessel with some remarkable kit (e.g. TUMS, the Towed Unmanned Submersible System which could operate deep... very deep!) and was conceived to perform some remarkable tasks. She even achieved a few useful things before she was binned including 300m sat dives, the first ever transfer of personnel between two pressurised submarines at depth using Stena Offshore's LR5, the recovery of several tons of highly toxic chemicals from the wreck of MV Perintis in the Channel and the recovery of one of Ark Royal's Sea Harriers from the seabed off Portland. And yes, she could alter her position in one metre increments.

    However, I have no argument with anyone who says she had certain significant design flaws when she made her first appearance.
  19. All very commendable but I wouldn't mind betting that all the said jobs could have been done with a hired in DSV at a fraction of the cost.
    I believe that Mr Thatcher used the example of the Challenger as a white elephant to browbeat the MOD for years.
    It may have been good idea to have a purpose built vessel of that kind. But the MOD should of had more input from the commercial side of diving.
    The basic design of the upper deck dose not look good for a multi purpose use if was the intention.There is hardly any deck space astern the crane is too small and the A frame is not much use.As you can see from the photograph she has very little deck space.
    To to even start to improve that part of the upper deck design you would need to burn off the helicopter hanger astern and put a helideck deck up forward if you really needed a chopper.And replace the crane with a 150 ton heave compensation one.And get rid of the A frame astern or if you must have it bolt it too the beck so that you can interchange it as jobs require.
    I know it's all well a good to look at the Challenger in hindsight and I can sympathise with the loyalty of those that sailed with her.But at the end of the day we should of had a better ship for our tax bucks.
  20. Didn't Challenger replace a very old diving tender that was rammed in the Firth of Forth. (Can't remember the name, 'Reclaim' rings bells but not sure.) Didn't 'Buster' Crabb serve on her!!!! I mean he went AWOL in the 50's.

    In that respect Challenger must have been a massive step forward. However those that had to use her in her role as a diving support vessel are the best qualified to assess her worth.

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