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Last Updated: Tuesday, 18 September 2007, 14:29 GMT 15:29 UK
Cutty Sark conservation under way
Cutty Sark conservation work at Chatham's historic dockyard
Wood is being treated with resin and consolidation material
Work on conserving material from the fire-damaged Cutty Sark is under way in Kent, so the whole ship can eventually return to its dry dock in London.

Specialists working on the tea clipper have said their aim is conservation rather than restoration, because much of the original material remains.

Half of the timbers had been removed for treatment before fire hit in May.

Technical manager Ian Bell said the aim was to conserve materials so they could withstand the weather for decades.

It's something that everyone wants to be part of
Chris Amey, conservation worker

He said: "This project is not about restoration, it's very much about conservation.

"That means that each of the tasks we undertake is done in a very specific manner."

He said old planks were being reconstructed with "resins and with other consolidation materials, so they will be able to survive the weather over the next 50 years".

It is hoped the work will be completed before 2012, so the 138-year-old vessel can return to its dry dock in Greenwich, south east London, before the start of the Olympics.

Cutty Sark on fire
Fire hit in May but much of the ship had been removed for treatment

The 19th Century ship was undergoing a 25m restoration when fire broke out, and half the planking and the masts had already been taken away as part of the project.

Chris Amey, one of the conservation team working on the ship at Chatham's historic dockyard, said: "People do take a lot of care in what they are doing because they are worried.

"It's not just someone's private house - it's something that everyone wants to be part of."

The Cutty Sark left London on her maiden voyage on 16 February 1870, sailing around The Cape of Good Hope to Shanghai in three-and-a-half months.

She made eight journeys to China as part of the tea trade until steam ships replaced sail on the high seas.

Good progress is being made in conserving the Cutty Sark

Specialist teams are restoring parts of the Cutty Sark

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