March 2020

Meetings Suspended due to Covid 19 Restrictions


February 2020  Lecture Report
Sutton Hoo and The Woodbridge Longshed Museum.
Paul Constantine

Paul Constantine is closely involved with the history and preservation of the Sutton Hoo site and relics.
He described himself as being part of the ships company at the Longshed on Woodbridge waterfront and said his interest in Anglo Saxon and Viking history goes back to when he was very young.  The half size replica of the Sutton Hoo burial ship built in The Longshed is in fact only one eighth the volume of the full size ship and said that many people were not aware that the Sutton Hoo ship was probably not a war ship or even a seagoing ship.  But was more likely designed for inland and close coastal journeys by the local Anglo Saxon king and his entourage.
In 1913 Clement Reid developed a theory based on historical fact that during the Mesolithic period the North Sea didn't exist and that there was solid land between the British Isles and Europe completely linking northern UK, Scandinavia and the Netherlands.  However about 5000 years ago during the Neolithic period these areas flooded both gradually and by large Tsunami events to the extent that the British isles became isolated from the rest of Europe.  It was following this that the Vikings started to cross the North Sea in vessels that evolved from crude rowed, oversized canoes into sophisticated sailing ships over a period of about 500 years between AD 300 and AD 800.
Paul told us that in 1939 the local landowner Mrs Pretty sponsored Mr Basil Brown to excavate the burial ship during which it was discovered that apart from the treasure, which was carefully removed and documented, all that really remained of the ship was an imprint in the ground and thousands of metal rivets which indicated the size and layout of the vessel. It was later surmised although no evidence of a body was originally discovered, King Raedwald of East Anglia was most likely the occupant of the grave.
During the 2nd World War the area was used for military training which somewhat degraded the site. Martin Carver, the director of the Sutton Hoo research project, excavated many of the mounds around the main ship and discovered from the various artefacts found that the extended area is an elaborate burial site probably for the hierarchy of the royal family and senior officials.
Paul gave us a very informative history of the types of ships used both by the Vikings and Anglo Saxons inland and in crossing the North Sea following the Roman period which finished in AD 400 up to the late AD 800s. He showed videos of the methods being replicated at The Longshed in plank making and assembling models of these ships.
After a number of well answered questions Paul was thanked with the usual appreciative applause from the members.

January  2020 President's Evening Lecture Report.
Chernobyl Today
Emma Howard.

In our president’s absence Roger Hayward introduced Ms Emma Howard. She began by telling us that she had always been fascinated by nuclear power and the reality of so much energy from so little material.
Emma decided to visit as many nuclear energy centres as possible and when the chance came up to go to Chernobyl in 2016 she jumped at it.  
The Chernobyl power station had 4 No. type RBMK reactors and on 26th April 1986 at 1.00 am the No. 4 reactor was subjected to a power outage safety test. During this test a safety plug blew off the top of the cooling system explosively releasing steam, and due to a number of errors by the operators a further explosion was caused which exposed the fuel rods and lead to a fire which released airborne radioactive contamination.
After a considerable delay of more than 3 days the nearby town of Chernobyl was evacuated but more than 2000 people eventually fell ill from radiation exposure. 42 people died during the event but historically it is estimated than more than 4000 people have died directly as a result. The average age of the workers at the plant was 26. Emma went on to describe what she saw in the town in houses, the school and various shops and businesses many of which have been looted mainly for valuable metals including copper and aluminium over the years. She said that despite the looting much remains as it was on the day of the evacuation including school books, children’s toys etc. Various efforts have been made to clean up a number of buildings, vehicles and surrounding areas enabling them to now be shown as a museum and memorial. Wildlife has returned to the outer areas but since 2015 the reactor itself is now securely enclosed in a safe containment sarcophagus which was built 300 Mtrs away from the reactor and slid into place over it. This project has cost an estimated £2.1 billion and should last 100 years, it is attended and maintained by German built robots as the inner area is still too contaminated for humans.
Emma said that she also visited the nearby town of Doogba where she climbed the now obsolete Woodpeck radio and tv mast.
During questions from the floor Emma said that although she was travelling through potentially contaminated zones she wasn't frightened because she carried a decimeter which warned of dangerous radiation levels, she therefore never encountered risky exposures. She said there remains a 30Km exclusion zone around the reactor so tourists never actually to get any nearer than that. A member asked if she was tempted to bring back any unofficial souvenirs she said officially no but she may have picked up the odd stone!
Emma was thanked by Roger for a very enjoyable presentation and the members and guests showed their appreciation in the usual way with a hearty round of applause.

November 2019 Lecture Report
Ipswich Tidal Flood Prevention Barrier. Completion.
Mr Chris Finbow    Environment Agency.

Chris began by telling us that his present title was Senior User for large capital projects. He acts as the clients representative and looks after the organisational decisions for this and other projects. Chris was previously 30 years with the National Rivers Authority which is now The Environment Agency, he has progressed through surveying, engineering, project management and most recently Technical Advisor.
He acknowledged the previous presentation given to us by Andrew Osborne some years back at the beginning of the project and proceeded to tell us where the project stands now.
Ipswich previously had a large undefended area around the rivers and dock area which if we were to face high tides and excessive rainfall such as we had in 1953 there would be severe flooding and sub sequential damage to many homes and commercial properties. This situation had seriously curtailed potential development in the central Ipswich and waterfront areas.
Various flood prevention options were looked at resulting in installation of the new rising flood gate , similar to those in The Thames, and various flood walls around the dock area, along the river at Yarmouth Road and along Wherstead road. The project also included the diversion of two 132kV cables, one of which served Felixstowe and another serving BT facilities at Martlesham, and also refurbishment of Handford Road and The Horseshoe sluices. They have also renewed various aspects of the existing wet dock lock-gates.
The cable diversion included sinking two shafts and tunnel boring to link them either side of the new gate. old oil filled cables were jointed with new cables via special joint units at two points, This procedure was a major aspect of the project.
The tidal flood works project was tendered in November 2013 and awarded in November 2014, works started in October 2015 and were completed early in 2019.
Glacial deposits made for difficult digging at the rising gate site, despite the building of a strong coffer dam constant pumping was required. The spoil removed from the site was decontaminated and reused when forming the outer areas of the development. When the gate pit was formed 120 truckloads of concrete were poured in one go, this was hindered by the Highways agency closing the Orwell bridge due to high winds at one point during the pour.
Maintenance facilities are built into the 192 ton gate including mechanism which allows it to be inverted for inspection or repairs. The gate can be raised in extreme flood conditions to 1Mtr higher than the worst level experienced in 1953. A state of the art control centre was built on the central island with back up and recovery systems meaning that in the most extreme situation of total power failure the gate and other related flood defences can still be operated. The gate is presently tested monthly but in future this may be over longer periods.
Original estimates for the project sat at £63M, the eventual cost was £65M, however there was an overall budget of £70M in case of unknown issues.
From questions posed to Chris we learned that the gate has a designed life expectancy of 100 years, it takes 4 people to operate consisting of electrical, hydraulic and safety personnel, it is estimated that the gate will probably only be closed once in anger every 13 years and its benefits will include housing, businesses, jobs and overall protection for a significant area of the town.
Chris was thanked for a very enthusiastic and informative presentation in the usual way by a hearty round of applause from the members.

October 2019 Lecture Report. 19-10
Plug in Suffolk – Driverless vehicles and electric cars
Peter Frost - Suffolk County Council

Peter told us that he had spent 26 years in the motor trade culminating in his position as an electric vehicle specialist. He told us that his title is now Environmental Strategy Officer and he works for Norfolk and Suffolk Councils dealing with issues regarding Climate Change. The overall situation is getting better, but is it fast enough to guarantee a better world in the future? More urgency is still needed. Peter is currently coordinating the installation of electric vehicle charging points across Norfolk and Suffolk.
Peter said that the ferry company Stenna Line now operate a hybrid ship which runs solely on electricity when in port and only starts diesel engines when at sea. There are already digger tractors which can operate for 8 hours on batteries, and Tesla electric trucks currently exist for heavy haulage. Light experimental aircraft can presently operate on batteries partially charged by photo cells, but this technology is advancing rapidly to the point where passenger aircraft could fly long distances on electric power. There is a domino effect of switchover to electrically operated vehicles as manufacturers are now competing to be the fist and the best in various fields. Companies such as Boeing are working with NASA to perfect electric aircraft by 2040. The marine application of Hybrid diesel/electrically powered craft has already been applied to harbour pilot boats so that harbours are less polluted by fossil fuel by-products and inshore emissions are gradually reduced to zero.
Battery technology is changing dramatically and electric vehicle range is rapidly approaching the 1500 mile limit. By 2025 it is expected that oil based fuel powered vehicles will no longer be sold. 48% of businesses are currently using electric vehicles with ranges up to 200 miles, this will shortly become 300 miles. Most regular car manufacturers are now exhibiting electric vehicles at motor shows.
Connected autonomous vehicles are those which can run without driver control for all or part of their travel. Questions have been raised such as ‘What happens in the event of an accident?’. Peter explained that with regards to a completely AI controlled vehicle the overall responsibility is with the manufacturer.
However he explained that there are 5 levels of connected autonomous vehicles with only the highest 5th level being totally driverless.
Peter believes that perfected driverless vehicles will dramatically reduce road deaths, last year 1,770 people died in road accidents in UK with 26,610 being injured.
There still remain obstacles to electric vehicles including the oil companies, high initial financial cost and car companies who have invested heavily in combustion engined cars. Advantages of electric travel include speed/acceleration, quietness, smoothness, cleanliness, and they are cheaper to run with the possibility of free energy being supplied through private photovoltaic systems.
Many questions followed Peters presentation which he answered succinctly.
We thanked Peter for his very informative presentation of possibly our best lecture for a number of years with a hearty round of applause.

September 2019 Lecture Report.
Circumnavigation of the World on Container Ships.
Peter Hesketh

Used screen showing photos and a video for the presentation Peter started this voyage after he was given a £2,000 gift.  He wanted to cross the Atlantic and looking into the trip and other events he eventually made his mind up to go round the world. He had been in the Merchant Navy in the nineteen sixties so he had a good idea what to expect.
Peter left from Southampton on the ship CMA CMG Thalassa 11,040 TEU ( Twenty Foot Equivalent Units) and travelled across the Mediterranean to China through the Suez canal. There were 22 crew on board, he had his own room and his own dining table, they had precise times for meals. Most of the time when on board he would work on his blogs and read books. He could not always get off the ship when in port so much of the time ashore was only when he was changing ship.
When they left the Suez canal the ship was prepared for the possibility of raids by Somalian pirates with razor wire around the outer hand rails to stop boarding. In Hong Kong he boarded CMA CGM Georgia, a long narrow ship ideal for the Old Panama canal. They use rack type train locomotives either side of canal to pull the ships through the locks. His final part of the voyage was on the container ship Savannah to Felixstowe. The whole trip had taken nearly four months and cost around £11,000.
Peter gave a very enjoyable and interesting lecture and confirmed that the money he raises for his talks go to a Seafarers Charity.  The members thanked Peter with a warm round of applause.