Travel Journal April 29, 1999
Brunel's Creation.


Today was my day for exploring Bristol. Here's a picture of a strange art piece (then again, aren't they all strange?) in one of the city's open courtyards.

Bristol has always been a major port, and a number of waterways penetrate the city.


I had wanted to see the Museum of Industry, but it's only open a few days a week for some reason.

A little further on is the Maritime Museum, featuring primarily the creations of Isabard Kingdom Brunel, the great English engineer. In the center of the picture is a reconstruction of a steam-powered dredge, designed by Brunel.

Of course, the highlight of the museum is the S.S. Great Britain, Brunel's highly successful stream-powered ocean-going passenger ship. The ship had been abandoned in the Falklands for many decades, but was eventually towed back to Britain and placed in drydock where it is currently undergoing extensive restoration.

A bit of history: Brunel was involved in the construction of the Great Western Railway, which linked London to Bristol. He then concieved of extending the line all the way to America, by constructing the first transatlantic passenger ship, the S.S. Great Western. This was a paddle-driven steamer, and was so successful that Brunel built a larger and more advanced vessel, the S.S. Great Britain. He then spent the rest of his short life building an enormous ship (two and a half times the linear dimensions of the Great Britain, or about two-thirds the size of the Titanic) which he called the Leviathan, but which was eventually christened the Great Eastern. Unfortunately, this last ship was an economic failure - it was hard to find ports for a ship so large, and it had a pronounced roll which scared passengers off. It eventually found use as a cable-layer and was later scrapped.

From the underside of the ship, you can see the massive propeller. This was the first major vessel to use this type of propulsion (as opposed to paddle-wheel).


Here's a shot of the massive engines - That piston is almost two meters in diameter, from my estimate.

The Dining area.

As you can see, the lower class passenger accomodations were rather cramped, while the first-class accommodation was quite a bit more spacious.


Also included in the Museum is the Matthew. This is a reconstruction of John Cabot's ship which was the first English ship to reach America. (Of course, I notice that this Matthew, unlike the original, has a number of modern amenities, like running lights and a global positioning unit.)


Later in the afternoon, I decided to head for Avebury. Here's a photo of Silbury hill, a large mound constructed by the same culture that built Stonehenge. It may not look like much in the photo, but it is actually quite striking. You can tell that the hill was manmade, because none of the other terrain nearby looks anything like.

A few miles away is Avebury Henge. The town is located right in the middle of the henge, which isn't circular, but more of a spiral shape. (It's actually quite a pleasing layout.)


The henge is surrounded by the traditional ring-shaped ditch, only this one is really big compared to most.


I spent about an hour wandering among the stones, and then drove to my next destination, Glastonbury. Glastonbury is said to be the burial place of King Arthur, and is also associated with the mystical isle of Avalon. It's a charming town, with a nice friendly ambiance, and lots of shops selling mystical books, costumes, and other occult paraphenalia.

Here's a picture of the setting sun, taken from a hilltop near the town.