Film ID:
NEFA 20903

THE DRACONE EXPERIMENT

1959

Visitor Tabs

Description

Billingham Film Unit production for the ICI Heavy Organic Chemicals Division documenting trials for a Dracone (D4) barge (a long, nylon and synthetic rubber flexible floating tube), which is towed from the Tees at Middlesbrough to Holland and back.  The Dracone was invented by Newcastle-born, renowned engineer and Head of Cambridge University Engineering Department, Professor William Rede Hawthorne in 1955.  The Fiery Cross tug boat, owned by the Tees Towing Company in Middlesbrough, is used in the trial for ICI. Footage includes shots along the River Tees and a view of the Transporter Bridge at dawn. Music and commentary accompanies this short documentary feature.

Credit: ICI logo

Credit: Heavy Organic Chemicals Division [over footage of waves]

Title: Presents [over footage of waves]

Title: The Dracone Experiment [over footage of waves]

Title: It was in 1956 that Cambridge scientists hit on the idea of transporting by sea lighter-than-water liquids in flexible bags.

Title: These would be cheap and could be rolled up when empty and brought back by cargo ship.

Title; Soon, a container like a long sausage skin was made from nylon fabric and synthetic rubber.  It was successfully tested in Southampton Water.

Title: And the Greeks had a word for it - Dracone, the sea serpent.

The film begins with an overhead shot of a British Petroleum tanker driving up Billingham Reach wharf, on the north side of the River Tees, where a small group of ICI and Tees Towing Company workers are waiting.  Workers stand on the quayside looking down on the work to unwind the floating Dracone tube.  An overhead shot follows of the Dracone as it unfurls on the river beside the wharf.

British Petroleum (BP) workers begin the filling process from the tanker. Two men from the Tees Towing Company walk along the floating  Dracone.

The Fiery Cross tug boat sails to the Billingham Reach wharf on a misty morning, a small crowd of ICI and Dracone Developments Ltd employees watching from the quayside as it is attached to the Dracone and begins to tow it down the Tees river, the ICI industrial complex in the background. A twin pontoon hull has been attached to the end of the Dracone.

Traveling shot from tug boat towards the Tees Transporter Bridge, heading for the Tees river mouth, passing docks (possibly Smiths Docks or Furness Shipbuilding at Haverton Hill) where the San Calisto ship is moored.  The Transporter Bridge gondola moves across the Tees behind the Fiery Cross tug boat and floating Dracone as it continues to sail downstream towards the Tees mouth, dockyard cranes lining the banks of the river in the background.

The river glistens in the sunlight as the Fiery Cross tug boat sails by. It heads out to sea at the busy mouth of the River Tees.  On board, workers struggle with the rope towing the Dracone.

In the next scene on Saturday, 23rd May, the crew are pictured on board a rolling Fiery Cross in choppy weather at sea, heading for Holland (Netherlands), reeling in equipment from the trial as a cable has snapped and the stabiliser has sunk.

To illustrate the reason for the problem during the trial, a man draws a chalk diagram on a flat surface of the boat.

The crew attend to the Dracone as it approaches its destination in Holland, one man working from a dinghy, fitting a new stabiliser. A boat of Dutch photographers arrives to take pictures for the press. The Fiery Cross crew moor the boat on a quayside, where there is a reception party from ICI Holland and representatives of the Dutch Harbour authorities.

After the trial run to the Dutch coast, the crew are on their way back to the Tees, setting off at 5:30am.  There are various shots of the Tees Towing Company crew on board the Fiery Cross, including the officers at the wheel on the ship's bridge, and of the wire and rope cable towing the Dracone.

The South Gare lighthouse and breakwater are now in view.  The Fiery Cross sails into the Tees at night.  Two men reel in the Dracone.  Traveling shot of the Transporter Bridge as the tug boat travels towards Tees Dock, lights shining on the many boats around harbour.

The next day, back at Billingham Reach Wharf, the Fiery Cross moors at the quayside, the Dracone in tow. Claude Fairweather, Director of the Tees Towing Company, shouts instructions from the deck of the tug boat.  The Commander "Skipper Spink" (known as Mickey Spink) and the ICI representative Jack Fletcher, in duffle coat, are on the bridge.  Fletcher had been collecting technical information during the trial.  He leaves the boat, passing two of the Tees Towing Company crew, one man lighting up a cigarette and talking to his colleague, a knife sticking out of his back pocket.  Equipment is unloaded from the Fiery Cross, and the Dracone D4 reeled in.

Credit: Produced by the Billingham Film Unit

End title: The End