The Harbour School, in Kennedy Town, has unveiled Hong Kong’s first classroom at sea, a 50-foot sailing ship on which students will learn about marine science. Dr. Craig Blurton, the managing director of the school and architect behind the school’s marine science curriculum, tells us the tale behind the vessel.
Black Dolphin is a gaff-rigged ketch with an auxiliary diesel engine, weighs 18 tons, and is 50’ in length overall, 14’ 6” wide, and draws 5’ 4”. Some say the person who commissioned her construction owned a business importing exotic woods and it has been estimated that building her anew today would cost more than 1.2 million USD if one could find the wood in sufficient supply.
Black Dolphin has passed through the hands of many owners and has embarked on many adventures throughout the years. Before reaching the shores of Hong Kong, she has sailed to Hawaii, Costa Rica, Veneuela, New Zealand, and eventually Mexico in 2004. It wasn’t until late 2013 when The Harbour School bought the boat and had it transported on board a container ship to Hong Kong in April 2014 where it has undergone an extensive refit.
The school will use Black Dolphin as an outdoor classroom where students across all grade levels, from Pre-K to Middle School, will gain hands-on experience in the marine environment and conduct real scientific research on board the vessel.
As well as studying a full curriculum of conventional subjects, students will learn about Hong Kong’s maritime history and marine environment, as well as self-reliance, teamwork, and leadership skills within the context of sailing a boat, which can be physically and mentally challenging.
The yacht will also offer hands-on ‘voyages of discovery’ designed to motivate learning and complement the in-school classroom curriculum, such as history. During their trips they may create and wear their own period costumes worn by people of the era they are studying, sample the typical fare of the day, and keep a daily sailing journal.
On longer trips, students may work together on research projects collecting samples and recording and analysing data from their samples to help deepen their understanding of the living and non-living components that make up the world’s aquatic ecosystem and learn about how they can help protect and conserve the environment.
Programs will be offered year round and extended to other schools, youth groups, and organisations. All of the trips will be in protected Hong Kong waters with programs lasting from half a day to five days depending on the purpose of the voyage, and join in post-trip activities when back at school to consolidate their learning. Trained volunteers, educational staff, and professional crew will facilitate the instruction and activities.
The Black Dolphin is the fruition of a lifelong dream. Hong Kong is a collection of islands with a rich maritime history and continues to be one of the busiest harbours in the world. It is only right that we study this city, it’s past and present, through its maritime lenses.