Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Day 43 - A quick cruise and stop at the Tower

Today, we decided to take the Tate to Tate cruise which cruises along the Thames from Tate Britain to Tate Modern.  Tate Modern is just a cross over the bridge to St. Paul's Cathedral, which is in the city.  From there we intended to take a bus to the Tower.  We thought the cruise would be leisurely with commentary, but they've changed their methods to offering a speedy cruise, which is great if you're in a hurry, but not so great if you want to take pictures.  All the same, we persevered.  First building we captured on camera was the St George Wharf Tower.

St George Wharf Tower
The St George Wharf Tower, also known as the Vauxhall Tower or The Tower, is a residential skyscraper in Vauxhall, London, as part of the St George Wharf development. At 181 metres (594 ft) tall with 50 storeys it is the tallest solely residential building in the UK. The building's construction crane was hit by a helicopter in January 2013, causing two deaths.

The building is designed into three legible parts – a base that will house the communal facilities of the building including a lobby, business lounge, gym, spa and swimming pool, a middle section where the typical apartments are located, and the top where the façade reduces in diameter to provide spectacular 360° terraces which will lead the eye to a wind turbine that crowns the structure.

The wind turbine, manufactured by British green-technology company Matilda's Planet, will power the tower's common lighting, whilst creating virtually zero noise and vibration. At the base of the tower, water will be drawn from the London Aquifer and heat-pump technology will be used to remove warmth from the water in the winter to heat the apartments. In comparison to similar buildings, the tower will require one third of the energy, and will produce between one-half and two-thirds of normal CO2 emissions. It will be triple-glazed to minimise heat loss in winter and heat gain in summer, with low-e glazing and ventilated blinds between the glazing to further reduce heat gain from direct sunlight.

Royal Air Force Memorial
The Royal Air Force Memorial is a 1923 military memorial on the Victoria Embankment in central London, dedicated to the memory of the casualties of the Royal Air Force in World War I (and, by extension, all subsequent conflicts). It is sited near Cleopatra's Needle, between the north-bank ends of Charing Cross Bridge and Westminster Bridge, and directly to the east of the main Ministry of Defense building on Whitehall. It was designed by Sir Reginald Blomfield, and William Reid Dick sculpted the eagle on top (drawn from the RAF's badge).

Cleopatra's Needle
Cleopatra's Needle is the popular name for each of three Ancient Egyptian obelisks re-erected in London, Paris, and New York City during the nineteenth century. The London and New York ones are a pair, while the Paris one comes from a different original site, Luxor, where its twin remains. Although all three needles are genuine Ancient Egyptian obelisks, their shared nickname is a misnomer, as they have no connection with Queen Cleopatra VII of Egypt, and were already over a thousand years old in her lifetime. The London and New York "needles" were originally made during the reign of the 18th Dynasty Pharaoh Thutmose III.

The London needle is on the Victoria Embankment near the Golden Jubilee Bridges, close to the Embankment underground station. It was presented to the United Kingdom in 1819 by the ruler of Egypt and Sudan Muhammad Ali, in commemoration of the victories of Lord Nelson at the Battle of the Nile and Sir Ralph Abercromby at the Battle of Alexandria in 1801. Although the British government welcomed the gesture, it declined to fund the expense of transporting it to London.

Raising the Needle in 1878
The obelisk remained in Alexandria until 1877 when Sir William James Erasmus Wilson, a distinguished anatomist and dermatologist, sponsored its transportation to London at a cost of some £10,000 (a very considerable sum in those days). It was dug out of the sand in which it had been buried for nearly 2,000 years and was encased in a great iron cylinder, 92 feet (28 m) long and 16 feet (4.9 m) in diameter, designed by the engineer John Dixon and dubbed Cleopatra, to be commanded by Captain Carter. It had a vertical stem and stern, a rudder, two bilge keels, a mast for balancing sails, and a deck house. This acted as a floating pontoon which was to be towed to London by the ship Olga, commanded by Captain Booth.

The effort met with disaster on 14 October 1877, in a storm in the Bay of Biscay, when the Cleopatra began wildly rolling, and became untenable. The Olga sent out a rescue boat with six volunteers, but the boat capsized and all six crew were lost – named today on a bronze plaque attached to the foot of the needle's mounting stone. Captain Booth on the Olga eventually managed to get his ship next to the Cleopatra, to rescue Captain Carter and the five crew members aboard Cleopatra. Captain Booth reported the Cleopatra "abandoned and sinking," but instead she drifted in the Bay until found four days later by Spanish trawler boats, then rescued by the Glasgow steamer Fitzmaurice and taken to Ferrol in Spain for repairs. The Master of the Fitzmaurice lodged a salvage claim of £5,000 which had to be settled before departure from Ferrol, which was negotiated down and settled for £2,000. The William Watkins Ltd paddle tug Anglia under the command of Captain David Glue was then commissioned to tow the Cleopatra back to the Thames.

Close up of the inscriptions on Cleopatra's Needle
The obelisk was finally erected on the Victoria Embankment on 12 September 1878, and a time capsule was concealed in the front part of the pedestal, it contained : A set of 12 photographs of the best looking English women of the day, a box of hairpins, a box of cigars, several tobacco pipes, a set of imperial weights, a baby's bottle, some children's toys, a shilling razor, a hydraulic jack and some samples of the cable used in erection, a 3' bronze model of the monument, a complete set of British coins, a rupee, a portrait of Queen Victoria, a written history of the strange tale of the transport of the monument, plans on vellum, a translation of the inscriptions, copies of the bible in several languages, a copy of John 3:16 in 215 languages, a copy of Whitaker's Almanack, a Bradshaw Railway Guide, a map of London and copies of 10 daily newspapers.

Cleopatra's Needle with Sphinxes
Cleopatra's Needle is flanked by two faux-Egyptian sphinxes cast from bronze that appear to be looking at the Needle rather than guarding it. This is due to the Sphinxes' improper or backwards installation. The Embankment has other Egyptian flourishes, such as buxom winged sphinxes on the armrests of benches. On 4 September 1917, during World War I, a bomb from a German air raid landed near the needle. In commemoration of this event, the damage remains unrepaired to this day and is clearly visible in the form of shrapnel holes and gouges on the right-hand sphinx. Restoration work was carried out in 2005. The original Master Stone Mason who worked on the granite foundation was Lambeth-born William Henry Gould (1822–1891).
The Palace of Westminster
The Palace of Westminster is the meeting place of the House of Commons and the House of Lords, the two houses of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Commonly known as the Houses of Parliament after its tenants, the Palace lies on the Middlesex bank of the River Thames in the City of Westminster, in central London. Its name, which derives from the neighboring Westminster Abbey, may refer to either of two structures: the Old Palace, a medieval building complex that was destroyed by fire in 1834, and its replacement New Palace that stands today. For ceremonial purposes, the palace retains its original style and status as a royal residence.

London Eye
The London Eye is a giant Ferris wheel on the South Bank of the River Thames. The entire structure is 135 metres (443 ft) tall and the wheel has a diameter of 120 metres (394 ft), making it the tallest Ferris wheel in Europe. When erected in 1999 it was the tallest Ferris wheel in the world, until surpassed first by the 160 m (520 ft) Star of Nanchang in 2006 and then the 165 m (541 ft) Singapore Flyer in 2008.

Supported by an A-frame on one side only, unlike the taller Nanchang and Singapore wheels, the Eye is described by its operators as "the world's tallest cantilevered observation wheel". It offered the highest public viewing point in the city[citation needed] until it was superseded by the 245-metre (804 ft)[6] observation deck on the 72nd floor of The Shard, which opened to the public on 1 February 2013.

Millennium Bridge
The Millennium Bridge, officially known as the London Millennium Footbridge, is a steel suspension bridge for pedestrians crossing the River Thames in London, linking Bankside with the City of London. It is sited between Southwark Bridge and Blackfriars Railway Bridge. Construction of the bridge began in 1998, with the opening in June 2000.

Londoners nicknamed the bridge the "Wibbly Wobbly Bridge" after participants in a charity walk on behalf of Save the Children to open the bridge felt an unexpected and, for some, uncomfortable swaying motion on the first two days after the bridge opened. The bridge was closed later that day, and after two days of limited access the bridge was closed for almost two years while modifications were made to eliminate the wobble entirely. It reopened in 2002.

St Pauls from Millennium Bridge
The southern end of the bridge is near the Globe theatre, the Bankside Gallery and Tate Modern, the north end next to the City of London School below St Paul's Cathedral. The bridge alignment is such that a clear view of St Paul's south façade is presented from across the river, framed by the bridge supports.

Upon reaching the Tate Modern, we took a bus to the Tower of London so we could purchase our annual Christmas Ornament.  This year they also offered a limited edition for next year, so we got it too.

Ornaments in hand, we took a bus back to the flat then settled in for sandwiches.  While at the Tower, two English ladies offered us tickets to the Hop on Hop off bus tour, which includes a tour over to Greenwich, so that's our plan for tomorrow (Hallowe'en).

Hope to have more pictures for you that will include some of the decorations around the city for the spooky holiday.  Until then....


  1. It's fascinating what they'll put in a time capsule. You mentioned translations of the obelisk's inscriptions. What kind of things did it say? Gossip, maybe? :)

  2. The translations all appear to be "Praise to Horus, my father" phrases. "The Horus, lord of the Upper and Lower country, the powerful bull; crowned in Uas or Thebes, the King of the North and South, Ramen Cheper has made his monument to his father, Haremachu (Horus in the Horizons,) he has set up to him two great obelisks, capped with gold, at the first time of the festivals of 30 years, according to his wish he did it, the son of the Sun Thothmes (III.) type of types did it beloved of Haremachu (Horus in the Horizons) ever living." Not sure what it all means, but I think it basically says "I had this made for my daddy."