If you happened to take a stroll on the shore of Loch Fad this month, you’d be forgiven for rubbing your eyes and doing a cartoonish double-take. But that’s not a ghost you’re seeing. It’s the real, original, restored Bluebird K7.
Just over 50 years after its infamous crash, which led to the death of operator Donald Campbell, the iconic jet-powered hydroplane is back in the water thanks to the Bluebird Project.
Not old enough to remember? Campbell was a world-record-breaking speed junkie. To this day, he’s the only person to set the land and water speed records in the same year.
In the Bluebird K7 — a three-point boat that followed in the footsteps of his father’s record-breaking Blue Bird vehicles (named after the Maurice Maeterlinck play) — Campbell set seven world records. But in an attempt to break his own record and finally exceed 300 MPH on England's Coniston Water in 1967, the boat flipped. Campbell died instantly.
As the New York Times notes, Campbell’s body was recovered in 2001, along with the bulk of the wreckage, by engineer and diver Bill Smith. (Only fragments were recovered in 1967, including Campbell's good luck charm, Mr. Whoppit.) Smith is also the man behind the Bluebird Project’s 17-year restoration of the watercraft, which led to its (second) maiden voyage this month.
On August 4th, the team successfully floated the Bluebird on Scotland’s Loch Fad. Since then, they’ve pushed it up to around 150 MPH. Here it is in action:
Of course, that’s only half of what Campbell achieved in the ‘60s. But for now the team is simply figuring things out. As Smith told Top Gear, “One day we will take Bluebird back to Coniston, but you can’t display it if you don’t know how to work it.”
You can follow the Bluebird’s journey on Twitter @Bluebirdk7, where the team has been posting frequent updates.
Word of warning: you’ll experience the most wholesome FOMO imaginable.
Photo via @Bluebirdk7 on Twitter