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You're smarter for 10; Forty-six years ago today record breaking icon Donald Campbell was instantly killed trying to reach speeds of 300mph in his beloved Bluebird K7. KERRY WOOD delves into the Campbell legacy and discovers what's next for the iconic vessel.


What happened on January 4, 1967? That ill-fated day Campbell was out on the Lake District's Coniston Water in Bluebird K7, a remake of Campbell's previous boat the Bluebird K4 but with the engine of a jet aircraft, attempting to break his own speed record.

Had he done it before? Campbell, 46-years-old in 1967, rose to fame for his speed feats in the 1950s and had already broken the world land speed record and the world water speed record, the latter in the Bluebird K7. He had broken the world water speed record seven times in 10 years by the time of the accident recording a speed of 276.33mph at Dumbleyung Lake, Australia, in December 1964.

How did Campbell get into speed-seeking? Being bitten by the bug ran in the family. His father Malcolm was an internationally-renowned racing driver and the first person to drive over 300mph setting the record in Utah in 1935. After his death Campbell's daughter Gina, 63, took up her dad's mantel joining him in the record books when she broke the women's world water speed record in 1984 with speeds of 122.8mph.

After such an impressive career what went wrong? Having made a first attempt on Coniston Water Campbell decided to make a return run down the lake immediately. Engine failure or the boat being lighter due to lower fuel levels may have contributed or the craft may have hit something like a log but skimming across the water at 300mph Bluebird K7 flipped over and disintegrated. Campbell's last words over the intercom were reported to be: "She's going, she's going."

What happened to Campbell and Bluebird K7? For more than 30 years Campbell's body and the wreckage lay lost at the bottom of the vast lake.

So was Bluebird ever seen again? Yes, but it took the inquisitive nature of North Shields diver Bill Smith. When he first started searching the lake he didn't know what he'd find. But in December 2000 his dedication paid off and he got his first sight of the wrecked craft.

But what about Campbell? Two months after the 1.5 tonne wreckage was lifted out of the water in February 2001 DNA tests confirmed remains found were those of Donald Campbell. In September that year Campbell's family held a funeral service for him. His coffin was loaded on to a small boat and steered around the lake where he died before being laid to rest at St Andrew's Church in Coniston Water, Cumbria.

raise Bluebird on the condition that his body was found.

What's happened to the wreckage Bill Smith went searching for? After some opposition the wreckage was lifted and for the best part of 12 years Bill and his team of volunteers have been painstakingly reconstructing Bluebird K7. Mangled metal from the wreck was beaten flat to be re-used. At regular intervals the team has been returning to the lake to try and recover more of the vessel such as its cockpit and the icon Bluebird badge.

Why didn't people want it moved? The K7 club, set up to honour the Bluebird legend, originally thought Campbell and Bluebird should be left on the bed of the lake in peace. Campbell's family allowed the diving team, which worked alongside the BBC in a documentary of the effort, to raise Bluebird on the condition that his body was found.

Where is Bluebird now? Unable to put an end date to their work Bill and his team continue to reconstruct the iconic craft which when finished will have a home at Coniston Museum.
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Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:Jan 4, 2013
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