The Hispaniola Aquarium
In 1950 Walt Disney released their first completely live action film, Treasure Island, based on Robert Louis Stevenson’s 1883 novel. The ship they used for the Hispaniola was brought to Scarborough and turned into a floating Aquarium, where it was moored alongside the Centre pier.
The Hispaniola used in the film had already had a long history before it was used in the Disney film. It had been built by Nicholson & Marsh at Lancaster's Glasson Docks, setting sail in January 1887 with the name the Ryeland. The Ryeland was a schooner, which is a sailing ship with two masts and a fore-and-aft rigging and was used as a cargo ship around Britain and occasionally overseas.
RKO Pictures bought the Ryeland in 1948, and an application was made to the transport minister to change the name of the ship to Hispaniola. Disney went into partnership with RKO to make the film Treasure Island, which was filmed at Denham Film Studio and around Britain. In 1950 the film hit the big screen.
On completion of the filming Treasure Island the Scarborough Corporation bought the Hispaniola, bringing it Scarborough in 1950, where she was moored alongside the centre pier and converted into an aquarium below decks, with tropical fish on display.
In 1954 the Hispaniola was sold to Elstree Studios who wanted it to feature in their film Moby Dick as the Pequod, however many referred to the ship as the Moby Dick. The film released in 1956 was a great success and after its success in the film industry it was then used in a popular TV series The Buccaneers, where she was named the Sultana.
Its life then went full circle when in 1960 it was bought by businessman, Peter Latham who returned it to Glasson Docks (the place where it was built) before moving it to Morecombe, where it was turned into a museum.
Sadly, in 1972 a fire on the ship destroyed it beyond repair.
A small replica of the Hispaniola was made for use on Scarborough's Mere to take kids out to an island with buried treasure. It now takes tourists out as a pirate ship from the harbour.
HISPANIOLA – Replica
In the late 1940’s Scarborough’s forward thinking entertainment manager, George Horrocks suggested to the corporation that they acquire a scaled down version of the pirate ship Hispaniola, which would feature in Disney’s upcoming all action film, Treasure Island. The corporation were receptive of the idea and an order was placed with Pearson’s of Hull for a quarter sized version of the one used in the film.
The new, mini-Hispaniola first set sail on the Mere, off Seamer Road in July 1949, the crew dressed as pirates had all been vetted for the part, especially Long John Silver who true to the book and films character only had one leg. They would ferry visitors to Treasure Island, a small island in the Mere with a landing stage to make it easy to leave and board the ship. On the island the children were met by Ben Gunn, then they would explore and dig for doubloons. Over the years there were a variety of doubloons minted, some silver or gold coloured metal coins and in later year they were made from plastic, they would be dropped in the sand close to the children for them to find. Later there were various added extras given to the children ie a skull and cross bone tattoo, a red or black spot on their hand and certificates to say they were part of the crew. There were also button badges to purchase, with slight differences in the design over the years, both the badges and the doubloons are sought after by collectors.
At the end of each season the ship would be deliberately sunk, so that if it was a really bad winter and there was ice damage it would be to the parts of the ship easily accessible for repairs when the ship was re-floated in spring.
In 1992, after forty-three years of ferrying thousands of exited children to Treasure Island, the council decided that the ship was needing costly repairs, and combined with the fact the Mere was filling up with silt and weeds, they would move it to dry land next to the Water Splash swimming pool in the North Bay. After a few years of further deterioration and no action being taken by the council, two local fishermen, Stuart Ogden and Ken Leader, bought it from the council. They took it to Whitby where they, and other helpers, rebuilt it, making it seaworthy in 1996.
On completion of the rebuild it was relaunched at Scarborough Harbour in 1997, setting sail around the bay, it has since had successive owners, but is still carrying excited children and adults around the bay.