Tuesday, April 25, 2006


click photo to enlarge
In a race between these two water chariots which would you put your money on? In the background is the "Sun Clipper", a 25 knot, 138 seat, "ultra-low wash" commuter boat of the Thames Clippers fleet: in the foreground an adapted ex-military amphibious DUKW transport of WW2 design, capable of 50mph on the road and 6mph in water. So, I guess on water we back the clipper, but on land the DUKW definitely has it!

A number of tourist locations, principally in the US, but also in England and elswhere, use these old amphibians. It must be for the novelty value of driving into water, having a gentle cruise, then trundling back on to dry land. Hovercrafts are often used in the same way for similar reasons. However, as I've watched the DUKWs of London Ducktours chugging up and down the Thames I've often wondered if there isn't another motivation that attracts the punters. Namely the thrill of travelling in such a precarious fashion. Perhaps all the passengers are fairground ride enthusiasts looking for a different kind of buzz: the fascination of will it sink or won't it!

I took a few shots of this vintage vehicle. All had the bright yellow of the amphibian against the almost monochrome background. But, I preferred this one, with the illuminating shaft of sunlight on the utilitarian outline of the DUKW, and the contrast it makes with the sharp, lean lines of the modern boat. The visual juxtaposition, ironically, shows utility in the background and fun in the foreground. Sixty years ago the DUKW was the embodiment of utility!
photograph & text (c) T. Boughen