September 2016: Philosophy corner

Early tourists on Gondola

The same Steam Yacht Gondola or a second coming? Welcome to philosophy corner.

Gondola is a little like Trigger’s broom in the well-known episode of Only Fools and Horses where Trigger, a road sweeper, announced that he’d won an award for using the same broom for 20 years – ‘it’s had 17 new heads and 14 new handles’.

Known to philosophers as Theseus’ paradox, this tricky conundrum is often on our minds on the Gondola team - does a boat that has had all its component parts replaced remain fundamentally the same boat?

The original Steam Yacht Gondola was launched in 1859. No doubt it had a few parts replaced over its working life before it was retired in 1936, but we suspect that the majority of the boat was still original.

The boat subsequently fell into disuse and ended up at the bottom of Coniston Water. It was eventually resurrected from the depths by the National Trust in the late 70’s, but was in such a poor state of repair that it had to be completely rebuilt. Its hull, although in reasonable condition, was deemed of insufficient thickness to meet modern regulations.

Gondola after she was rescued from the depths of the lake
The wrecked Gondola
Gondola after she was rescued from the depths of the lake

The rebuilt Gondola was launched back on to Coniston Water in 1980, which leads us to the big question - if Gondola has been rebuilt, is it really the same boat? 

Well, to borrow a reference from another popular television show, we like to think of Gondola’s rebuild as a ‘regeneration’. Peter Capaldi may be one of many Doctors, but he’s still Dr Who!