The HMS Calypso gets her name from Greek Mythology. The daughter of Atlas and a nymph, Calypso lived on the island of Ogygia and here entertained Odysseus for seven years. The name was quite common for a ship, even Jaques Cousteau's ship shared the name. On June 15th, 1916, the ship changed her name to HMS Briton so that the name could be used for another vessel.
The ship herself was launched from the Royal Dockyard in Chatham, England in 1883. A very important site in naval history, this dockyard launched such ships as Nelson's Victory in 1765 and the HMS Africa in 1905. The first ever warship launched there was in 1586. The Calypso, and her sister ship Calliope were designed by Sir Nathaniel Barnaby who was the Chief Naval Architect of the Admiralty at the time.
The HMS Calypso entered service in 1885 under Captain J.C. Burnell as a training ship of the British Training Squadron. Known as the "Bermuda Squadron" they sailed Carribbean seas in winter, and the northern seas in summer. In 1890, she was used to aid in the evacuation of British Heligoland.
Eventually, the ship had become obsolete, and was sent to St. John's, Newfoundland in October of 1902 to serve as a training ship for the Royal Naval Reserve. Her engines and rigging were largely removed before the trans Atlantic crossing to St John's, Newfoundland.
The HMS Calypso was a Victorian era steam and sail powered corvette. She was the last of this hybrid model ship ever built, arriving just when steam ships were becoming more favorable than the sail models.
Known as a "screw cruiser, 3rd class," the Calypso weighed in at 2,770 tons with a length of 235ft, a 44.5ft beam and a draught of 20ft. She was rigged as a three-masted barque, with her main mast reaching a height of 136ft above deck. Though she had a full complement of sails, she was also powered by two Rennie compound engines consisting of 2 high and 2 low pressure horizontal cylinders fed by six boilers (holding 78 tons of water). With her telescopic funnel at maximum height, her steam engines produced 4,023 horsepower and could reach 15 knots under steam alone. Her propeller was 17ft in diameter which could be folded or feathered when under sail. Her coal capacity was 550 tons, which gave a steaming range of 4,000 miles at 15 knots.
Though built entirely of iron, the Calypso was covered in a layer of teak and oak which gave an impression of vulnerability. She was a well armed large and sturdy ship, carrying a crew of 293 men. She also had an additional steel deck under her main deck to withstand any shots she might take. The engines were protected by a 1.5 inch protective armour which extended aft to protect the fighting wheel. Most interestingly though, the Calypso's conning tower had two large search lights, powered by an auxiliary steam engine below the deck. This was impressive technology at the time.