replica ship

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John Cabot (c. 1450—1498) navigator

William Bligh (1754—1817) naval officer and colonial governor



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A full-scale reproduction of a vessel, usually a ship from the past. Some have been used in marine archaeology to assess the construction materials, handling ability, etc. of the original archaeological find. For example, the Kyrenia ship, a 4th-century bc Greek trading vessel found off Cyprus in the 1960s, was able to be accurately reconstructed as an unusually high percentage of the hull, 75%, was recovered. Called the Kyrenia II, this replica was launched in 1985, and proved an invaluable source of information about the original find.

Replica ships have also been built to commemorate famous voyages undertaken by many of the men who have biographies in this volume—John Cabot's Matthew is one example, William Bligh's Bounty another—and they have proved a valuable source of information on how these ships behaved in a seaway, and how their crews lived. They also help to preserve man's seafaring heritage, as do the ocean-going Polynesian canoes constructed for the Polynesian Voyaging Society. These have not only contributed to the knowledge of how the Pacific was explored, and settled, long before any European reached it, but have also helped to preserve a form of the ancient art of navigation without artefacts so lucidly described in Dr David Lewis's book We, the Navigators.

Some replicas are constructed, as was Thor Heyerdahl's balsa raft Kon-Tiki, to discover more about the movement of populations and the transference of early technology, language, and methods of cultivation from one culture to another. For instance, in 2003–4 an expedition took place to show that Indonesian seamen, who had reached Madagascar around the 5th century, could conceivably have reached West Africa as well. To prove it was possible for them to have done so, a ship was reconstructed from one illustrated in the reliefs of an 8th-century Javanese Buddhist temple, and sailed to Ghana from Indonesia.

One of the earliest replica ships was the Mayflower II, a faithful copy of the original ship which took the founding fathers from Plymouth to New England in 1620. Launched in September 1956 she was sailed across the Atlantic in 1957 by Alan Villiers to commemorate this momentous voyage, and is now exhibited in the USA at the Plimoth Plantation, the Living History Museum of 17th-century Plymouth, Massachusetts. A second replica is due to be launched from the Devonport dockyard in 2005. Another ship which took emigrants to the USA was the 34-metre (111-ft) barque Jeanie Johnston. The original was built at Quebec in 1847, and in 2000 a replica was launched near Tralee, Ireland. Effectively, she is 19th century in the between-deck accommodation and on the weather decks, but 21st century below with twin propellers, bow thrusters, five diesels, freshwater generator, and an eco-friendly sewage system, all of which are hidden from sight.

James Cook's Endeavour is another well-known replica ship. Built in Fremantle, Australia, in 1993, she has undertaken extensive voyages and is currently based in the UK. Run and funded by the HM Bark Endeavour Foundation as a sailing museum replica ship, she is used for educational purposes and is manned by a professional crew. Another replica ship being used for educational purposes is the Golden Hinde, the original being the ship in which Sir Francis Drake circumnavigated the world, 1577–80. She was built and launched in Devon in 1973, sailed to San Francisco to commemorate Drake's claiming of California for Queen Elizabeth I in 1579, was used in several feature films, undertook voyages to the United States and round Britain in the 1980s, and is now berthed in London. Another Australian-inspired replica ship, launched in 1991, is the 27-metre (88-ft) topsail schooner Enterprize, which is an exact copy of the vessel which brought the first European settlers to Melbourne in 1835.


Subjects: Maritime History.

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