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miércoles 22 noviembre 2017



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The San Juan. A sixteenth century nao


Gipuzkoa has the largest concentration of lintels depicting sixteenth century ships of any province in the Basque Country. The extraordinary quality of the carving provides invaluable information on the characteristics of the ships from this period. Thanks to the discovery and study of the wreck of the San Juan a whaler from Pasaia, which sank in Red Bay in 1565, we know many of the features of sixteenth- century Basque shipbuilding. During this period of ocean expansion, shipping routes became considerably longer, and cargo capacities had to be optimised. For the first time, the precise design of the hull of the ship was determined by the volume of the barrels stowed to make maximum use of the hold. The highpoint in the development of the nao came on the two most economically important trading routes of the time: the Carrera de Indias and Carrera de Terranova (“Indies Run” and “Newfoundland Run”), which ran to the new Spanish colonies in the Americas and to Newfoundland, respectively.

Francisco de Elorriaga's three-bridged ship. She was built in
Zumaia in 1585 by the master shipbuilder Pero de Ochoa.
Francisco de Elorriaga's three-bridged ship. She was built in Zumaia in 1585 by the master shipbuilder Pero de Ochoa. © José Lopez
Nao belonging to Bartolomé de Garro, built in Zumaia by
Cristobal de Artadi and ten other workmen in five months in 1573.
Nao belonging to Bartolomé de Garro, built in Zumaia by Cristobal de Artadi and ten other workmen in five months in 1573. © José Lopez

Topsails. During this period, development of the main and
fore topsails was completed. The new distribution of the sails made
them easier to handle, especially in the harsh conditions of the
North Atlantic.
Topsails. During this period, development of the main and fore topsails was completed. The new distribution of the sails made them easier to handle, especially in the harsh conditions of the North Atlantic. © José Lopez
Carved lintel in Orio with a faithful depiction of the sixteenth
century Basque nao. This relief and others found along the coast of
Gipuzkoa have served as a reference for understanding the characteristics
of this type of ship; in particular to clear up certain doubts
as to the freeboard and spars of the San Juan.
Carved lintel in Orio with a faithful depiction of the sixteenth century Basque nao. This relief and others found along the coast of Gipuzkoa have served as a reference for understanding the characteristics of this type of ship; in particular to clear up certain doubts as to the freeboard and spars of the San Juan. © José Lopez

Comparative sizes of nao and whale.
Comparative sizes of nao and whale. © José Lopez
The height and number of decks increased as the sail area was
widened with the addition of topsails. The harsh conditions on the
difficult Newfoundland route made it necessary to reduce the size
of the forecastle, to cut down drag in adverse winds. The poop or
quarter deck, on the other hand, was extended forward all the way
to the mainmast.
The height and number of decks increased as the sail area was widened with the addition of topsails. The harsh conditions on the difficult Newfoundland route made it necessary to reduce the size of the forecastle, to cut down drag in adverse winds. The poop or quarter deck, on the other hand, was extended forward all the way to the mainmast. © José Lopez

Model of the San Juan, from Pasaia, which sank in Red Bay,
Labrador in 1565. This model is the result of years of research by
the underwater archaeology department of Parks Canada, following
excavation of the wreck between 1978 and 1992. This is the type of
sixteenth-century ocean-going ship that has furnished the international
scientific community with most information. The San Juan
was a medium-sized whaling ship, with a capacity of 200 tonnes.
The model shows the interior layout and the three decks, which
could house approximately one thousand casks of valuable oil.
Model of the San Juan, from Pasaia, which sank in Red Bay, Labrador in 1565. This model is the result of years of research by the underwater archaeology department of Parks Canada, following excavation of the wreck between 1978 and 1992. This is the type of sixteenth-century ocean-going ship that has furnished the international scientific community with most information. The San Juan was a medium-sized whaling ship, with a capacity of 200 tonnes. The model shows the interior layout and the three decks, which could house approximately one thousand casks of valuable oil. © José Lopez

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