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18 September 2014
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Reconstructing Famous Ships

By Barrie Andrian
Full-size reconstructions

Image of 'Mary Rose' in dry dock after her salvage from the Solent
The 'Mary Rose' in dry dock after being salvaged ©
Ship reconstructions are not restricted to ancient and early medieval ships. A recent example is the Shtandart, a modern replica of Tsar Peter the Great’s successful frigate, which was first launched in 1703. As no Russian ships survive from the 17th and 18th centuries, details of construction were drawn from contemporary records. Materials in the replica reflect those in the original ship, and the reconstruction was launched in 1999 and now serves as a training vessel.

'... it was possible that the sinking of the 'Mary Rose' had been caused by the sudden intake of water ...'

At the opposite end of the spectrum, accurate scale models may help us to understand a ship’s capabilities, as well as its construction details, without the cost and resources required for a full-size reconstruction. In this way, a scale model of the Mary Rose was produced for ‘sea’ trials, which tested the performance of the ship in a variety of conditions.

These trials showed that it was possible that the sinking of the Mary Rose had been caused by the sudden intake of water through the gunports, which had been left open as the ship made to turn and heeled over in the wind. However, given that the ship’s complement was for some 400 men, and that the Mary Rose is said to have had 700 men on board at the time of her loss, it likely that this factor also played an important role in the sinking. There is still much research and more experimentation to be carried out before the design and performance of the Mary Rose will be fully understood.

Published: 2005-01-26

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