Saturday, July 19, 2008

Today In History: Top heavy.

Naval architecture in the Sixteenth Century consisted of a lot of "TLAR" engineering ("That Looks About Right") and "Has it sunk yet? No? Put more cannons on it then."

On this date in 1545, during an engagement with the Frog navy, the 91-gun Mary Rose, pride of the English fleet, took a sharp turn, heeled in the breeze, and started shipping water through her lowest gunports. She capsized quickly and sank like a rock, with the anti-boarding netting draped over her ensuring that most of the soldiers and sailors crowding her fighting decks went down with her. Not that the soldiers would have been doing much swimming in armor, anyway, even the few that could swim.

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

Didn't they find a lot of longbows on her, along with all those cannons? Mixed martial arts, you betcha.

Ed Foster said...

You know how we're always being told that people back then were tiny? You wouldn't know it from the skeletons recovered from the silted in hull.
It turns out that medeval adults were an average of one inch smaller than us, but they grew slower, not reaching full height until the age of 28 or 30. Presumably nutrition.
I'll have to factor that in when I write the great time travel novel.
And the longbows pulled an average of about 120 pounds, at 40 inches (they used very long arrows and drew to the back of the ear). At Acre, the Welsh longbowmen massacred the Turks with their recurved hornbows.

staghounds said...

That tip over problem never really went away, look at the Vasa and Royal George.

The Mary Rose exhibition is stunning. Well worth a trip, as are Victory and Warrior (1867). Since all three are at the same dockyard...

perlhaqr said...

o/~ "Round bottomed girls make the English fleet go down..." o/~

Anonymous said...

Not the first nor last man 'o war to go down by method of the lower gunports being open when they should have been shut, rather than enemy action.

Steve Skubinna said...

The Brits always had a tendency to overgun their ships, in comparison to foreign navies. The actual HMS Surprise (of the Patrick O'Brien books) started life as a 24 gun French corvette, and after capture was rerated by the RN as a 28 gun frigate, actually mounting 32.

Which is why I always find it amusing how the British were so outraged when they encountered the heavy American frigates in 1812, which while rated at 44 guns often mounted over fifty, and in a uniform armament of 24 pounders. They acted as if the Yanks were "cheating" by building ships so heavy for their class.

Anyway, the British preference for the weather gage meant that their ships often had the lower gunports on their engaged sides much closer to the water than the opposing fleet (usually French). They happily accepted that disadvantage in exchange for the ability to force and engagement and greater chance to control it, as well as more chance to pursue a defeated foe (and the Brits always assumed that at then end of the battle, they'd be pursuing a defeated foe).

Tam said...

Do you know how long it's been since I played Wooden Ships & Iron Men?

Boardgame geekery is about dead.

Firehand said...

Dammit, Staghounds beat me to it, I was going to mention the Vasa.

Ed, read a book on public health & water a while back, and one of the things gone over was that the average Brit got shorter and lighter during the early and mid-Industrial Revolution; so many moved to the cities and had less food/less nutritious food and bad water. The Brit army, according to the book, actually had to lower height and weight standards to get enough troops.

New Jovian Thunderbolt said...

for the old-tool woodworking geeks its a great find. first known use of dovetails post fall of Rome in the British Isles. i still can't break the pre-1500 barrier for that joint in Northern Europe. what I need is a good librarian to help me find an earlier example.

Joseph said...

Breda might help.