Thursday, August 18, 2011

Ships: The Rebirth of San Salvador

In late June of 1542, Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo led a small flotilla of ships on a voyage to explore the California coastline. He had been sent on this mission by the famous conquistador Hernan Cortes and he would be the first European to explore the Pacific coast of what would become the United States.

Cabrillo, according to his biographer Henry Kelsey, was apprenticed to a shipbuilder in his youth and he may have had a hand in building the flagship which he commanded in 1542. The ship, San Salvador, was an Armada-style galleon of approximately 200 tons. She was a perfect example of her type, swift of sail and clean of line. She would lead Cabrillo’s flotilla from the Gulf of California north as far as Monterey Bay before being driven back south by winter storms in late November. Along the way, Cabrillo would give now unfamiliar names to many familiar places: Santa Catalina Island he named San Salvador, for instance. None of the names stuck, it seems, for two reasons. First, Cabrillo was not much for charting or even writing things down. Second, he would die of a gangrenous leg on the island he named San Salvador two days after New Years, 1543.

Despite his tragic death and unfortunately careless record keeping, Cabrillo is well remembered with monuments, schools and streets up and down the California coast. San Diego in particular has a fondness for the captain so it is fitting that the San Diego Maritime Museum is resurrecting his flagship.

Construction on a replica of San Salvador began in San Diego back in June. The construction site is open to the public (with admission to the Museum) and people are encouraged to watch as craftsman use authentic 16th century techniques to rebuild Cabrillo’s ship. For a brief overview of the project, watch this beautiful video on YouTube.

Should your late summer plans take you to the very maritime city of San Diego, don’t miss the opportunity to see a Spanish galleon under construction. Please leave me a comment, too, if you stopped in for a visit. I’m sure we’d all like to know about the experience. Many thanks to No Quarter Given and The Old Salt Blog for the heads up on this one.

Header: San Salvador off Point Loma via Northwest Art Mall


Timmy! said...

Ahoy, Pauline! That's a pretty cool project. Thankee for sharing the links too.

Charles L. Wallace said...

Inspiring reading! Thank you, Pauline :-) I always did love San Diego...

Pauline said...

I cannot wait to see what San Salvador II looks like when she's done. Wouldn't it be a thrill to sail aboard her?

Good to have you back by the way, Wally!

Charles L. Wallace said...

Glad to be back :-) Thank you.

Sailing San Salvador II would be a blast! Wonder if they'll offer internships? :-)