Friday, August 12, 2016

The Ships of Hy-Brasil Part 3 by Barbara Barrett

[In his poem, the “Isle of Hy-Brasil,” REH brings to life the fabled isle that existed even when the pre-historical islands of Atlantis and Lemuria were still afloat in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. According to Wikipedia, the isle, also known as Brazil, Hy-Brazil, and several other variants, is steeped in Irish myth. It is a legendary phantom island cloaked in mist, except for one day each seven years when it becomes visible but still unreachable. Similar in myth to that of St. Brendan’s Island (var. Brandon) it is shown as being circular, often with a central strait or river running east-west across its diameter. Despite failure in the attempts to find Hy-Brasil/St. Brendan’s Island, it appeared regularly on maps lying southwest of Galway Bay from 1325 until 1865.]

And there’s a sturdy bireme that sailed to the Holy Land.

The Bireme is a galley type ship with two bank of oars that was especially used by the Greeks and Phoenicians. The ship had a hull of wood and was used for both shipping and naval warfare possibly as early as 350 BC. The two banks of oars provided man-powered propulsion in case of calm waters or for better control in battles. The bronze armored ram on the bow of the ship was designed to be driven deep into an enemy ship. In addition to the small number of crew required, they could hold as many as 45 sailors during combat as well as additional fighting men on the main deck who were ready to board enemy vessels that had been rammed. Top speed was approximately seven knots.[1]

Main masts lifting like a forest of the south,
Beaked prows looming and the scarlet courses furled,
Dim decks heel-marked, warped by rain and drouth,
Rift in the cross-trees, drift of the southern seas;
Dim ships, strong ships, from all about the world.

High ships, proud ships, towering at their poops,
Galleons flaunting their pinnacles of pride,

[See image and full description of the Galleon above]

Battleships and merchantmen and long, lean sloops,

British Ships: Nelson's Division: HMS Victory (Flagship), Temeraire, Neptune, Conqueror, Leviathan, Ajax, Orion, Agamemnon, Minotaur, Spartiate, Euryalus, Britannia, Africa, Naiad, Phoebe, Entreprenante, Sirius and Pickle. Collingwood's Division: HMS Royal Sovereign (Flagship), Belleisle, Mars, Tonnant, Bellerophon, Colossus, Achilles, Polyphemus, Revenge, Swiftsure, Defiance, Thunderer, Prince of Wales, Dreadnought and Defence.
French Ships: Bucentaure (Flagship), Formidable (Flagship), Scipion, Intrepide, Cornelie, Duguay Truin, Mont Blanc, Heros, Furet, Hortense, Neptune, Redoubtable, Indomitable, Fougueux, Pluton, Aigle, Swiftsure, Argonaute, Berwick, Hermione, Themis, Achille and Argus. (It was a musket shot from French ship Redoubtable that mortally wounded Nelson.)
Spanish Ships: Santa Anna (Flagship), Santissima Trinidad (Flagship), Neptuno, Rayo, Santo Augustino, S. Francisco d’Assisi, S. Leandro, S. Juste, Monarca, Algeciras, Bahama, Montanes, S. Juan Nepomucano, Argonauta and Prince de Asturias.

Sailing warships of the 18th and 19th Century carried their main armaments in broadside batteries along the sides. Ships were classified according to the number of guns carried or the number of decks carrying batteries. Nelson’s main force comprised 8 three decker battleships carrying more than 90 guns each. The enormous Spanish ship Santissima Trinidad carried 120 guns and the Santa Anna 112 guns.

The size of gun on the line of battle ships was up to 24 pounder, firing heavy iron balls or chain and link shot designed to wreck rigging. Trafalgar was a close fleet action. Ships maneuvered up to the enemy and delivered broadsides at a range of a few yards. To take full advantage of the close range guns were “double shotted" with grape shot on top of ball. The ultimate aim in battle was to
lock ships together and capture the enemy by boarding. Savage hand to hand fighting took place at Trafalgar on several ships. The crew of the French Redoubtable, living up to the name of their ship, boarded Nelson’s flagship Victory but were annihilated in the brutal struggle on Victory’s top deck.

Ships’ crews of all nations were a tough bunch. The British with continual blockade service against the French and Spanish were particularly well drilled. British gun crews could fire three broadsides or more to every two fired by the French and Spanish. The British officers were hard bitten and experienced.

A merchantmen ship carried primarily cargo rather than the armaments although some carried guns for defense.

Flagships floating with the schooners on the tide.

The purpose of a flagship is to carry a fleet or squadron commander and it bears the commander's flag. It is the lead ship in a fleet of vessels, a designation given on account of being either the largest, fastest, newest, most heavily armed or, for publicity purposes, the best known. In military terms, it is a ship used by the commanding officer of a group of naval ships. The term originates from the custom of the commanding officer (usually, but not always, a flag officer) to fly a distinguishing flag. (Wikipedia)

A schooner is a vessel with two or more masts, with fore and aft sails on both masts, normally less than 150 tons but some of the triple masted schooners built on Prince Edward Island in the 1800s exceeded 700 tons. 

In the Caribbean, the USS Enterprise captured eight privateers and freed eleven American ships from captivity. At Malta, with six twelve-pounders she captured the Tripoli with its fourteen six-pounders. Three times, during the action, the Tripolitan crew attempted to board the Enterprise, and was as often repulsed with great slaughter, which was greatly increased by the effective aid afforded by the Marines. Three times, the Tripolitan struck her colors, hoping to disable the crew, and twice it renewed the action when the Enterprise crew came on deck to celebrate. The third treacherous attack, the Enterprise captain gave orders to sink the Tripoli and the enemy cried for mercy. [2] (Wikipedia)

And there’s a Viking Serpent that sailed the northern seas,

The Viking ship was perhaps the greatest technical and artistic achievement of the European dark ages. These fast ships had the strength to survive ocean crossings while having a draft of as little as 50cm (20 inches), allowing navigation in very shallow water. Two different classes of Viking era ships were found: warships called langskip and merchant ships called knörr. Typically, a warship is narrower, longer, and shallower than a knörr, and is powered by oars, supplanted by sail. The warship is completely open and is built for speed and maneuverability. In contrast, a knörr is partially enclosed and powered primarily by sail. Cargo carrying capability is the primary concern. The single square rigged sail allowed sailing close to the wind. This ability, combined with the capability to row during adverse wind conditions, allowed Norse sailors to run in to shore, engage the enemy on land, and escape retribution at will. The shallow draft of Norse war ships had several advantages.[4]

The Norse could raid well inland by sailing far up rivers that were too shallow for typical sea-going vessels of the day. The Frankish kingdoms in present day France were shocked by Norse raids in unthinkable locations hundreds of kilometers (100+ miles) inland on rivers not thought to be navigable. "In general, the Norse raided only those locations to which they could sail. Overland marches were avoided. In addition, the shallow draft made for fast and easy disembarkation during a raid. When the ship was beached, a Viking could be certain that if he jumped out near the stem, the water would scarcely be over his knees. The crew could leave the ship and join the raid quickly and confidently."[5]

That knew the stride of giants, ferocious gods of brawn,
And there’s a lateened rover that billowed to the breeze,
There a ship that sailed from Tyre when the waves were tinged with fire
And the first skies of history were rosying to dawn.

A rover is a pirate ship or vessel. Lateened refers to the type of sails [see definition on p. 7 above.]

The Good St. Brandon knew it when he turned him to the West
When he left the world behind him as he ventured far away,
And his fearless keel went plowing the ocean’s sapphire crest
Till he won unto Hy-Brasil which no other mortal may.

St. Brendan of Clonfert (484-577) aka “the Navigator,” “the Voyager,” “the Bold.” (Wikipedia)

For the island is Hy-Brasil, the paradise of ships,
Where the dim ghost crafts lie anchored and at rest,
Where the sea wind never rages and the sea rain never drips,
There they dream away the days in the mystic, sapphire haze
About the isle of Hy-Brasil, far off amid the West.

Howard wrote of other ships in his poetry but none of those poems list so many. What a spectacle it would have been to see ships from so many different centuries anchored side by side around Hy-Brasil’s beautiful and ancient shores.

Works Cited:

[5] There are several references for this citation. Each one seems to be using the other in the same reference/information. The origin of this information is unknown. Here are the citations:

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