Monday, December 10, 2012

Mislabeled Caravels

When it comes to maritime historical research, one can never be too cautious. 
Living as I do in northeast Florida, I lack access to many sources of information locally. Simply put, there is a serious dearth of such here in Jacksonville. Therefore, I rely on books and the Internet, as well as the libraries (which, sadly, seem to be on the decline lately). In any field, primary source information is always preferred, though not always practical to obtain.
In trying to confirm the validity of lateen rigged caravels with bowsprits, I made a mistake that many of us make.
That is to say, I took an Internet source at its word.
In truth, the source is probably unaware of the error as well; it is likely that this error has been propogated for a few years, and typical of such, has effectively developed a life all its own.
The problem to which I am referring is my recent discovery of a model of the caravel Niña that was attributed to a design by Julio F. Guillen y Tato, who is generally known for an interpretation of the Santa Maria. I did some research and located plans by Luis Segal for the same version of the Niña, and in examining them, felt that they looked feasible.
There remained an issue with confirming their authenticity, however. As much as I searched, I could find no evidence that Admiral Guillen y Tato ever made such a study.
Amazingly, whilst looking for something else at the New York Public Library Digital Collection site, I stumbled upon this - 

Below the image of Columbus you find two ships. On the left is the Santa Maria, and to its right you find a caravel, labelled "The Original Rig of the Niña and Pinta". This caravel looks familiar, and indeed appears to be the source of the Segal Niña plans. The image of the Santa Maria is of the Rafael Monleon y Torres interpretation. The style of both ships is similar.
As it turns out, the collections to which the image belongs predate Guillen y Tato's work by a few decades.
That is to say, the Niña that we see there is the Monleon y Torres version. If you compare an image of the 1892 replica to the Segal drawing, you can clearly see the strong similarity.

What does this mean for caravela latinas with bowsprits? There is still enough evidence to support an argument for their existence. However, there are other issues with Monleon's research that remain, and we will examine these later. 

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