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Friday, August 26, 2022

Mankind has conquered the seas using charts and models

The Ocean as a Common Heritage of Humankind
Our oceans are radically changing due to human impact. It is our goal to show how knowledge about the sea is produced,” says historian Ellen Krefting.

From ScienceNorway by Silje Pileberg
Our oceans are radically changing due to human impact.
It is our goal to show how knowledge about the sea is produced,” says historian Ellen Krefting.
(Photo: Drew Darby/Unsplash)
Mankind has conquered the seas using charts and models
Nautical charts have played an important role in providing us with knowledge of the world’s oceans.
They have also framed the ideas we could have about the ocean, including issues relating to the climate and sustainability.

An article published by the Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten in May provides a visual portrayal of the maritime boundaries of the Arctic region (link in Norwegian).
Nobody owns the Arctic, but several nations including China and the USA want to exploit the vast resources there and to sail through it, as the ice melts and new shipping lanes open.

The map published by Aftenposten shows the Arctic both now and what it might look like when the ice has melted.

According to Ellen Marie Krefting, Professor of history of knowledge at the University of Oslo, the article falls in line with a tradition dating back several hundred years.
“Charts have been handmade, printed and used as a symbol of power, territory and to define those resources found beneath the surface. And, of course, for navigation. The format for nautical charts has remained the same since the 17th century, even though the technology has developed,” she says.

“It’s important to understand the history”

"We believe that we are in control of the ocean, and that all we need is knowledge and the technology." Ellen Krefting questions general understandings of the ocean.
(Photo: University of Oslo)

“Other formats of knowledge are models and records that have helped us understand the oceans,” Krefting continues.
“The ocean is vast, inaccessible and difficult to understand.
This has prompted the development of technologies and other aids.
But how did these aids develop? What opportunities have they provided for us to be aware of environmental protection? And how have they limited us?”

These are questions studied by Ellen Krefting and her colleagues on the project entitled Maritime modernities, which they started in 2021.
In the project, humanities researchers are studying how knowledge of the oceans has been produced and established since the 17th century and up to the present day.

“One fundamental belief in my discipline is that if we understand history, it will be easier to understand our current position and what brought us here,” says Krefting.

She also believes that such an approach can help us find a new direction, if necessary.
According to her, this might well be the case today.

Unlimited resources?

“Our modern mindset is that the oceans are in principle an unlimited resource, and that we just have to keep finding new ways of exploiting it as efficiently as possible.
We’ve always focused on growth, and now we are even talking about sustainable growth,” she points out.

She believes that, for a long time now, the oceans have been a blind spot in discussions of the Anthropocene epoch, in which we study our era as a geological epoch shaped by human impact.
In other words: Our discussions have focused more on overexploitation of life on land than in the sea.

“But our oceans are radically changing due to human impact.
It is our goal to show how knowledge about the sea is produced and the formats we have used to understand the oceans all play a role," she says.

Krefting believes that overexploitation of resources is based on a mindset that has mainly evolved over the past 200 to 250 years.

“People started to challenge this mindset, however, during the post-war period.
This was when we began to take a critical view of the population growth on our planet and started to talk about the environment, ecology, and the need for regulation.
At that time, we thought this was a new concept," she says.

Regulation of the seas in the 17th century

This was not true, however.
As an expert in 17th and 18th century history, Krefting has extensive knowledge of Early Modern French maritime law.
During this period, France was a superpower and a nation very fond of creating legislation for most aspects of life, including the seas.
“At the end of the 17th century, the French government attempted to establish the oceans as a space that could be regulated,” she explains.

Jean-Baptiste Colbert, Minister of Finance under King Louis XIV prepared legislation to govern lakes and forests, oceans and use of the seas.
A major piece of legislation was introduced in 1682, the so-called marine ordinance.
“The ordinance stated that all marine resources were to be regulated, be it seaweed, shipwrecks, fish or amber," she says.

Local experience is underestimated

One important principle in the French legislation was to preserve resources for future generations.

“I believe that the way our 17th century ancestors understood that nature was under threat was more local and based on experience.
As society became more globalised and scientific, the people in power started to underestimate local experience.
This is still evident today,” Krefting says.
“Today, we only trust knowledge when it is at a generalised scientific level.
As such, we underestimate the experience of local fishermen and local communities.”

She also believes that this is reflected in the slogan for the UN’s Ocean Decade, which started in 2021: “The Science We Need for the Ocean We Want”.

The objective is for all nations of the world to mobilise to develop the science we need to ensure the ocean we want.

“I find this slogan interesting because it implies that the ocean we want is something we can create.
We believe that we are in control of this, and that all we need is knowledge and the technology," she says.

Questioning the obvious

"Charts, models and records, such as nautical logs and catch reports, have been key in providing knowledge of the oceans.
However, they have also delimited our knowledge and demarcated what type of knowledge and ideas we can have,” Krefting says.
“We may feel that these aids are completely obvious, natural and self-evident – of course we will be making charts, of the ice edge, for example! And of sea levels, seabeds, ocean currents and fish stocks.
We use charts and maps for many different kinds of knowledge about the oceans."

But how did maps and charts actually become such an important and impervious knowledge format? And what about the models, from miniature ships to mathematical models and interpretations of the seabed in three-dimensional shoeboxes?
How did they become so important?

“These formats provide a way of organising a vast amount of knowledge of the oceans, and have done so to an ever-increasing extent over a 400-year period, based on a constantly growing volume of data.
In my discipline, one instinct is to question knowledge that we feel is obvious,” says Krefting, elaborating:
“We are unwinding these knowledge formats not only because they shape the way we view the oceans, but also the way we use our minds.
Perhaps our views of resource exploitation are interlinked with the way we organised our knowledge.”

The rise of the “Blue Humanities”

Traditionally, research into the oceans has been performed by natural scientists.
In more recent years, however, literary scientists, anthropologists, historians and media scientists have also embarked on this research, resulting in the emergence of what is known as the Blue Humanities.

As such, there has been a shift of focus within several Humanities from the land to the sea.
Krefting’s research is a part of this shift.

She believes that the research may be instrumental in increasing our understanding of the oceans’ history – and that this will provide us with new perspectives as we plot out our future.
“Humankind was not born with maps. This is technology we have developed.
But it has become so integral and important that we cannot imagine life without it.
This makes it all the more important to study how this emerged, and how it has coloured the way we now understand the world and act accordingly,” she says.

Maps and charts provide information on human interests

Back to the Arctic: Krefting points out that the charts we use to portray the possible conflicts implied by an ice-free Arctic do not show how the increase in shipping will accelerate the ice melt.
Neither do they show how this will affect ecology and the climate.
“No matter how accurate or comprehensive they are, charts will always frame our surroundings in specific ways, for different purposes.
They are as much a portrayal of human interests in this maritime area than of the Arctic Sea itself," she says.

Krefting believes it is particularly interesting to monitor how the format of the chart affects the way we view an ocean such as the Arctic Sea.
“It was not until 1921 that the Arctic Sea or Arctic Ocean was officially assigned status as an ocean.
Up until the Second World War, the belief was that the sea under the ice was practically dead,” she says.

She goes on to explain that this perspective has now changed radically.
“The Arctic today is not just a matter of political and economic dispute, the ocean itself now plays a key role for the ecology and climate.The Arctic Ocean is changing faster than perhaps any other ocean in the world, with different consequence scenarios.
This has given rise to a charting bonanza: Never before have we drawn as many different charts of the Arctic," Krefting concludes.

Thursday, August 25, 2022

Characterization of four shipwrecks from 1741 in Cartagena Bay

A plan of Carthagena harbour (Philip Durell, 1741)

From IHO

In 1741, the English Empire carried out a large-scale attack against Cartagena de Indias.
To defend the city, the commanding officer Admiral Blas de Lezo strategically sunk several warships to form a line of defense and led the Spanish to ultimate victory.
Through an analysis of historic documents and cartography, complemented with acquired field data, it was possible to locate and identify four anomalies that are, compatible with the warships, Conquistador, Dragón, África and San Carlos.
This study contributes to defining conservation and preservation strategies of submerged cultural assets, a topic which Colombia must develop in the future.


Scientists investigate wrecks, in order to understand different cultures over time and the best way to preserve these sites (Lumb et al., 2006; McCarthy, 2015; Parrent, 1983).
Nowadays, submerged stories can be reconstructed using equipment that does not interfere with the wrecks but capable of showing vestiges of the past (Ballard et al., 2011; Quinn, 2006; Westley et al.
2019; Andrade, 2021).
This is the case in our study, which seeks to describe four shipwrecks associated with an important event in the Cartagena Bay history of the eighteenth century.

UNESCO has designated “Cartagena de Indias” as a World Heritage Site due to its relevant historical assets.
These include the remains of colonial and industrial shipwrecks, fortresses walls (e.g., the fort of San Luis de Bocachica) and colonial architectural and civil works (Guzmán- Martínez et al., 2022) in the bay.
An example of the later is the “Escollera”, a submerged wall built in the sixteenth century to close the Bocagrande entrance to the bay (Borrero-Londoño & Andes, 2011; García-Castrillo et al., 2003).
Therefore, it is crucial to assess the history behind each of the different artifacts found in the bay’s seafloor, to better understand historical facts that can elucidate processes from the past, which helped to build today’s Colombian society.

In this paper, we assess the present condition of four shipwrecks with archeological interest in the Cartagena de Indias Bay.
We identified four anomalies compatible with the shipwrecks África and San Carlos in the Bocachica Channel, and Dragón and Conquistador, in the Internal Bay en- trance (Figure 1), all sank by Admiral Blas de Lezo during the 1741 battle against invading English troops.
General information related to this historical event is presented in the rest of this section.
In Section 2, we describe the study area, and describe the environmental variables, which have affected these wrecks for ~280 years.
In Section 3, the methodology used is mentioned, followed by the main results in Section 4.
Finally, in Section 5, summary and final remarks are presented.

1.1 Cartagena de Indias historical Background

Cartagena was known in the sixteen and seventeenth centuries, as an important port under the domain of the Spanish crown.
Particularly in colonial times, Cartagena, was considered a strategic site, called by the British empire as “The Key to the Indies”.
Its strategic location favored regional trade and its defense from constant siege of pirates who wanted to assault the city (Colombian Caribbean Figure 1).
To protect Cartagena, a military strategy at different levels was developed over time.
Figure 1: Nautical chart of the Cartagena Bay #216 and the Greater Caribbean #007 from DIMAR-CIOH-SHN.
Cartagena with the GeoGarage platform (CIOH map)

The first protection level was a natural one.
It was associated with its tropical location and closeness to the sea, which acted as a first line of defense.
Environmental aspects such as temperature, humidity and mangrove wetlands in the coastal areas, act together with insects and other organisms present in the region, creating a harsh environment unfamiliar to Europeans (Del Cairo-Hurtado, 2014).

A second stage consisted in building defenses to protect the city from maritime attacks.
The Bocagrande entrance suffered different morphological changes during the colony, which closed and opened the channel in different periods (Andrade et al., 2004; Gómez-Pretelt & Carvajal-Díaz, 2011; Vernette et al., 1984).
To stabilize this dynamic place, the Spaniards constructed a submerged wall (Escollera) with the strategic military purpose of closing that warships entrance into the bay, but maintaining a shallow water exchange with the Caribbean (Andrade et al., 2004).

The construction of “La Escollera”, which still exists, forced the entrance of large warships through the Bocachica Channel, the southern and deeper entrance to the Bay.
This facilitated the defense strategy, as only one and narrow access into the bay had to be protected.
Besides, the maritime defense of the bay was complemented by a fleet of warships under the Spanish flag (De Lezo, 1741).

The third stage of the Spanish strategy consisted of the inland defense of the city.
In the case of troops landing in the surroundings of Cartagena de Indias, due to the wetlands present at the time, they were forced to use the only terrestrial access to the city, which was protected by the San Felipe Castle.
Besides, walls with batteries and other means of defense surrounded the city.

1.2 1741 historical events
Figure 2: British Attack in Bocachica – Defense of Cartagena de Indias by Blas de Lezo.
Fragment Picture made by Luis Fernández Gordillo 1994, Naval Museum of Madrid.

The English Admiralty set Cartagena as a target in 1739, to break the flow of resources to the Spanish Empire from its colonies in “Tierra Firme”.
This led to, the Cartagena of Indias siege by an English squadron, of more than a hundred warships, in 1741, under Vice Admiral Edward Vernon command (Del Cairo-Hurtado, 2014; García, 2001; Suárez, 2015) (Figure 2).
Information about the 1741 battle is depicted in the Cartagena de Indias map (Figure 3), presented to Edward Vernon, Vice Admiral of the Blue, and Commander-in-Chief of Her Majesty’s warships in the West Indies, by Captain Phil Durrell (1741).
This map indicates fundamental facts for the description and analysis related in the results of this paper.

As the battle evolved, the English advanced overcoming the Spanish land defenses, in the Bocachica Channel.
Once the warships were inside the bay, they tried to enter the Internal Bay to disembark the troops close to the city.
Admiral Blas de Lezo, commander of the Cartagena defenses, ordered first the deployment of Spanish warships to the Bocachica Channel to stop the English warships entrance into the bay.
After the English vessels were able to enter the bay, Admiral Blas de Lezo attempted to block the entrance to the Internal Bay (protected by the forts of Santa Cruz de Castillo Grande and San Juan of Manzanillo).
In his intention to block the English vessels approximation to the city, Admiral Blas de Lezo ordered his troops firstly to sink some warships in the Bocachica Channel, and later in the Internal Bay entrance.

Admiral Blas de Lezo (Spanish version), in his diary narrated events that occurred during the 1741 battle in the Bocachica sector.
He mentions that in March 14, he ordered his troops to prevent enemy warships from entering to the Cartagena Bay (De Lezo, 1741, p. 9).
On April 5, after different confrontations, The San Felipe and África were set on fire, ordering the crews to return to the city, and sink them in the colonial channel (IHCN, 2021, p. 248; De Lezo, 1741, p. 33).

Admiral Blas de Lezo (1741), narrates a meeting that took place on April 9, 1741, at the house of Don Sebastián de Eslava, viceroy of New Granada.
In this meeting it was discussed the convenience of sinking the Spanish warships, with the intention of closing the access channel to the inner bay, since they could not withstand the enemies’ attacks (De Lezo, 1741, p. 37).
They agreed to sink all the boats and warships still available in a straight line from Castillo Grande to the Manzanillo Island to close the access through the channel.
“Conquistador” and “Dragón”, as well as other smaller warships had to face this fate.

Finally, the battle of 1741 that started the 13th of March, ended the 20th of May with the victory of the Spanish crown, as the English could not take the city, being forced to abandon the bay (Del Cairo-Hurtado, 2014; De Lezo, 1741; Suárez, 2015).
Admiral Blas de Lezo defense of the city was so successful.

1.3 The warships

The Spanish warships constructed in serial production during the 18th century, were the largest and most important of the European fleets, intended for naval combat (Aldana, 2019; Apestegui, 1984; De Eslava,1741; De Lezo, 1741; Rodriguez-Mendoza, 2008).
This type of vessels was part of the fleet under De Lezo command during the defense of Cartagena.
The fleet consisted of six serial large warships: Galicia, San Felipe, Conquistador, Dragón, África and San Carlos (De Lezo, 1741).
In addition to these warships, his fleet also had some sloop and brig type boats, smaller in size (De Lezo, 1741).

For the 18th this century, these warships suffered constant revisions related to the naval architecture specifications, which were in accordance with the organization of their shipyards.
José Antonio de Gaztañeta, a military engineer, in 1712 wrote the “Proposiciones de las Medidas Arregladas a la construcción de un Bajel de Guerra” as indicated in Hormaechea et al.
(2018), summarizing these guidelines and directives to build the Spanish warships (Table 1 outline findings on the vessels).

Table 1: List of four Spanish shipwrecks involved in the 1741 battle in Cartagena Bay (Aldana, 2019; Beatson, 1804; Boado & Gonzáles-LLanos., 1983; De Eslava, 1741; De Lezo, 1741; Quintero-Saravia, 2002; Suárez, 2015; Todobabor, 2003; Rahn Phillips, C. 2010; Hormaechea et al., 2018).


The Cartagena Bay, is influenced by the northern trade winds and by the oscillations of the Inter- tropical Convergence Zone – ITCZ.
The meridional fluctuation of the ITCZ generates a marked seasonality defining a dry and rainy season.
The Bay is an estuarine ecosystem influenced by freshwater contributions from the Dique’s canal.
The Bay is connected to the Caribbean Sea by the Bocagrande and Bochachica entrances (Section 1.2).
Most of the seawater enters from the Caribbean Sea into the bay through the Bocachica sector, due to the presence of a deep channel (Grisales et al., 2014; Tosic et al., 2019).

The increase of the freshwater input from the Dique´s canal, generate strong vertical density gradients and sea level increase (Molares & Mestres, 2012; Pagliardini et al., 1982; Rueda Bayona, 2010; Torres & Tsimplis, 2012).
The city has a significant relative mean sea level trend, which is higher than in other coastal stations studied in the region (Torres-Parra & Tsimplis, 2014).
This trend is expected to increase in the future as a consequence of global warming (Bustos & Torres, 2021).


3.1 Description of potential warshipwreck location based on historical sources

Firstly, a cartographic revision of historical maps of the 1741 battle, that took place in the Cartagena Bay was carried out.
For this search, databases of Oshermaps, International Hydrographic Organization, Banco de la República de Colombia and Gallica were consulted.
Additionally, historical texts describing these events were reviewed, some showing the Spanish perspective and others with the English point of view.
An example of the former is the diary of Admiral Blas de Lezo (1741), while for the later, a chronicle narrated by Beatson (1804).

We want to highlight the map by Phil Durell (1741), in which the Cartagena Bay can be fully observed (Figure 3), showing its connection to the Caribbean Sea from Bocachica and Bocagrande.
Besides, the map shows the location of the main forts, as well as details on the Spanish and English
Figure 3: Map of the Cartagena of Indias battle, by Captain Phil Durell (1741).
Most important names are placed on top of the map to illustrate the reader.

3.2 Characterization of wrecks using multibeam echosounder- MBES, side scan sonar -SSS and underwater photographs

Hydrographic campaigns were carried out with a Kongsberg 2040C high resolution multibeam echosounder system (MBES), in two sectors of the Cartagena Bay, the Military Channel giving access to the Internal Bay and Bocachica, as the only entrance to the bay for large warships.
This research was carried out following the guidelines indicated by Westley et al.
(2019), for the optimization of this kind of hydrographic surveys.
At each site, when anomalies compatible with cultural artifacts were found, the survey lines were densified.
We were able to search for objects on the seabed, with a resolution of 3 cm, using a 400 kHz frequency.
This data was processed and analyzed through the CARIS Hips and Sips software.

MBES data was complemented with a detailed seabed survey, using a Kongsberg Pulsar 200 side scan sonar (SSS), where cultural remains were identified in the bottom of the bay.
Detailed characteristics of each anomaly were obtained, in terms of their acoustic response.
Approaches from different directions were performed to find the best image of the cultural remains detected, setting the equipment at a high frequency (400 to 600 kHz), which reduces the range, but improves the resolution.
The horizontal detection range was adjusted to 75 m for the survey at both sites.

Images processing, the analysis of targets and distance measurements were carried out with the Hypack software version 2020.
Besides, shipwrecks were identified using as criteria the remains ’ shape, dimensions (length and beam) and the presence of cultural anomalies identified in their surroundings.

To photograph the cultural anomalies identified, inspections were performed through autonomous diving at the two surveyed sites.
Underwater inspections were carried out in September 2020.
However, the turbid water conditions in the Cartagena Bay due to the Dique´s canal freshwater and sediment flow, made it difficult to achieve an optimal photographic record (Section 2).
Thus, in the Bocachica area, it was not possible to obtain good images of the wrecks ’ sites.
In the Inner Bay entrance, only photos could be recorded in one of the wrecks.
This technique offers many advantages registering archaeological sites; however, it is always subject to the environmental visibility conditions at the place of interest.


4.1 Shipwreck identification from historical documents

Twelve maps were found with the description of the 1741 battle.
Of these, only four maps are presented in this article Each map represents a valuable source of information that allows identifying aspects such as the names and flag of the warships, as well as their conditions during the battle.
The ship’s conditions include if it was sailing, largely damaged, sunk, or set on fire during the confrontation.
The cartography of the time clearly identified other geographic aspects such as shallows, the depth of the bay and the location of Spanish forts.
This information facilitates the understanding of the military strategy used during the battle, the development of events narrated by written sources, environmental characteristics affecting the battle, among other factors.
However, in this article, we focus on the description of events in Bocachica and the Internal Bay sectors, respectively (Figure 4 and 5).

Bocachica (Colonial Channel) in the 1741 battle.
In the Chassereau & Bowles (1741) map (Figure 4a), the position of two forts, San José, and San Fernando can be seen in Bocachica, as well as the location of África, San Carlos and San Felipe warships, already inside the Bay.
The Bellin (1763) map shows the location of three shipwrecks in the colonial channel, represented one to the side of the other (Figure 4b).
Durell (1741) indicates the English “Le Stock” Division in blue, an English supply ship in yellow and with the crossed line the position of two shipwrecks in the area (Figure 4c).
This map locates the Fort of San Luis, which was attacked and destroyed in the 1741 battle (Del Cairo-Hurtado, 2014), being later replaced by the Fort of San Fernando de Bocachica.
Parr (1741) included some nomenclature in his map; the letter P refers to the place where África and San Carlos warships sunk, which were drowned by their masts above the seawater (Figure 4d).

Figure 4: Comparison of maps in the Bocachica channel sector indicating military actions that occurred during the battle of 1741.

In the Chassereau & Bowles (1741) map, the place where Conquistador and Dragón warships were sunk is identified by their masts above the water level (Figure 5a).
Their position indicates the Spanish intention to obstruct the channel with a barrier formed by the sunk warships.
Similarly, Bellin (1763) highlights the shipwrecks line preventing the entrance of English warships to the internal bay, as part of Admiral Blas de Lezo’s defense strategy (Figure 5b).
This map also clearly shows the location of the two access channels to the Internal Bay.
The Military Channel is located adjacent to Santa Cruz Fort toward the south of the map.

Durell (1741) differentiates the fleets with colors.
In red Admiral Vernon ’s division, English supply warships in yellow and shipwrecks in the area represented with crossed lines (Figure 5c).
The two channels allowing the entrance to the internal bay are also distinguished in this map.
Note that the number of sunken warships is different when comparing the Bellin (1763) and Durell (1741) maps, which indicates the doubt in the English side about the total number of sunken warships in this sector.
In Parr’s (1741) map, Conquistador and Dragón names are shown at the side of the drawing of two warships; besides, he highlights the sunken warships symbolized with their masts above the water (Figure 5d).
It is important to note that the intention of this map is to present the military tactics and it inspires the map of Chassereau & Bowles, (1741); therefore, it narrates details of the 1741 battle in different locations, which are indicated with letters.

In support of the information obtained from the historical cartography, the writings of the time that describe the 1741 battle, complemented the information related to the sunken Spanish warships.
In Beatson (1804, p. 96) narration (English version), mentions the presence of África, San Carlos, San Felipe, and Galicia warships, in the Bocachica sector at the beginning of the battle, to defend this entrance against any attempt of English warships to enter the bay.
Beatson mentions that, because of a strong attack, África and San Carlos warships were sunk in deep waters of the colonial channel (Bocachica).
Different sources of information indicates that the Galicia was captured (De Eslava, 1741, p.14), while a recent research indicates that the San Felipe was set on fire (Aldana, 2019).
This documentary information matches the shipwrecks positions depicted on the battle maps (Figure 4).

As indicated in Admiral Blas de Lezo diary (Lezo, 1741, p. 37), the Spaniards worked all day creating the blockade line.
He gave the order to remove artillery elements from Dragón ship, to fortify the inland defenses.
Due to the lack of large warships, he sunk two sloops and a brig.

In support of the information obtained from the historical cartography, the writings of the time that describe the 1741 battle, complemented the information related to the sunken Spanish warships.
In Beatson (1804, p. 96) narration (English version), mentions the presence of África, San Carlos, San Felipe, and Galicia warships, in the Bocachica sector at the beginning of the battle, to defend this entrance against any attempt of English warships to enter the bay.
Beatson mentions that, because of a strong attack, África and San Carlos warships were sunk in deep waters of the colonial channel (Bocachica).
Different sources of information indicates that the Galicia was captured (De Eslava, 1741, p.
14), while a recent research indicates that the San Felipe was set on fire (Aldana, 2019).
This documentary information matches the shipwrecks positions depicted on the battle maps (Figure 4).

As indicated in Admiral Blas de Lezo diary (Lezo, 1741, p. 37), the Spaniards worked all day creating the blockade line.
He gave the order to remove artillery elements from Dragón ship, to fortify the inland defenses.
Due to the lack of large warships, he sunk two sloops and a brig.

Figure 5: Comparison of maps in the access zone to the Internal Bay indicating military actions that occurred during the battle of 1741.

The movement of the Conquistador’s was also mentioned by De Lezo (1741) and De Eslava (1741).
They mentioned that this ship did not sink completely, allowing the Englishmen to tow it toward the southern side of the Military Channel.
As consequence of this movement, the Conquistador shipwreck can be differentiated from other wrecks, as finally, it was not placed in the straght line closing the Military Channel (De Lezo, 1741; Figure 5c).

The shipwrecks position from the 1741 Battle was confirmed by the historical documents review.
Of the six major Spanish warships that participated in the battle, África and San Carlos were sunk in the colonial channel.
Additionally, San Felipe shipwreck has been identified in shallower waters from the Bocachica area (Aldana, 2019; Del Cairo-Hurtado, 2014).
We do not further assess this shipwreck, as its description is part of another study.
In addition, we have shown evidence that Dragón and Conquistador warships were sunk during the battle in the channel that gives access to the interior bay of Cartagena de Indias.
The latter, ended in a different position than other sunk- en warships in this sector, as it was towed by the English to recover access to the internal bay.
Note that the sixth large ship, the Galicia, was reported as captured (De Lezo, 1741), and no evidence of his shipwreck has been found in the study area.

To identify the current location and conservation level of the África, San Carlos, Dragón and Conquistador shipwrecks, in the following Section 4.2 we describe the results of a survey performed to the study area.
We used a multibeam echo sounder and side scan sonar, to evaluate the existence of anomalies in the bottom of the bay, with characteristics that could match those from a ship of that time, looking also for nearby cultural elements that could be related to the warships from the 1741 battle.

4.2 Hydrographics results

We focused on the recognition of anomalies in the survey results performed using geophysical sensors when their characteristics could be related to elements of cultural interest.
This information allowed us to identify their location, context, dimension, among other characteristics.
This was possible as the sensors used were programmed to obtain high spatial resolution data, so that the greatest number of details could be identified (Westley et al., 2019).

High resolution bathymetric surfaces of the access to the Internal Bay (Military channel) and Bocachica (Colonial Channel), were produced using the multi-beam echosounder system (hereinafter MBES) survey.
Five anomalies were detected protruding from the bay ’s seafloor: two in the Military Channel and three in the Colonial Channel.
No evidence of other shipwrecks was found in either sector.

Results from our geophysical survey were compared with the Durell’s map, (Figure 6 and 7) finding a good coincidence in the location of the shipwrecks.
This result is also consistent with the historical information presented in Section 4.1.

We assessed the depth at which each anomaly remains using the bathymetric surface we produced and compare these results with the depths shown in the Durell’s map (Table 2).
Although the depth comparison has a margin of uncertainty regarding the measurement method, units and instruments used, we found a good agreement in the four anomalies assessed.
Note the close position of the shipwrecks (anomalies) to the deepest zones of the Colonial and Military channels in both sources.

We assessed the shipwrecks in the Military Channel which gives access to the internal bay.
The layout of the shipwrecks’ position is indicated in the cartography of the time (Figure 6a).
Most of the sunken warships are perpendicular to the Military channel, except for the one that was recognized as the Conquistador in the documentary review.
This ship is placed parallel to the channel, after being towed by the English to recover access to the internal bay (Figure 3).
Two anomalies are seen in the bathymetric survey (Figure 6b).
The anomaly indicated with number 1 corresponds to Conquistador, while the anomaly indicated with number 2 corresponds to Dragón, based on the documentary assessment presented in Section 4.1.

The bathymetric data shows Conquistador closer to the southwest coast, when compared to the position shown by Durell (1741).
This difference is probably consequence of a normal cartographic error given the lower precision achieved by the maps of the time.
However, from a tactical-military point of view, the Conquistador ship was probably towed toward the shallower waters on one side of the channel, to recover the ship’s transit through it.
Following the same line of thought, as Dragón was a larger vessel when compared to the sloops and brigs.
Therefore, it was probably sunk in the deepest part of the military channel, which corresponds to the place of the anomaly shown in Figure 6b.
Consequently, we believe that the anomalies identified in the Military channel bathymetric survey, corresponds to the current position of Dragón and Conquistador remains.

Figure 6: Comparison of the defense line of Admiral Blas de Lezo, between historical cartography and the results found in this project in the access zone to the internal bay, Military channel sector.
a. Map of Durell (1741).
b. Bathymetric surface collected in this study with MBES.

We assessed the shipwrecks in the Colonial Channel that gives large warships access to the Cartagena Bay.
The area surveyed with the MBES is shown in the Durell’s (1741) map with a black square (Figure 7a).
From the three anomalies seen in our bathymetric survey, only two will be described in this study.
Based on the description from Arebalo (1758) we identified África and San Carlos warships, which are shown in Figure 7b with the numbers 3 and 4 respectively.
The third anomaly corresponds to the San Felipe ship, whose position is indicated with an asterisk in Figure 7b and coincides with the position previously reported by Aldana (2019) and Del Cairo (2014).
The bathymetric anomalies have the same orientation as the shipwrecks shown in the Durell’s (1741) map (Figure 7a) and are placed in the deeper part of the channel.
However, in this map, the shipwrecks seem to be closer to the coast at their west and a deep channel observed at the southern side of the bathymetric survey is not visible in the map (Figure 7a).
This is the first time to see this connection using MBES.

Based on a comparison of data from 1735 and 2011, Andrade et al.
(2017), found that the coastline of the Tierra Bomba and Abanico islands, the latter in the southern side of the map (Figure 7a), have changed, producing a land reduction of 342 hectares, specially affecting Abanico Island.
Shallower areas adjacent to the Colonial Channel were indicated in Durell’s (1741) map with shaded areas (Figure 7a) and identified in the bathymetric survey with depths <15 m (Figure 7b).
In the southern zone of the bathymetric plane, a channel with >20 m of depth is observed, which is not shown in Figure 7a.
This anomaly corresponds to the current deep navigation channel, dredged to facilitate the entry of larger warships to the Cartagena Bay, which did not exist in 1741.
Therefore, we believe that the bathymetric anomalies in Figure 7b show the current position of the África and the San Carlos warships in the Colonial Channel (northwest of the bathymetric survey).
Note that this was the only channel that allowed larger warships to sail into the Cartagena Bay at the time of the 1741 battle a condition that is recognized in the channel’s name.

Figure 7: Comparison of the defense line, colonial channel sector in Bocachica, between historical cartography and the results found in this project.
a. Map of Durell (1741), with a triangle indicates Isla Abanico and with a circle the island of Tierra Bomba; the black box shows the area surveyed with MBES.
b. Bathymetric surface collected in this study.

The dimensions of the four anomalies mentioned were estimated from the multibeam data, as indicated in Table 2, to compare them with the characteristics of the warships of the time, described in Section 1.3.
We found that the measurements of the anomalies are compatible with the dimensions of Spanish warships of the 18th century.
However, measurements seem to be smaller, especially in the warships’ length.
These differences may be related to each site formation process, warships variations suffered during the combat and their sinking, materials disintegration, and modification over time from environmental interaction or even because some buried elements might exist under the seafloor, which were not detected with the methodology we used.

Table 2: Characterization de anomalies ubicated in the line of defense.

4.3 Description of the state of the shipwrecks and elements of the cultural context

We followed the shipwrecks classification proposed by Gibbs (2006), and tried to determine the existence of attributes that could be related to a colonial ship.
These aspects include the presence or absence of cargo (e.g., fabrics, ceramics, among others); nautical or war accessories (e.g., chains, anchors, masts, cannons, etc.); and / or warships’ main structure such as the hull.

After the main anomalies were detected with the MBES, a side scan sonar (SSS) was used to identify the presence of discrete and smaller elements close to each anomaly.
The interpretation of these images is based on the acoustic response of the different materials.
The darker areas indicate the presence of sediments, while the lighter areas indicate the presence of hard elements.

The sediments dynamics in the bay is an important issue to consider, given that the MBES and SSS results indicate a different sediment coverage in each anomaly.
Anomalies in the Military Channel (1–2) were the least covered by sediments, while anomalies in the Colonial Channel (3–4) were more covered by fine sediments.
The sediment coverage of the shipwrecks corresponds to their proximity to the Dique’s canal mouth.
We continue below with a more detailed description of the anomalies listed in Section 4.2.

First anomaly – “Conquistador”: It lays in the Military Channel, which gives access to the internal bay.
Its shape is compatible with a ship’s hull.
The orientation of the bow is toward the deeper side of the channel (blue triangle), while the stern is placed on the channel’s slope (red triangle).
Figure 8a shows the anomaly in the MBES survey.
Figure 8b shows the response to the SSS, where a series of scattered elements around the ship are identified.

Figure 8: Characterization of the anomaly one using identification with MBES ( a.) and with SSS (b.)

Through autonomous diving, the elements detected by the sonar were inspected.
The presence of organic material (e.g., wood) and inorganic material (e.g., ballast rocks) at the site of the first anomaly could be photographed (Figure 9).
It is important to clarify that this kind of material is not proper of the seabed.
These shipwrecks remains have been studied by authors such as Del Cairo & García Chaves (2006), García, (2001) and Martín et al. (2021).
All coincide that this remains are from the Conquistador.

Figure 9: Analysis of the natural context of the conquerin g ship, presence of organic materials.
Photos: Santiago Estrada-DIMAR-PRNPCS-2020.
a. Wooden hull remains. b. River rocks used for ship ballast.
Measuring ruler with black and white segments, each 10 cm long.

Second anomaly – “Dragón”: It lays in the Military Channel, which gives access to the Internal Bay.
In the MBES survey, the shape of a ship’s hull perpendicular to the deeper part of the channel is observed with light blue (Figure 10a).
The SSS image shows the wooden hull protruding from the bottom with elements visible on both sides.
The shaded short lines on the remains of the hull (Figure 10b), correspond to at least ten cannons.
Due to poor visibility conditions, good photographs could not be obtained through diving.

Figure 10: Anomaly recognition two: Internal bay sector, Military channel.
Identification with MBES (a.) and with SSS (b.).

Third Anomaly – “África”: This anomaly lays in the Colonial Channel – Bocachica sector.
The MBES survey shows a shape of a ship’s hull with 30.9 m of length, protruding from the bottom at ~24 m deep; as consequence of higher sedimentation rates, objects with anthropogenic nature detected by the SSS do not have a distinguishable shape (Figure 11b).
It was not possible to take images through diving due to the lack of good visibility conditions.

Figure 11: Anomaly recognition three: Bocachica sector.
Identification with MBES ( a.) w ith SSS (b.).

Fourth anomaly – “San Carlos”: It lays in the Colonial Channel, sector of Bocachica.
This anomaly does note emerge as clear as the other anomalies from the bottom, however the ship ’s hull shape is still evident (Figure 12).
Besides, it is possible to identify in the SSS image, the presence of some elements ~2 m long of anthropogenic origin, however, due to sedimentation, the acoustic response is not clear enough as to identify the type of cultural elements observed.
Due to visibility conditions, it was not possible to take images of the site through diving.

Figure 12: Anomaly recognition four: Bocachica sector.
Identification with MBES (a.) and with SSS (b.).

As recommended by Gibbs, (2006), the description of the in-situ context through the MBES survey, side scan sonar images, and underwater photography, allowed us to determine that the four anomalies are compatible with warships for 1741.
This result is based on the evidence indicating the presence of elements of anthropogenic nature such as cannons and remains of the main structure, such as the warships’ hulls.

It was also identified that although 280 years have passed, the contexts studied in this study around each anomaly can be classified as “intact” contexts, since the material is found in the same area with a coherent distribution (Stewart, 1999; Bass et al.,1982).
However, it is important to clarify that, despite this aspect, each shipwreck is in permanent interaction with the environmental dynamics at the site.


For the first time four shipwrecks from the 1741 battle in the Cartagena Bay are carefully identified and described to see the connections between the shipwrecks.
The methodology used in this work combined the study of documents of the time and the use of equipment such as the MBES, SSS and visual inspections, allowing us to find evidence of the events that occurred in 1741.
Furthermore, the visual inspections through diving, although limited by the visibility conditions, allowed us to record elements of anthropogenic nature that do not correspond to the marine environment, which were associated with colonial vessel.
Therefore, for this type of analysis we recommend the integration of the cartographic and documentary assessment with geophysical measurements.

The position of the four warships detected in the geophysical measurements, corresponds to the documentary information of the 1741 battle.
Additionally, the first anomaly, which is related to the warship Conquistador, shows a wooden hull and ballast stones, which were photographed, as well as cannons, distinguished through the SSS.
This anomaly has a pattern, location and position that coincides with Durell’s (1741) description.
The second anomaly position is related to the remains of the Dragón, resting at the bottom of the Military Channel.
In this site, cannons and a large amount of dispersed anthropogenic material can be seen.
The characteristics of these two anomalies corresponds to the events described by the Admiral Blas de Lezo 1741.

The third anomaly, which is compatible with África shipwreck position, shows a covered wooden hull where cannons are identified protruding from the bottom.
The fourth anomaly is related to the position of the remains of San Carlos shipwreck, resting at the bottom of the Colonial Channel.
The position of these two anomalies corresponds to the events narrated in the Bocachica sector during the 1741 battle, as indicated in the historical cartography and documents of the time indicated in Section 3.1.
In this sector, shipwrecks suffer from a higher rate of sedimentation due to its proximity to the Dique’s channel, which has possibly covered other cultural elements associated with the warships remains.

For Colombia, it is important to preserve the submerged history of the colonial period that is related to the four shipwrecks remains described in this study.
Any conservation strategy begins with an adequate identification of the position of the shipwreck and its associated cultural elements, as well as by understanding the environmental context of each site, as was assessed in this document.
Based on this kind of information, the next step is to define conservation and dissemination strategies, a topic on which Colombia must work in the future.

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Charting error led to the striking of an offshore oil platform, NTSB report says

Ocean Princess under way before the casualty (left); SP-83A before the casualty (right).
(Sources: ©Malcom Cotte; Arena Offshore) 

On January 7, 2021, at 0122 local time, the bulk carrier Ocean Princess, with a crew of 24, struck the uncrewed/out-of-service oil and gas production platform SP-83A while operating in the Gulf of Mexico, 24 miles south of Pilottown, Louisiana.
No pollution or injuries were reported.
Damage to the vessel and platform was estimated at $1.5 million. 

 Area where the Ocean Princess contacted platform SP-83A, as indicated by a red X
source : U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management BOEM


The Ocean Princess was a dry bulk carrier built by Tsuneishi Shipbuilding of Fukuyama, Japan, in 2002 for Ocean Line Holdings of Qingdao, China, the beneficial owner of 32 vessels.
The vessel was one of 32 managed by Ocean Longevity Shipping & Management Co. in Hong Kong, China.

Built in 1990, SP-83A was a US fixed oil and gas production platform located 11 miles offshore of Southwest Pass, Louisiana and 24 miles south of Pilottown, Louisiana, in the Gulf of Mexico, on the southern edge of the safety fairway that connected the approaches to Southwest Pass and South Pass to the Mississippi River.
A four-pile steel structure in 467 feet of water that rose 73 feet above the water, the platform was 162 feet long and 81 feet wide and had three decks and a heliport.
SP-83A was painted orange and equipped with eight flashing white lights with 2-mile visibility 53 feet above the water, and a fog signal with a 2-mile range.
It had been uncrewed since 2020, when it was taken out of service. SP-83A was owned by Arena Energy and managed by Arena Offshore of The Woodlands, Texas.

Plot of the Ocean Princess automatic identification system history
shows the vessel’s path  until the time of the casualty.

Navigation Charts 

After the casualty, the master and the second officer noted that platform SP-83A was on the paper chart used on the bridge by the mate on watch, but SP-83A did not appear on the ECDIS.
The second officer stated that during the time leading up to the casualty he did not notice SP-83A was missing on the ECDIS.
The paper chart used on the bridge was British Admiralty chart 3857, Southern Approaches to the Mississippi River, 5th edition, December 20, 2012.
The chart was up to date and corrected with the most recent British Admiralty weekly notice to mariners.
BA3857 Admiralty (scale 1:150 000)
In the casualty location, the ECDIS drew its electronic navigation chart (ENC) information from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Nautical Information System (NIS) database.
When reviewing the vessel’s ECDIS correction record for the previous year, investigators found that the automatic updates to the electronic navigation charts were received and loaded weekly to both ECDIS units aboard the Ocean Princess.
The last update before the casualty was 53/21

(January 1, 2021). Neither of the two applicable NOAA ENC vector charts covering the area where the casualty occurred contained platform SP-83A.
Although the Ocean Princess ECDIS unit was up to date with chart corrections, the two ENC vector chart updates did not contain platform SP-83A, and therefore SP-83A was not shown on the Ocean Princess ECDIS unit. 

However old version of US4LA30M ENC (from 2012 GeoGarage archives)
seems to provide position info for SP-83A

Investigators also reviewed the three applicable NOAA paper navigation charts (11360, 11361, and 11366), which were up to date with the most recent notice to mariners, for the area where the casualty occurred.
SP-83A was depicted on only chart 11360 but not the other two larger-scale charts.
A representative of NOAA’s Marine Chart Division stated that platform SP-83A was added via a local notice to mariners in 1990, and the platform’s most recent revision was in 1994.
For unknown reasons, SP-83A disappeared from charts 11361 and 11366 in March 2010.
According to NOAA, ENCs were created from the raster (paper) charts, so the unexplained removal of platform SP-83A from the raster charts was critical to it also not appearing on the ENCs.

Since 2017, all NOAA ENCs have been stored in the NIS chart database and are no longer created from raster charts.
Changes to an ENC must be made through the NIS database, and critical chart corrections are issued via the Coast Guard’s local notices to mariners.
NOAA believes that, with NIS and its existing review procedure for ENC corrections and updates before public release, the error of SP-83A being omitted from ENC charts could not happen today.

The British Admiralty chart shows SP-83A while the ECDIS image does not. 
Navigation aids used by the Ocean Princess bridge team, with the location of platform SP-83A shown annotated by NTSB with a yellow circle (images are at different scales).
A photo of the British Admiralty chart 3857 (left) and ECDIS screenshot from the Ocean Princess fed by NOAA ENCs (right), which were up to date at the time of the casualty.
There were three platforms in the general area where the vessel was drifting.
Although platform SP-83A was depicted on the British Admiralty paper chart on the bridge, it was not marked as an obstacle with red pencil as required by the company’s SMS, nor were the other two platforms nearby.
The second officer said he was aware of the platform when he plotted fixes on the paper chart nearly an hour before the casualty but did not think it was of concern.
He also stated that he did not tell the master about the platform on the chart and assumed the master was aware of it.

Postcasualty Actions

After the casualty, Coast Guard District 8 (CGD08) issued a Broadcast Notice to Mariners via VHF radio from January 26 to February 9, which provided platform SP-83A’s position and notified mariners that the platform was not displayed on electronic charts.
On February 3, CGD08 issued weekly Local Notice to Mariners 05/21 with the chart correction to add “Platform (Arena Offshore-107-1)” to the two large-scale paper NOAA charts covering the area where the casualty occurred.
On February 11, NOAA released the automatic corrections that added platform SP-83A to the two ENC vector charts covering the casualty area.

Localization of SP-83A on current version of ENC charts (NOAA US4LA30M)


Platform SP-83A was not charted on the official US electronic or paper navigation charts that provided the chart data to the ECDIS aboard the Ocean Princess, but the platform did appear on the British Admiralty paper chart that the mate on watch was using at the time of the casualty.
The platform had been added to the US paper charts when installed in 1990, but for an unknown reason was omitted 20 years later in 2010 and remained off the two larger-scale US paper charts (charts 11361 and 11366) and ENCs for over 11 years—until after the casualty.

Following the casualty, NOAA updated and corrected electronic and paper charts that had been erroneously missing platform SP-83A.
Because ENCs have been stored in the NIS chart database since 2017 and the normal procedure for updating ENCs changed, NOAA believes the type of error that omitted SP-83A from the charts could not happen today.
NOAA RNC in the GeoGarage platform


The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of the contact of the dry bulk carrier Ocean Princess with the oil and gas production platform SP-83A was poor bridge resource management, which resulted in the bridge team not identifying the platform and recognizing the risk it posed to their safe navigation even though they saw its lights about 10 minutes before the casualty.
Contributing was platform SP-83A not being shown on the vessel’s electronic chart display and information system due to a charting error. 
Lessons Learned

Overreliance on the Electronic Chart Display and Information System 

The effective use of all available resources by a bridge team, including paper charts, electronic charts, and radars, increases collective situational awareness and contributes to a safe navigation watch.
When identifying hazards, bridge teams should avoid overreliance on a single data source by cross-checking information with available bridge resources and communicating identified risks with fellow watchstanders to ensure a shared mental model.

Increasing operator vigilance and combatting overreliance requires healthy skepticism about situations and information sources regardless of how accurate they could be, or how confident one is in their own assessment.
In this casualty, the electronic chart display and information system (ECDIS) was missing the oil platform struck by the vessel due to a charting error.
The vessel’s safety management system noted, “ECDIS is a valuable asset in assisting navigators and allowing them more time to maintain a proper lookout by providing them with more detailed situational awareness.”
However, it also warned, “navigators should always cross check ECDIS information with the other sources," and, if not used properly, “ECDIS may contribute to accidents rather than preventing them.”
The inability to recognize the fallibility of technology, such as an ECDIS, can result in operator overreliance and overconfidence that degrades sound navigation practices and negatively affects situational awareness.
Links : 

Where it all began – A race around the Isle of Wight

From America's Cup by Magnus Wheatley

The Victorian yachting scene of the early 19th Century was a very different place.
It was a time of gentleman’s wagers as the transition from the old world to the new created opportunity for the wealthy to prove their yacht’s capabilities.
The Royal Yacht Squadron was founded on 1st June 1815 at the Thatched House in London with a principal objective far removed from what we know today.
Back then, club members merely gathered primarily to execute boat-handling skills and manoeuvres to signals unique to the Squadron and it wasn’t until 1818 when the first recorded monies were initiated for races between local Cowes boatmen at the annual regatta.

Up to that point, wagers were an in-house affair between members, with the first recorded in 1815 between two cutters weighing in at 60 and 65 tons respectively (The Charlotte and The Elizabeth) and it was a period of increasingly larger sums being placed and intense competition between members.
Indeed, wealthy Victorians in the first half of the 19th Century in England found great pleasure in wagers – it was almost the light entertainment of the day.

As racing became a thing, some six trophies were crafted at the finest silversmiths and even the King donated a beautiful tankard but as the middle of the century fast approached, yacht racing at the Royal Yacht Squadron, who didn’t move into their impressive Castle at the entrance to Cowes harbour until much later in 1857, was waning.
A new Commodore, the Earl of Wilton, was appointed in 1849 and quickly took on a remit to broaden the Club’s appeal.
At the May meeting in 1851, a £100 Cup was waged for a race around the Isle of Wight with one eye on attracting international participation, in particular from the United States.

But skip back to the year 1844 and the real genesis of today’s America’s Cup can be found with the formation of the New York Yacht Club aboard John Cox Stevens’ schooner Gimcrack.
With Prince Albert’s Great Exhibition set to be held at the Crystal Palace in London in 1851, Stevens and five other founding members of the NYYC took it upon themselves to create a vessel capable of showcasing the great skills and innovations of US shipbuilding.

As was the time, a wager was offered to George Shuyler (one of the six original founders of the NYYC) by East Coast boatbuilder William Brown in a letter that set out to create a craft “faster than any vessel in the United States brought to compete with her” for the not inconsiderate sum of $30,000.
It was a no-lose bet for the founders, as they deemed that if Brown was correct, they could win considerable prize sums once the yacht had crossed the Atlantic, and the yacht ‘America’ was duly commissioned.

In customary America’s Cup style, repeated down the ages through to this very day, the yacht America was somewhat radical from the outset.
She was built to withstand an Atlantic crossing planked with beautiful three-inch thick white oak set on five different varieties of hardwood framing and diagonal iron bracing.
The deck was a yellow pine of some two and a half inches whilst the hull was copper sheathed to just above the waterline.
The Certificate of Registry, issued on the 17th June 1851 by the New York Customs House, states that America was 93ft 6inches long with a beam of 22ft 6inches and a draft of 9ft.
She weighed in with a tonnage just over 170.

A few days after registry, on the 21st June 1851, America set sail for Le Havre in France, replete with grey primed topsides for finishing off ahead of race preparation across the English Channel away from prying British eyes.
She arrived on July 9th, 1851, and entered an intense period of refit.
The topsides were enamelled in black and racing sails, made of cotton (the British boats used heavy flax) were laced to the spars – unconventional at the time.

John Cox Stevens and his brother Edwin A.
Stevens took charge of the vessel from here on and on 31st July 1851 they left Le Havre to travel to the Isle of Wight and challenge the very best that the assorted yacht clubs in England could muster.

Arriving off the north side of the Island that night in thick fog they anchored off the sands of Ryde Town and waited for the arrival the following morning of the cutter Lavrock to guide them up to Cowes.
Lavrock was known as one of the fastest of the English fleet and America was hesitant to sail against them, laden down as they were still with stores for the trip across the Atlantic.
But after starting considerably astern, quickly the crew of America found they could sail higher to the wind at a consistently faster speed and overtook Lavrock, resting just off Cowes at anchor a third of a mile ahead in short order.

The Earl of Wilton came aboard and welcomed the New York Yacht Club’s rapid vessel and its crew to Britain.
The London newspaper, The Times, reported that the vessel had arrived and alluded to its speed saying that it had the effect which “the appearance of a sparrow hawk on the horizon creates among a flock of wood pigeons or skylarks,” and in an instant the wagers and bets that had been mooted by owners of commensurate old-world yachts or on behalf of various royal clubs quickly dried up.

However, this was a time when yacht design was of fascination.
The old and the new world vessels wanted to pitch against each other to see and assess relative speeds and characteristics.
America was seen as ‘radical’ with a refined rigging arrangement, smaller sail area and sleeker form.
She quickly became a vessel to watch as she lined up alongside or astern of others of the English fleet in races from both the Royal Victoria Yacht Club and the Royal Yacht Squadron that she was ineligible to compete in that summer, owing to the ownership structure or membership status of the crew.
That she was fast, was never in doubt.

The first, and perhaps only, real test for America was the Royal Yacht Squadron’s £100 Cup initiated by the Earl of Wilton to be sailed on a clockwise course around the Isle of Wight on August 22nd, 1851.
A total of 18 yachts entered but only 15 made it to the starting line varying from the 392-ton, three-masted schooner ‘Brilliant’ to the 48-ton cutter Volante.

As was tradition (and a tradition that lasts to today), cannon fire was issued by the Royal Yacht Squadron at 10am to signal the start of the race with all the vessels sat at anchor on their stations to follow the easterly flowing tide down the Solent.
As the fleet took off in moderate to light winds, America overran her anchor and was quickly spun round in the breeze to face the west and for the first few hours of the most famous race in yachting’s history, it was a game of catch-up.
Setting a different sail-plan, much smaller than the rest of the fleet - the Lawsons History of the America’s Cup documents that: “The America went easily for some time under mainsail (with a small gaff-top-sail of a triangular shape braced up to the truck of the short and slender stick which serves as her main-top-mast), foresail, fore-stay-sail, (jib) and jib (flying-jib) while her opponents had every cloth set that the Club regulations allow.” Indeed, the British yachts had hoisted vast acres of flax sailcloth, but with cotton flat-cut sails laced to the spars and a better hull-form, America quickly started to pull through the fleet.

By the No Mans Land buoy off Seaview, it was a race amongst the smaller cutters who could ply their way through the water and maintain their speed in the moderate airs ahead of the heavier schooners.
An hour and a half after the starting signal, America seized the lead from the 48ft Volante having jockeyed and swapped positions down the waterway just before the Nab Light that marked the eastern approaches to the Solent.
And it was here where the first, and possibly longest lasting, controversies of what became the America’s Cup, occurred.

An unwritten rule, perhaps a memorandum of understanding between gentlemen members of the Royal Yacht Squadron and accepted by the other notable royal clubs, dictated that yachts would pass to the east of the Nab Tower light buoy, leaving the navigation mark to starboard as they filed along on their way to the southern-most tip of the Island.

However, Robert Underwood, the British pilot who was aboard the America having been recruited by the US Consul in Southampton to guide the vessel in these trickiest of coastal waters, stuck by the letter of the instructions for the race that he had received.
America tacked inshore and passed to port inside the buoy before the Yaverland foreshore and on to Sandown and Shanklin.

Although America was clearly faster, it was anything but plain sailing on the windward leg up against the tide to St Catherine’s Point as she held a one-mile lead over the Aurora, with the Volante having sprung her bowsprit, the Arrow going aground and the Alarm standing by to assist.
The fleet was dwindling.
America’s innovative jib boom snapped just off Dunnose Head although for the Sailing Master, Dick Brown, it was somewhat of a relief as he didn’t feel jib booms should be carried to windward.
Once the crew had cleared the debris with minimal loss in position, America increased her pace thus confirming Brown’s hunch.

However, it was a long haul around the tricky coastal waters of the back of England’s famous Isle as the Lawsons History of the America’s Cup chronicles: “notoriously one of the most unfair to strangers that can be selected, and indeed it does not appear a good race ground for anyone, inasmuch as the currents and tides render local knowledge of more value than swift sailing and nautical skill.” America finally rounded the Needles, an outcrop of rocks that mark the western end of the Solent at 5.40pm some seven and a half miles ahead of the 84ft cutter Aurora with just the nine miles of the Solent down to Cowes left to run.

Almost immediately after rounding the Needles and entering the narrow, deep channel down through the approaching Hurst narrows, the America ran slowly past the Royal Yacht, sat at anchor in Alum Bay with the Queen (Victoria) and Prince Albert present on her decks.

As is customary, the ensign was lowered (quite a thing for Republicans to do) and Commodore Stevens of the NYYC doffed his cap as a mark of respect.
As the winds lightened into the evening, it was a long haul down to Cowes with the Aurora closing in on America to within just a few minutes.

According to the Lawsons History of the America’s Cup: “The evening fell darkly, heavy clouds being piled along the northern shore of the strait; and the thousands who had for hours lined the southern shore, from West Cowes long past the Castle, awaiting anxiously the appearance of the winner, and eagerly drinking in every rumour as to the progress of the match, were beginning to disperse, when the peculiar rig of the clipper was discerned through the gloom, and at 8h 34m.
o’clock (railway time 8h 37m., according to the secretary of the Royal Yacht Squadron) a gun from the flagship announced her arrival as the winner of the Cup.
The Aurora was announced at 8h.
58m.; the Bacchante at 9h.
30m.; the Eclipse at 9h.
45m.; the Brilliant at 1h.
(Saturday morning).
No account of the rest.”

As the America, with her crew of 13 onboard passed the flagship, she was, according to Lawsons: “received with the most gratifying cheers.
Yankee Doodle was played by the band.”

But it was back up at the Needles at the western end of the Solent where possibly the most famous phrase of the America’s Cup, a phrase that many of today’s sailors use and live by, was supposedly uttered to Queen Victoria by a signalman onboard the Victoria & Albert Royal Yacht as he peered from the deck down the Solent:

“Say signal-master, are the yachts in sight?”
“Yes, may it please Your Majesty.”
“Which is first?”
“The America.”
“Which is second?”
“Ah, Your Majesty, there is no second.”

Perhaps an embellishment of the truth, the name of the “perspicacious” signal-master was never recorded but the tale and its succinct line has stuck with the America’s Cup since and beautifully encapsulates the competition.

When the news finally reached the United States some two weeks after the race, it was received with “general satisfaction, quietly expressed” according to Lawsons.
“In Boston the news was received during a celebration at the State House, of the opening of railway communication between the United States and the Canadian provinces.
Daniel Webster (Congressman and US Secretary of State) was addressing a large audience in the hall of the House of Representatives.
He broke off in his speech to announce the victory: “Like Jupiter among the Gods, America is first, and there is no second.”
There really is no second in the America’s Cup.