Monday, 27 August 2018

The 'Matthew'

At 70 feet long, designed and built in Bristol, and with a well chosen crew of 18, the 'Matthew' sailed from the mouth of the Avon on the 20th May 1497. 
Above is a conjectural reconstruction of the 'Matthew' which John Cabot sailed from Bristol in search of new lands. 
At the end of the c15th knowledge was scarce, it is difficult for us today to appreciate or comprehend just how ignorant and illiterate the majority of people were. Nevertheless, even from humble beginnings great persons did emerge.
Giovanni Cabboto - John Cabot, was born in Genoa in 1450, the son of a spice merchant. By the time that he was 11 years old his family had moved to Venice, and there the young John worked in his father's shop. However, during his mid 30s he spent several years learning to became a skilful mariner. Knowing that spices came from the East, and that it was possible, though not proven, that the world was round he was convinced that by sailing westwards he could explore and tap into the riches found in the orient.
In 1495 Cabot came to Bristol hoping to find a sponsor for his voyage and was introduced to a group of merchants who were keen to expand their trade.
Impressed by Cabot they arranged an audience for him with King Henry Vll in London, and on 5th March 1496, Cabot secured letters patent from the King (a letter of authority to make a voyage and claim lands on behalf of the monarch).
via
Thirty-four days after sailing west from Bristol, Cabot sighted land. The exact location is disputed, but it is thought that it could have been southern Labrador, Cape Breton Island, or mainland Nova Scotia, but many consider that it was 'New-Found-Land'. When Cabot went ashore, he reportedly saw signs of habitation but no people. However, he returned back to Bristol along with several pieces of evidence from his voyage amongst which was a needle for making nets, a snare for catching animals and the complete jawbone of a whale. Cabot had not discovered a passage to Asia as was his initial intention, but instead discovered a continent - a continent that most of the world had no idea existed.
Cabot set off again the following year in February 1498, but this time he had five ships and 200 men. His intention was to continue westward from his first landfall until he reached the island of Cipangu (Japan). Several weeks later one of his ships, which was badly storm damaged, limped into coastal waters off Ireland. However, Cabot, and the other boats were never heard of again, and it was presumed everyone perished at sea. 
It was a lovely sunny afternoon to walk along the water front whilst passing some interesting vessels on the way - this canal boat has been decorated in an Art Deco design.
you can take a trip on a ferry, 
 or visit a really great ship, a jewel in Britain's maritime history, built to great acclaim in 1843. She returned back home to the dock of her birth almost 50 years ago having lain on the seabed for 33 years, some 8,000 miles away.
Having now been fully restored to her former glory, we had no time for a visit as our granddaughter had invited us to her home for supper. The story of this great ship will have to wait for another visit.

35 comments:

  1. It is amazing that people were so fearless to make those oversea travels in rather tiny ships. But Europeans are curious people I think, the Dutch, Portugese, Spanish and Italians they all went also on ships to explore the world.

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    1. How right you are - there does seem to be a curiosity within many Europeans who have an insatiable appetite for adventure. John Cabot, of course was an Italian adventurer but he used British money and expertise to mount these expeditions into the wide unknown.

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  2. So interesting and a new story to me. Though growing up not far from Bristol I never spent much time there. My niece has been working there for a year with Airbus and really enjoyed it - now she's been moved back by the company to France (Toulouse) which is close to her parents (my brother), but and I think is sad having to leave the friends she made in Bristol. I guess these young people are a bit like modern day explorers/adventurers, always moving around the world with their interesting jobs!

    Having travelled on several small expedition ships I do have an idea as to what those brave sailors went through in such flimsy ships. Having nothing such as today's hi-tech ships have regarding safety and navigational aids - they really were at the mercy the oftentimes stormy seas!

    Lovely post - thanks for sharing a bit more British history, and the great photos Rosemary.
    Mary x

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    1. The youngsters love Bristol Mary, it is a really vibrant, dynamic city - lots of festivals, great places to eat, and many interesting activities taking place each and every week. We oldies enjoy its atmosphere too - we only live 40mins away, and always say that we should visit more often.

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  3. I really enjoyed this post. It amazes me that these brave men headed out to sea without anything but the stars to guide their way. If they even knew how to navigate by them. They had no idea when they would find land or what they would find when they got there. Such small ships couldn't have carried much in the way of provisions. The odds were certainly against them!
    Still, by the 1800's whaling ships leaving the coasts of the US faced unimaginable dangers and hardships. Often they were away from home for years. 

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    1. They were amazing adventurers - not only did they travel through unknown waters, but at that stage nobody really knew exactly what the world itself looked like - was it flat, was it round, or was it a sphere?

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  4. Cabot's story on this side of the Atlantic is fairly well established, but we don't always think of where his first voyage started from.

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    1. I travelled part of the Cabot trail when I visited Canada.

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  5. Newfoundland is the only province of Canada that I have not yet visited. I hope to go there someday!

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    1. Hope you do Debra, and you could then, hopefully, post some photos too.

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  6. That is interesting. I wonder what is involved in restoring a ship wrecked so long ago.

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    1. The 'Matthew' is a conjectural reconstruction as the boat itself was lost at sea and never found.

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  7. Interesting history of the period. The Vikings may have landed in Canada-America as well and pushed far inland into what became Russia. Crossing the Atlantic was hazardous enough but discovering and populating most of the remote Pacific islands in simple catamarans or native dugouts with outriggers for rough waters boggles the imagination. Hawaii and Easter Island are just tiny specks in a blue void rather than a continent to aim for. You can't even walk about or shelter from the elements in a native craft. I liked Master and Commander: The far side of the World for giving a taste of that ocean going life.

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    1. The Vikings were tough, resilient, adventurers - Sagas record their adventures in what is believed to have been North America, and also a settlement was found in the 1960s at L'Anse aux Meadows, Newfoundland.

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  8. John Cabot's story is told in our Canadian history books. Historians conjecture that the Vikings landed in Newfoundland earlier and there is a settlement there that lends credence to the idea. Such a long, long journey into the unknown for these explorers.

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    1. I understand an excavation in the 1960s at L'Anse aux Meadows, Newfoundland, discovered a Viking settlement which dates to around AD 1000.

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  9. Hello Rosemary, Waterfront areas are fun to explore, especially with such colorful ships and buildings. As I am about to return to Asia, I consider the 30+ hour ordeal pure torture, yet what speed, luxury and safety compared to these early brave explorers. The restored and recreated ships give a good idea of what the early sailors had to face. Coleridge's Ancient Mariner's voyage doesn't even seem so bad compared to many real trips of those times!
    --Jim

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    1. Hello Jim - safe travels - I too would find a 30+ hour flight pure torture.
      We shall return to Bristol's waterfront soon, as we are keen to take a trip around the other ship I mentioned before the colder weather arrives.

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  10. One has to admire those first intrepid explorers. As a child I used to love to look at the old maps of where they sailed and imagine the adventures they had. Now I can appreciate what they achieved even more. The waterfront in Bristol looks very interesting.

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    1. We owe a large debt to these intrepid explorers for travelling off into the unknown.
      We were surprised at just how lovely being on the waterfront at Bristol was.

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  11. Dearest Rosemary,
    The entire world owes so much to all those brave explorers from ages past!
    They withstood so much and yet many of them ended up on the bottom of a monstrous sea.
    No weather forecast and nothing to support them when entering in rough storms.
    Interesting photos and worth going back to discover and learn more!
    Hugs,
    Mariette

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  12. Dear Rosemary,
    I can't imagine being out to sea for forty days or even longer. You have to be a born sailor and an adventurer. I love to be by the sea but enjoy terra firma under my feet.
    Thank you for this most interesting account and thank you also for your beautiful photos.

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    1. Dear Gina - it's terra firma for me too - sorry for the delay in responding but we have just been away for a few days.

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  13. Nice post and beautiful pictures. I love the sea but I always get seasick :)
    Have a great friday, take care Rosemary...
    Titti

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  14. Wow! Those old boats are incredible and how they are able to restore them is even more amazing. I watched a show with the family about the Mary Rose and all the things they found and it was amazing what good condition everything had been preserved. I love the photos of the ships you've posted!
    Becky x

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    1. Next time you are over it would be good to visit the waterfront at Bristol.

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  15. What an interesting tale, and so lovely she is home and restored to her former glory. I look forward to reading about your visit to see her next time. X

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    1. The other boat was partially hidden from view so look forward to revisiting the waterfront again to see her properly and climb aboard.

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  16. All news to me and I used to live in Bath.

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    1. I didn't realise that you once lived there - it is a lovely city.

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  17. What strong, adventurous people they were. In those days they were searching for new lands to claim and products to bring back home. In the days when my ancestors set sail for Australia, the reason was to punish them for small and large crimes or to escape poverty and the terrible conditions of mid nineteenth century Britain and Ireland. A much longer and a perilous journey.

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    1. That was one of many black stains we carry from our history.

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