Ghost Galleys


By the end of the 15th century, both the cog and the hulk had lost their popularity to the carrack. Probably first built on the Atlantic coast of Europe, the carrack blended elements of Mediterranean and northern European ship design. The shipwright first built a skeletal frame, to which he fixed planks edge-to-edge and caulked between them to form a smooth finish. Planked hulls with this type of construction, called carvel-built, contrast with the overlapping planked hulls of clinker-built ships. The carrack sported two, and later three, masts. The fore and main masts carried square sails; the after, or mizzen, mast carried a lateen sail. Sail area, and therefore ship speed, was increased by flying topsails above the main sails. The elevated forecastle and sterncastle housed the crew and passengers and protected them from rough weather.

Carracks were commonly used for trade and war in the Mediterranean and northern seas. In 1510 King Henry VIII of England built the 32-m (105-ft) battle carrack Mary Rose and equipped the ship with what was then state-of-the-art artillery. On previous ships, fighters stood on elevated decks to fire cannons and other weapons down onto the decks of enemy ships. Mary Rose featured gun ports with hinged lids on each side. During battle, fighters opened the lids, rolled out the cannons, and fired at the enemy ship's hull instead of its deck.

CARRACK were used for trade and war in the Mediterranean and northern seas

Though convenient, gun ports also proved vulnerable. If the gun ports were cut too close to the waterline, water could pour into the ship and sink it if it listed to one side. The Mary Rose, which sank in 1545, probably met this fate. Attempts to salvage the cannons and other valuables onboard proved more or less futile. The ship was forgotten until the 1970s, when marine archaeologists found it on the ocean bottom and began to bring its thousands of artifacts to the surface. The ship itself was raised in 1982.

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