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Magellan's Ship:  VICTORIA


This is a photograph of a model of the Victoria, the only ship in Magellan's fleet to make it back to Spain in 1522, and the first ship to circumnavigate the earth. The model is in the Mariner's Museum in Newport News, VA. Like the other 4 ships that left Sanlucar de Barrameda, Spain on 20 September 1519, Victoria was a square-rigged caravel, or if you want to be very technical, a caravela redonda. She had three masts with large square sails on the foremast and mainmast and a lateen sail set on the mizzen.

Comparing Triton to Victoria requires a great deal of imagination. Victoria displaced only about 90 tons compared to Triton's submerged displacement of nearly 8,000 tons. Even so, Victoria could carry a fairly large supply of stores and was capable of remaining at sea for months on end. She was so true and sound a ship that mariners and shipwrights together found no way to significantly improve her for 400 years. Columbus' flagship Santa Maria was such a ship. So was Pinta and Niņa.

Victoria was about 80 feet long with a beam of 27 feet. Perhaps the feature that made her the ideal ship in which to explore unknown waters was her draft - a mere 6.5 feet! Other features included wooden pegs to hold planks to frames; ballast of stone or sand for stability; a wooden hand pump for clearing bilges; and a long wooden tiller projecting into the ship through a hole high in the stern to an area beneath the poop deck. The helmsman never saw the sea or sails. He steered only by compass and the feel of the ship beneath his feet. At least in this respect, Triton and Victoria have something in common.