The following account is about how the ship building proceeded based on protocols and reports from our weekly 'Project Management Group' meetings at the Terra Nova Shipyard between 1992 and 1997. Additional information is gathered from interviews and public sources.
From the preliminary project website the following information about the ship was given to the public in December 20, 1996.
The main dimensions of the ship, rigging, armament, and a multitude of details are based on archive records and measurements of the excavated East Indiaman Götheborg. During the marine archaeological investigation, many measurements were documented.
Gotheborg III will sail as a 'special purpose ship' according to resolution A 534 (13), focusing on research activities and with space for a small amount of cargo. The ship's deck machinery shall be executed as historically accurate as possible and be able to be operated manually. Eric Lincoln is responsible for the ship's technical systems.
She is dimensioned for a crew of eighty people, officers, students, and a maximum of twelve passengers. Joakim Severinsson is responsible for the ship's construction and historical design. The construction drawings were approved by the classification society Det Norske Veritas in November 1995.
|Depth according to Sjöfs. 1993:3
|Rig Height above design waterline
|Draft at k.v.l. aft
|Displacement at k.v.l.
The hull is constructed according to applicable regulations and with as much historical accuracy as possible both externally and internally above the freeboard deck. Damage stability is achieved by dividing the hull into six watertight sections. Below the freeboard deck, there is no need to consider historical layout, but materials and execution must be adapted. The hull is built of wood. Approximately 75% is oak and 25% is pine. The frames are made of laminated pine to achieve the desired strength. The keel, stem, sternpost, planking, beams, inner planking, and other timbering details are made of oak. The decks are made of pine. She is ballasted to achieve a historically accurate load waterline.
The fundamental design principle was to enable sailing as in the 18th century while ensuring safety. This necessitated building two versions of the ship: one historically accurate for sailing and another fully modern, meeting all contemporary safety standards for international ocean voyages. The primary challenge lay in combining these two 'ships' into one. The original East Indiamen was built with a lifespan of 6 - 8 years in mind. Since we estimated that mastering sailing and understanding various solutions, since all this was new to us, would take about 20 years, we needed to adjust the materials and methods to a longer lifespan to match.
We assessed that 80 crew members would be required to sail the ship. This number is smaller than the original crew but ensures better conditions like improved food and reduced illnesses and fatalities. An alternative approach could have been to construct a historically accurate museum ship, serving as a historical replica but limited in use and possibly confined to the dock.
The first practical challenge was finding a construction site. After examining old shipyard locations, only one viable option remained - slipway number 6 at the old Eriksberg shipyard in Gothenburg. This was the last remaining slipway in the city, providing us with the necessary land for the duration of the build. Luckily the former CEO of Swedish Shipyard (Svenska Varv) then in charge of the development of the Northern Göta Riverside, Bengt Tengroth, was positive to our request and granted us the permission to free of charge use the former shipyard, towards a promise that once the ship was built, it would have 'his' side of the river as its home. We happily agreed.
Aware of the lengthy construction process and substantial labor hours required, we emphasized establishing well-equipped workshops and indoor building facilities. This preparatory phase commenced in 1994 and lasted approximately three years, running parallel to ongoing planning, design, and preparation. The initial design work, conducted in September 1992, involved drafting the ship's lines and external design. The lines were based on an East Indiaman designed by F H af Chapman in Stralsund in 1760. The ship was slightly larger than the Götheborg, requiring adjustments to fit her dimensions. Thus, the hull form was derived from a slightly younger vessel, but it was the oldest accurate line drawing we found of an East Indiaman.
The next step was to construct the hull. We know quite well how the original ship was built, but we are also aware that these first East Indiamen had a lifespan of 6-8 years. Therefore, we based our design on the original construction, modifying certain parts to achieve a longer lifespan and to meet class requirements.
The major changes were made to the frames and keel construction, as well as in the timber connections. Then, the work of comprehensively planning and constructing the ship began, taking into account watertight compartments, stability, crewing, interior, rigging, propulsion, and other systems. However, due to resource constraints, we couldn't start the detailed construction of the ship and rigging until 1999.
To build a ship the size of the Götheborg, large quantities of timber are required, and almost none of it is the type that can be bought at a lumberyard; it must be specially ordered. An old rule of thumb for building wooden ships is that the volume of wood required in logs is equal to the ship's dimensions (Length x Breadth x Height). In the case of the Götheborg, this meant about 4,000 cubic meters (141,000 cubic feet), of which 75% is oak and 25% pine.
The keel for the new East Indiaman Götheborg was laid on June 11, 1995. It is made of three pieces sawn from large oak logs, each weighing about 10 tons, but it would take another year before we had created the conditions for production. By June 1996, we had developed the methods and materials to begin frame manufacturing, and 2½ years later, we had made and erected all the frames.
The next major phase was to clad the hull externally and internally with planking and lining, planks that each had to be individually adapted to the hull. This work began in 1999 and was completed in 2003. Another significant task that was carried out in parallel with the planking and lining was the decks. The work of mounting the beams with their reinforcements began in 1999 and concluded with the laying of the final deck in 2003. Once all the planks were in place, it remained to seal the wedge-shaped opening planed between the planks, caulking the hull and decks. This was a laborious task that had to be done with great precision. Considering that a skilled caulker caulks between 20-40 meters (65-130 ft) per day and there are several miles of seams, the extent of the work is evident.
When the ship was launched on June 6, 2003, the hull was largely complete and only finishing work remained. Even though the Götheborg was a trading vessel, it was adorned with carved wooden figures, draperies, and decorative painting to showcase the power and importance of the Swedish East India Company and its crew.
Since so few people could read in the 1700s, symbols were used instead of words. At the bow, a 3.5-meter-high (11.5 ft) lion is placed as the figurehead to show the crew's courage. At the stern, there is, among other things, a shield at the top with the SOIC's monogram and on either side, figures representing 'Biton.' He could, by blowing his conch shell, calm or stir up the sea. Lower down, on the stern, the Gothenburg city coat of arms is placed to symbolize the ship's name.
The construction of the rigging plays a crucial role in how the ship can be historically sailed, which is why we have placed great importance on its design. The the masts and yards, have been built in a historically accurate manner using historical materials. We haven't glued the different parts together but have instead assembled the lower masts and the larger yards in an historical correct manner. The mainmast, with a diameter of 76 cm at the deck and a length of 27 meters, is assembled from a total of 18 large pines. The parts are joined together, and the entire mast is held together by iron rings and lashings. This method began to be used when ships became larger, and single trees were no longer sufficient. Compared to whole trees, this method has the advantage of selecting higher quality materials and that the masts are easier to repair.
All the rope work, both for the standing and the running rigging, has been made of high-quality hemp, weighing about 20 tons in total just for the rigging. The hemp was delivered to the shipyard as yarn and was cleaned and tarred at the shipyard, then twisted together at the ropewalk in Älvängen, under expert supervision. Historically, sails were made of both linen and hemp, and due to difficulties in obtaining hemp canvas, we chose linen canvas. The canvas had to be specially ordered with the right width, then sewn together by hand at the shipyard. The total sail area is 1960 square meters. The ship is equipped with a complete set for the rigging, and the most important sails in an extra set.
The blocks for the rigging have also been made in a historically correct way, from elm, with the block housing made in one piece that is shaped and hollowed out for the sheave gap. In the sheave gap, a disc of oak, lignum vitae (which is the densest and hardest wood known), or bronze is placed depending on the expected load and use.
To maneuver the rigging, there are no modern aids. It is handled entirely by men power, which also drives the capstan onboard used for heavier tasks. The current crew that today sail the ship, tells that there is nothing, that can be done by one persona alone on the entire ship. The onboard machine systems play an important role both for safety and comfort. From the beginning, we realized the importance of some modern systems to create functioning working conditions for the modern days crew to sail the ship.
Our systems are essentially the same as on any modern ship, except that it should be possible to sail the ship for periods of about 68 hours without any auxiliary machinery running, so-called silent sailing. The necessary systems are then powered by batteries. Propulsion by machine is done with two propellers, one on each side of the sternpost. These can be feathered so that they align with the water flow, braking the ship as little as possible when sailing. The choice of two propellers was made so as not to affect the design of the stern too much, especially the rudder arrangement.
Machinery and tanks for the systems have been placed as far as possible down at the bottom of the ship, with pipes and cables, etc. for the systems, being built in and hidden as much as possible.
Modern technology has been employed to make the ship more historically authentic. For example, water sprinklers allow the use of wood for the hull and bulkheads, with remote-controlled shut-offs operable from the main deck. Fuel supply is limited and planned primarily for electricity generation and maneuvering in and out of ports, or during difficult situations. The ship can produce its own drinking water through two reverse osmosis plants, with storage tanks and onboard water sterilization systems.
The ship carries provisions for 60 days and emergency rations for an additional 30 days. Refrigeration and freezing facilities are available for fresh supplies. The waterproof sectional design up to the main deck was largely decisive for the interior layout. The lower deck houses technical equipment like engine rooms, diesel and water tanks and storage for provisions and equipment. It also includes accommodations for 50 students and the permanent crew, with a modern galley located in the forecastle, historically a calm area due to the wind-driven sailing.
The upper deck, where most of the crew resided in the 1700s, features a historical environment with cannons, chests, and mess tables. It also serves as a communal, working, and resting space for the current crew. The stern of the upper deck contains cabins for the permanent crew and the large cabin.
The weather deck, fully established in the mid-1700s, includes crew cabins, a navigation cabin, and a smaller cabin in the stern. Bulkheads in the interior are build of wood while still meeting various fire integrity standards.
Creating a large, historically accurate ship that meets modern requirements was a significant challenge. The work inspired creative solutions that could be used in similar projects together with methods, experiences and tools. A lot of people have been trained in nearly lost crafts, certainly benefiting society in various ways. Extensive research on 18th-century construction and manufacturing revealed that many materials and methods used then, are not that far off from current standards.
The project's wide appeal have heightened the interest in the Swedish East India Company and the 18th century. The interest from China have been substantial, with numerous visits by high-level Chinese politicians and officials. Significant media attention in China have made the Götheborg known to more people in China than in Sweden. Hopefully this project will benefit Sweden and its international friend for many years to come.