Nick Burningham is an acknowledged expert on maritime archaeology. He has been responsible for five reconstructions of historic craft. His recent
projects include the design and construction of the replica of the Dutch ship Dufken which was the first historically recorded ship to visit Australia
and the design and build of the replica 8th Century double outrigger vessel for the Borobudur Ship Expedition.
Nick has contributed to the design specification for the replica Phoenician/Mediterranean vessel and is also supervising the building of the vessel
Nick was the first crew/team- member who answered us. And all the time we send him some questions to get some further informations, we get a fast, friendly and detailed answer. Nick gave us also support about the indonesian crew on board of the Phoenicia- specialy about Sulhan and Dirman-
You can find this here:
After his report- down at this site- you can find also two Pdf´s with detailed and very interesting informations about the Borobudur Reconstruction and Expedition.
And a nice gallery with selfbuildet models of three different kind of ships- jong, pattamar and dhow.
Thanks Nick for all your help and also for your first "kick" to create this website about the Phoenicia Expedition!
Pictures: Both represent the Duyfken
Nick Burningham´s report
let us start with the Borobudur ship expedition -- Phillip Beale's project which preceded the Phoenicia project. Many years ago Phillip had seen the bas
relief carvings showing strange sailing ships at the 8th century temple of Borobudur in Central Java. More recently he had learned that Madagascar was
first populated by people from Indonesia.
They had first arrived about 1500 years ago, possibly more like 2000 years ago. It was the first purposeful trans oceanic migration in history. Indonesians
had also visited Africa's east coast, and there is some speculation that they had reached and settled in equatorial west Africa. The west Africa idea is
controversial, but some of domesticated plant species, musical scales and metal working techniques seem to have reached equatorial west Africa a long
time back, direct from Southeast Asia without diffusion across Africa from the east coast. There is a little linguistic support for the idea also.
Phillip's dream was to build a replica of the type of ship depicted at Borobudur and sail it across the Indian Ocean and around the Cape of Good Hope to
It was coincidence that brought Phillip into contact with me and thus he had the possibility of turning his Borobudur ship dream into the nightmare
of a real replica ship expedition. Phillip was visiting a former girl-friend in Ravenna, northern Italy. Francesca had a studio where she did mosaic in the
corner of a boatbuilders shed where I was working with my friend and sometimes-colleague Tom Vosmer, and a team from the University of Bologna,
building a replica of a Bronze-age boat from Oman.
(At this point, let me say that where I use the word "replica" here I should really write "hypothesised reconstruction". You can only build a "replica" if the
precise design of the original is known. Most "replicas" are built to designs reconstructed from fragments of archaeological, historical, iconographic and
ethno archaeological evidence combined with principles of naval architecture.)
I had designed and supervised construction of a number of replicas, and my main area of research was Southeast Asian watercraft, so I was really in
a position to design and have built a Borobudur ship replica for Phillip if anyone was. Phillip and I met again in London when the Ravenna project was
finished, and Phillip courageously said
"Let's do it".
My first task was to come up with a design, then I built a scale model because the traditional Indonesian shipwrights who I would engage to build the ship
do not read "blueprints". They are very good at understanding the shape and design presented as a model.
(I can send a .pdf setting out how the design was developed).
In late 2002 Phillip and I went to Indonesia and travelled to the islands lying eastwards from Madura because I thought it was in those small islands that
we would most likely find the combination of skills and traditions best suited to building the Borobudur replica. A combination of Java/Madura traditions
with Sulawesi and Sama-Bajo ("Sea Gipsy") traditions.
Turning now to Phoenicia. I am not the primary designer of the Phoenicia. The main source of evidence about Phoenician ship-design from approximately
6th century BCE is shipwrecks off the Mediterranean coast of France: the so-called Jules-Verne wrecks, particularly the wrecks designated J-V 7 and 9.
The designs of those wrecks were reconstructed by Professor Patrice Pomey and colleagues. There are other Phoenician wrecks off the coast of Spain
Phillip Beales wish was for a ship considerably larger than any Phoenician ship known from shipwreck archaeology. He also wanted a fully-decked ship
with a modern cabin and accommodation. Kostas Damianidis made drawings of a design based on the J-V wrecks, scaled up and modified to Phillips
specifications. I only modified Damianidis' drawings where they were impractical and where the various drawings did not agree with each other.
Aside from that, my role was to interpret the design to the master shipwright, Khalid, on Arwad, and at the start of the construction I explained plank-first
construction with the planks joined edge-to-edge using tenons. Normal boatbuilding on Arwad is frame-first construction.
Some details of the ancient Phoenician construction seemingly remained unchanged on Arwad, particularly the rabbet or rebate on the stem and stenpost
(stevenen) and the sudden transition to a bevel with no rebate about 1m from either end of the keel. Khalid and his team adapted to plank-first
construction remarkably well.
The main difficulty was acquiring big pieces of naturally shaped timber and acquiring an adequately big mast. The mast on Phoenicia is not of adequate
diameter towards the top in my opinion.
I did the sail- making and set up the rigging when the ship was ready.
The other big problem has been the system for securing the rudders. The beam to which they are secured was not big enough and did not protrude far
enough (though it was bigger than specified by Damianidis). We do not know how the rudders of Phoenician ships were secured. The Borobudur ship
had similar rudders mounted on the quarters. Indonesians continue to use such rudders until know, so the expertise is still available. However, the very
limited iconography does not obviously show a system like the Indonesia rudder mounting system in the ancient Mediterranean.
As you will know, Phoenicia's rudders came away from their mounting whenever the ship sailed at a reasonable speed. The problem was not resolved
until some Indonesian seamen from the Borobudur ship joined the expedition and built an Indonesian rudder mounting.
You ask about Phillip's motivation and financial situation.
I think Phillip is driven by a kind of obsession (you could say the same about me). He does not often seem to enjoy these projects. He is not extremely
wealthy, as far as I know. He used to be a superannuation fund manager. He uses his own finances to start his projects and also looks for sponsors to
share the financial burden. You can see the sponsors on the websites.
You ask about "rebirth of history". "Living history" and "experimental archaeology" are other names used to describe this kind of recreation of aspects
of the past for serious academic reasons. It's a subject I sometimes write and speak about. Indeed I will speaking about it at a conference in Beijing,
China next week.
One of the basic principles, in my opinion, is that experimental archaeology using replica or reconstruction sailing vessels is too expensive for most
museums and universities to indulge in. Fortunately, replica ship projects are initiated for other reasons. The challenge and opportunity is for archaeology
to be involved in ways that make replicaprojects authentic, good research, but do not contradict the other aims of a project.
Personally I have been involved in replica ship projects because i have been obsessively interested in traditional sailing ships and how they were sailed
since I was a child.I don't know why. It is not a good career path, but it is very interesting to me. When a replica ship performs well, it is satisfying.
The Duyfken replica and the Borobudur ship have both performed well.
How long does it take to get a replica ship expedition under sail?
It can be quite fast if the money is available. The two difficult aspects are finding the money and finding the timber. It was in October 2002 that I met
with Phillip in London and he commissioned me start work on the design. I had given some thought to the design of the Borobudur ships in previous
years and had the literature in my files, so we were not starting from zero.
The ship was launched in May 2003, first sailed in June, and departed Jakarta for the official start of the expedition in August. Reached the Seychelles
a month later -- less than a year after the decision to start.
The Phoenicia project was not quite so quickly realised. I'm not sure when Phillip initiated design work. However, he engaged modern naval architects
who designed a modern yacht with a bit of Phoenician styling. In effect it was a false start. The earliest Phoenicia document I have on-file is from
Construction started in November 2007, at which time detail of the design was still being worked on. The ship was launched in late July 2008, and
first sailed a month later.
The design was based on research and reconstruction of design that was done by other people (Prof Patrice Pomey and others) before the Phoenicia
project was started.
If one were to look at the timeline of a project building a replica based on a shipwreck, the timeline from the discovery of the wreck to sailing the
replica would be much longer (e.g. the Kyrenia ship).
It could be argued that Phoenicia was not ready to sail when she was towed to Suez and through the canal. Initial sailing on the Red Sea was chaotic
and could have been disastrous.
I am not sailing on Phoenicia. I don't think Phillip would want me. My ideas about how these things should be done are different from his. Anyway,
planning for the voyage should be done during the time when the ship is being built. You don't want the ship lying around doing nothing after launching.
An unused wooden ship quickly deteriorates.
A bigger project: the Duyfken replica.
Research for the design had been started back in the early 1990s, but it was early 1996 when I started working full-time on the design. Late in 1996
I went to Latvia to source oak timber. Early 1997 construction started. Launching was two years later (early 1999). First major voyage started April 2000.
Thanks to R. (member of the travel forum were all reports has been hosted before) for the comment about "replicas" and "hypothetical reconstructions".
Unfortunately the English speaking public accept the word "replica" and misunderstand "reconstruction". When I said that we were building a
reconstruction of Duyfken, many people thought we had found a shipwreck and were repairing it! Hypothetical reconstructions can be used in respectable
and useful research. You can find a three papers about the Duyfken project in the International Journal of Nautical Archaeology.
You can find a nice gallery about the construction of the Phoenicia- starting with the keel and continually growing to a ship- here:
Nick send us two very interesting Pdf´s for you also:
The first is about the reconstruction/ the design outline of the Borobudur ship. The second is about the Borobudur Expedition.
Its very interesting to learn more about the historic background, the technical problems and all other backgrounds of an expedition like the Borobudur Expedition and now also the Phoenicia Expedition.
You need a pdf- reader to open the files.
Open here (or click the picture): Borobudur Reconstruction Borobudur Expedition
And here a nice gallerie with some models of different kinds of ships: Jong, Pattamar and Dhow.
All these models are buildet by Nick himself- the detailed precision is fascinating.