Thursday, May 05, 2005


Replica of 16th century caravel may join Danshui celebration


Taiwan News
April 20, 2004

A replica of a small sailing vessel used 500 years ago by Portuguese explorer Fernão de Magalhães to circumnavigate the globe might drop anchor in Taiwan this October if a plan by the Taipei County Government and local scholars pushes through.

The replica of the 16th century caravel, the Nao (sic) Victoria, was built 13 years ago for the Expo Sevilla 1992 in Spain, and is now heading toward Japan for the Expo Aichi 2005.

The Nao (sic) Victoria will sail to the Philippines in October, and the Taipei County Government is hoping the ship can stop in northern Taiwan to join the celebrations surrounding the reopening of the refurbished Fort San Domingo -- a castle the Spanish built in 1629 in Danshui Township, Taipei County.

The Association of Spanish-Taiwanese Cultural Exchange (Asociacion Hispanica-Taiwanesa de Intercambio Cultural) is one of the groups pushing for the Nao Victoria's visit to Taiwan. Lee Yu-chung, vice chairman of the AHTIC, said their Spanish counterpart is also interested in having the vessel visit Taiwan.

"The director of Nao Victoria, Ignacio Fernandez Vial, is planning to visit Taipei in May to evaluate the feasibility of the ship docking in Taipei and other problems, such as the water-depth and the ship's course," Lee said.

"If the technical problems can all be solved, then the caravel will very likely come to Taiwan," he added.

Lee said the Nao Victoria's workers were very concerned with the marine environment of the Danshui River, and the crew is worried that the unsuitable environment might damage the boat. Lee said the crew told him that maintaining the replica caravel was not a simple task and required a high level of expertise. If the hull were to be damaged, the crew would have to find the proper timber in Taiwan to fix the small ship, which is 25 meters long and six meters wide.

AHTIC is a local non-profit organization dedicated to promoting cultural exchanges between Spain and Taiwan.

AHTIC had lobbied the Council for Cultural Affairs and Taipei County Government to sponsor the Nao Victoria's visit to Taiwan. The county government believes the Spanish caravel would be a significant addition to festivities marking the opening of renovated Fort San Domingo.

The Taipei County Government and Loewe's Taiwan office have expressed their willingness to put the NT$2 million budget needed to accommodate the approximately 20 crew members here. "The current plan would be for Nao Victoria to stay six days in Danshui.

The county government is planning to set up a dock near the fort for the vessel," Lee said. "However, we hope they can also stop in Kaohsiung," he added.

Ships like the Nao Victoria were forerunners of the later Spanish galleons. The original Nao Victoria was the only one of Magellan's fleet of five ships that successfully circled the globe in the early 1600s.


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