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Intricate Ship Sterns: Art on the Ocean

Link - article by Simon Rose and Avi Abrams

More elaborate than Barocco palace facades, these monumental sterns were built to impress

When we ran our article entitled Ship Figureheads: Symbols of the Sea, it seemed like a great idea to take an in depth look at the decorative art at the other end of the ship as well.

The stern is the rear of a ship or boat, being positioned opposite the front or bow, where the figurehead would normally be located.

(image via)

The Swedish warship Vasa sank on its maiden voyage in 1628 and was salvaged in 1961 (see photo above). Now on display in the Vasa Museum in Stockholm, the stern is painted in what are believed to have been the original colours. Another view of Vasa's stern:

(image credit: Andy Carvin)

Strangely, some sterns sported animals of all sorts, including... elephants! -

(left: stern of the Danish ship Friderich, 1649 - on the right: nose figurines from Danish ships: Elefanten, 1741, Jylland, 1739, Fyen, 1736)

Another Danish line ship - Dronning Juliane Marie, 1752 (the model is on display in the museum in Copenhagen):

(image via)

Italian tall ship Amerigo Vespucci (built in 1936) sports a colorful deck ornament:

(image via)

This colourful painting appears on the stern of the replica of Sir Francis Drake’s sixteenth century ship, the Golden Hind, which can be viewed on the South Bank of the River Thames in London:

(right image credit: Picqero; left image via)

A modern replica of the Dutch East India Company ship Batavia, completed in 1995, can be visited at Lelystad in the Netherlands. The original ship was wrecked off the coast of Western Australia in 1629 on its maiden voyage. Batavia is also notorious for the mutiny and massacre that followed the shipwreck (left):

(images via Salvador Busquets, Bruce S.)

Right image above: Susan Constant was one of the ships associated with the founding of the first permanent English settlement in North America in the early seventeenth century. A replica is on display at historic Jamestown in Virginia.

Gotheborg was a Swedish East Indiaman ship, which sank in 1745 after returning from a voyage to China. When the wreck was located in 1984, it was decided to build a replica, launched in 2003:

(image credit: Bengt holm)

This stern belongs to the replica of the Dutch East India Company ship Amsterdam. The original vessel sank off southern England in 1749, at the beginning of its journey to the Dutch East Indies. The wreck was rediscovered in 1969 off the coast of East Sussex in the UK and it can sometimes still be seen today at low tide:

(image via)

The Royal Navy ship Bounty was the scene of the famous mutiny in the South Pacific in 1789, the topic of several movies. This is the stern of a more modern replica:

(image credit: K. Robert)

Here’s the stern of Victory, flagship of Lord Nelson, one of England’s greatest national heroes, who died at the moment of his greatest victory at the battle of Trafalgar in 1805.

(images via 1, 2)

Ship quarterdecks that look like a facade of a mansion:

HMS Implacable also first saw service in Napoleonic Wars. It was originally a French ship, captured in the last action of the Trafalgar Campaign in 1805. The stern gallery shown here is on display at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich in the UK:

(image credit: Andrew Facey)

The frigate HMS Trincomalee was launched in 1817 and after a full restoration, the ship is now on display at Hartlepool, County Durham, in the UK:

(image credit: Steve T.)

The USS Constellation was the last sail-only warship built by the US Navy. First launched in 1854, the ship is currently located in the harbour in Baltimore (Left image). Launched in 1860, HMS Warrior was the Royal Navy’s first iron-hulled, armoured warship, powered by both sail and steam. The ship now serves as a museum and tourist attraction at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard in the UK (right image below):

(images via 1, Ben Charles)

The Kalmar Nyckel, or Key of Kalmar, was a merchant ship that carried Swedish and Finnish settlers to establish the colony of New Sweden, located on the mid-Atlantic coast of what would later become the United States, in 1638. This is the stern of the replica, launched at Wilmington, Delaware in 1997 (left image):

(images via Michelle Erica Green, 2)

Another modern replica, The Grand Turk, was built in 1996, to represent a generic warship from the Napoleonic era. It served as HMS Indefatigable in the Hornblower TV series, although the original Indefatigable from 1784 was actually a bigger vessel (right image above)

The HMS Surprise, located in the Maritime Museum of San Diego, was originally built in Nova Scotia in 1970 as a replica of HMS Rose, which dated from the later eighteenth century. The ship was used in the movies Master and Commander and Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides.

(image credit: William Graf)

This rather bizarre stern is from The Flying Dutchman, another one of the ships depicted in the Pirates of the Caribbean movies:

(images via)

So there you have it, a look at the decorative art of the ship’s stern. Don’t forget to check out the companion article, Ship Figureheads: Symbols of the Sea, right here at Dark Roasted Blend.


Simon Rose is the author of science fiction and fantasy novels for children, including The Alchemist's Portrait, The Sorcerer's Letterbox, The Clone Conspiracy, The Emerald Curse, The Heretic's Tomb and The Doomsday Mask.



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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice pics.

But you didn't label all the pics correctly. You did label a few ships as Dutch - They where in fact Danish.

You said:
Dutch ships: Elefanten, 1741, Jylland, 1739, Fyen, 1736

Nah - They were all danish...

Blogger Avi Abrams said...

Thank you - corrected

Anonymous Anonymous said...

it might be worth noting that the vasa boat in the first pictures - the colored stern is a part of a scale model of the boat, while the unpainted stern is the real salvaged boat which occupies the complete museum. Flash is not allowed as they are trying to preserve the ship as much as possible.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

It would be cool to have some shots from inside the stern cabins.

Anonymous EndlessWaves said...

La Real, the flagship of the Holy League forces at the Battle of Lepanto in 1571 has a rather interesting stern, definitely worth including in a Part 2 if you can find a good picture of it (the wikipedia link above had one that's decent, but a little fuzzy)


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