Spanish Chalupa, ca. 1565
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Archaeological drawing of one of the chalupas excavated by Parks Canada archaeologists in Red Bay, Labrador. They date to 1565, the same year that St. Augustine was founded.
The chalupa, known as "shallop" by English-speaking mariners, was a highly seaworthy open boat which could be rowed or equipped with sails. Colonial Spanish and Basque sailors used these sturdy vessels throughout the New World, from the Caribbean to the North Atlantic. Unlike most 16th century boat types, we know about the form and function of chalupas from both archaeological and documentary evidence. The well-preserved remains of three chalupas were excavated and recorded by Parks Canada archaeologists from the site of a wrecked whaling galleon in Red Bay, Labrador. The best preserved (completely intact) of these was designed to be manned by a crew of seven and measured 8.03 m (26.3') long and 2.01 m (6.6') wide. An artistic reconstruction of this vessel, courtesy of Parks Canada, appears above. The Red Bay chalupas displayed a unique planking method using carvel planks (edge to edge) below the waterline and clinker (overlapping edges) above. All three were of Basque design and were wrecked in 1565, the same year of St. Augustine's founding by Pedro Menéndez. His expedition, partly outfitted from Avilés on the Biscayan coast adjacent to Basque country, included at least three chalupas that were probably very similar to those discovered in Red Bay, along with Biscayan boatwrights versed in similar building traditions. Records recently discovered by LAMP researchers in Spanish archives indicate that chalupas continued to be used in St. Augustine through the following century. One of these documents includes a detailed description of a St. Augustine chalupa complete with a list of ancillary equipment. Combining archaeological and historical evidence, LAMP plans to build a replica of a chalupa dating to the period of St. Augustine's initial colonization in time for the city's 450th anniversary in 201
with our partner the St. Augustine Maritime Heritage Foundation.


Chalupa drawings courtesy of Parks Canada.

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