Noticeable equipment and structural elements .2.

The Capstan

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- The capstan in situ -
Photos by J.C. Hurteau / CNRS
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An almost intact capstan was found just behind the base of the main mast. It is made of the same oak bearings and holds the superior section of a bell, as well as the spindle. The whole structure measures 1.85 m in length.
The incomplete spindle is cylindrical and its diameter is 16 cm with a height of 0.55 m.

The bell of the capstan measures 1.30m high and is a roughly cone shaped trunk. The lower octagonal section measures around 40cm in diameter and the superior part, rather square with rounded boning, measures 30cm in diameter. Two holes from the rectangular section (height 12 cm and width 9 cm) separated by 5cm, cross the bell perpendicularly at two different levels: the high part of the superior hole is 21cm from the peak. These holes, called mortises were for holding the handspike and for turning the capstan on its axis. At its base, four chestnut cleats measuring around 0.47 cm high were in place in the grooves that were cut out of the bell to hold them. One of them was able to slide freely.

This is one of the rarest capstans ever found. The only archeological reference is the Coge de Brême, dating from 1380 that was found in 1962 in Weser.

The base of the bell should have had eight cleats, but one of the cleats shows no signs of nailing and two other corresponding grooves were never even carved. These observations unarguably indicate that the capstan was undergoing repairs or under construction and that consequently the ship was in dry dock repair in Villefranche Bay where repairs were widely known to be done.
Other observations:
The unassembled jeer bitts and the presence of wood shavings under its decks confirm that the Lomellina was indeed in dry dock repair at the time of its sinking.
The preservation of the lifted up capstan was a long project carried out by the laboratory ARC Nucleart of Grenoble; soaking its parts in polyethylene glycol for 35 months and then freeze-drying for three months, and finally a restoration project to consolidate and improve its overall appearance.

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Plan view and section of the capstan
- Archaeonautica no9, p.91, pic.46 -
Representation of a jeer bitts and a capstan following Fabrica di galere
- Archaeonautica no9, p.88, pic.45 -

The Jeer Bitts

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- Compilation of the jeer bitts in place -
Archaeonautica no9, p.86, pic. 44a

The jeer bitts, along with the capstan and the halyard pulley (that was not found) made up the mechanism that was used to hoist the main sail. The jeer bitts are an exceptional piece, of which the three main parts were found, dismounted and stocked in the preserved section of the hold.

The superior component measures 2.95 m long and includes on its upper part a section 51x41cm a “Moor's head” and two cliques (66x8.5cm) for receiving two pulley wheels(which were not in their place) which have an evaluated diameter of 48 cm.
The lower part was adjoined to the next one, and held together by internal transversal rods having a diameter of 35 mm.
The intermediate section measures 3.94 cm, it contains two extremities allowing for its assembly with the two neighboring components, following the method just described and by an intermediate part measuring 1.06 m high and 33 x 31 cm cross section.
The lower section measures 4.41 m high and consists of two main parts. The superior part was to be attached to the intermediary and inferior components which rested on a 78 x 31 cm / 14 cm high flat bottom plate, with two lateral trapezoidal reinforcements of a height of 91 cm.
Entirely assembled, the three parts measure 8.22m. The jeer bitts were located immediately behind the main mast and in front of the capstan.
There is no archaeological reference concerning this type of equipment. The earliest mention of this that we could find is in an anonymous manuscript from the library of Florence, Italy:Fabrica Di Galere , dating around 1410-1420 and which represents jeer bitts in one whole piece but equipped with two pulley wheels and a foot supported by two reinforcements.

The major importance of this discovery is allowing us to accurately evaluate the height of the second deck, of which no elements were preserved. After close study, we can estimate that the height between the floor of the first deck (partly conserved on the wreck) and the floor of the second deck is 2.37 m.

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  - Jeer bitts. Left to right : upper part, intermediate part and lower part -
Archaeonautica no9, p.82, pic. 41

The hold pumps

Observations carried out enable us to localize the water evacuation system in the hold and to describe the pumps at least in part, their evacuation system and the structure of the pump well (the accessory put in place to protect the pump stand).
Two pump stands were documented during a survey in 1982 by Alain Visquis(the wreck's founder).The conditions of the sample collection do not allow us to know exactly where the stands were implanted, nevertheless their shape assures us that they were restrained between two floor timber legs.

Description of one pump stand :

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- Base of a hold pump -
Drawing by F. de Noblet
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- Base of a hold pump -
Drawing by F. de Noblet
The piece measures 25cm high and has a horizontal section of 19.5x17.5 cm. It is vertically crossed in its center by a circular conduit measuring 7.8 cm in diameter
The superior section measures 8.8 cm high and has a flange with a lightly cone shaped trunk.
The exterior of the flange measures 10 cm at its base. On its superior part (the part on which it was found), on the external face, is a 3mm deep / 4.5 cm high trapezoidal notch. Traces of nailing are visible on both the bottom of the notch and on the circumference of the flange
On the median of the rectangular section (19 x 17.5 cm) which has rounded whale boning, is 5.3 cm high The general shape is slightly pyramidal.
The inferior part has a more complex shape, roughly as that of the trunk of an upside-down pyramid.
The pumps are still located at the lower level of the hold, where the used water and run-off gathered due to gravity. They are located there about 6m from the front of the main mast. This placement, hypothesizing that it is not a characteristic particular to the Lomellina, due to a flaw or a particularity in the construction, is different from that observed in other ships of the same time period that were built according to the Atlantic tradition(the Mary Rose and the Basque whaler Red Bay). For these ships the pumps were installed within immediate proximity to the implantation point of the main mast, and to the keelson in a visible place chosen after the ship had been outfitted, put into the water and its weight distribution tested.

The placing of the pumps in these places could demonstrate an original practice of the Mediterranean shipbuilding method in the same way as the implantation structure of the main mast and the disposition of the mountings between the floor timbers and the futtocks.
The absence of other vestiges however poses the problem of the installation of the pump stands in the floor of the hold. Two solutions are possible: An installation in the ship's axis or an implantation on each side of the keelson in order to have an effective pump to handle the listing of the ship.
A ship possessing the same water pump system was found on the wreck of the Basque whaler Red Bay (1565) (See drawings). We can also see that the notch at the foot of the pump was used to attach the leather valve.
The vestiges of the pump wells (partitions around the pump stand ) allow us to place them as having come from the depths of the ship.
The body of the pump and its mechanism were not found, however the components that were found resemble the system observed on the Red Bay wreck. This is a rudimentary system that is composed of a stem with leather valves of varying diameters.

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- Elements of de la pompe du baleinier de Red Bay (1565) -
Drawing by Robert Grenier

Water evacuation conduits :

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- Water evacuation conduits -
Drawing by M. G.
The map shows their structure well, the conduits are covered with a series of protection planks. The conduits do not rest entirely on the surface of the decks, so they must be supported by some sort of mechanism (blocks and/or pillars). The exit toward the outside is circular and protected in front by a piece of wood that acts as a deflector (probably to keep seaweed and other debris away), and a leather valve kept water from backing up into the conduit.

© Max Guérout