Oman sailing project sees ninth Century ship reconstructed using only ninth Century techniques
The Sultanate of Oman, at the Eastern tip of the Arabian Peninsula, is going through a renaissance of its maritime heritage. Taking it one step closer to their goal is the Jewel of Muscat project, which now nearing completion.
The importance of the relationship between modern Oman and its ancient seafaring traditions is of paramount importance as the Sultanate looks to diversify its global perception and continues to develop as a modern country.
The project is an historical and cultural initiative launched by the governments of Oman and Singapore that involves the reconstruction of a 9th-century ship and sailing it from Oman to Singapore. The ship’s design is based on the archaeological findings of the Belitung Wreck, which was discovered in 1998 in Indonesia.
It will represent a major feat of maritime engineering: the hull is being sewn together with coconut fibre; Built without nails to seal the hull, each timber will have to fit perfectly; the wood will be protected by a layer of goat fat mixed with lime; and the sails will be square and made from palm leaves.
Once built, the ship is expected to sail from Oman to Singapore, which is presumed to have been a key stopping point of the Belitung ship, in its journey westwards before it was wrecked. It will travel along the same route as those described by Arab geographers, using the same knowledge as Arab seamen.
The team on the ship will use 9th-century navigation techniques, plotting the course for the 18-metre ship with a “kamal” (a small block of wood connected to a piece of string that can calculate latitude), and the stars and the sun. Observation of the sky and sea colour, marine and bird life, and wind direction will also be used as aids to navigation. Modern instruments will only be used to check the navigation techniques.
Construction is expected to take between 10 and 12 months. The journey is expected to begin in February 2010, with the ship reaching Singapore by June 2010.
Ten Key Facts about the Jewel of Muscat:
1.The project involves the reconstruction of a 9th-century sailing ship in Oman.
2.The Jewel of Muscat is based on a range of historical sources, including the findings of the Belitung Wreck, which was discovered in 1998.
3.The 18 metre ship will be built without nails. The planks will be sewn together with coconut fibre, and will have to fit perfectly so as to ensure that the ship is watertight. The wood will be protected by a layer of goat fat mixed with lime.
4.The planking on the ship is made from Afzelia africana timber from Ghana.
5.The Jewel of Muscat is being built in a specially constructed ship yard at a beach in Qantab, Oman.
6.Once built, the ship is expected to embark on a voyage from Oman to Singapore, retracing part of the historic maritime trade route between Arabia and the Far East.
7.During its voyage, the team will use 9th-century navigation techniques.
8.Construction should take between ten and twelve months. The voyage is expected to begin in February 2010, with the Jewel of Muscat reaching Singapore by June 2010.
9.The project is being funded and supported by the governments of Oman and Singapore.
10.Every stage of the Jewel of Muscat’s construction and voyage will be covered on this website. The site contains videos, photographs and interactive features. The project will also be filmed for a television documentary.
For more information, visit www.jewelofmuscat.tv .