By TSUBASA OKOSHI HARADA
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Extra info for Códice de Calkiní
In 1420, Venetian merchant Niccoló da Conti noted that they were “like great houses and not fashioned at all like ours. ” They were divided into several compartments by watertight bulkheads, a technological innovation that did not reach the West until the 19th century. The largest ships had up to 12 masts, some of which were only raised in light winds, and had a crew of 1,000 men (600 sailors and 400 marines). One hundred years earlier, Marco Polo had observed that the largest vessels contained 50 or 60 cabins, but many of Zheng He’s ships were even larger.
A R A B S E A FA R I NG The ship that was caught in the storm in 950 CE was a typical Arab merchant vessel; a symmetrical (or double-ended) “dhow,” which had a sharply angled bow and stern. This particular vessel was owned by Abu al-Zahr al-Batkhati, a prominent Persian merchant from Siraf, a port on the northern side of the Persian Gulf. The ship had set sail for Canton, carrying “men from China, India, Persia and the islands,” many having rented two cabins; one for living in and one for storage, although there was also a hold for cargo.
Edward’s warrior son, the Black Prince, and the 10-year-old John of Gaunt were among the troops, as was Robert of Namur, Edward’s favorite knight, who took charge of the Salle de Roi, which carried the King’s household. Meanwhile, the Spanish fleet of 47 ships had loaded up with linen at Sluys, in Flanders, where the English had sunk most of the French fleet 10 years earlier. Don Carlos de la Cerda, the Spanish commander, had heard of Edward’s plans and armed his ships accordingly; as many cannons as he could find were lifted aboard, and the wooden “castles” atop the ships’ masts were stocked with stones and iron bars to drop on the English vessels.
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