The Trireme Trust - Newsletter 16

Newsletter mailed out to Trireme Trust members during Nov 1997.



Work on the hull has now been completed and the timbers have been treated. She is being exhibited in her cradle beside the heavy armoured cruiser Averoff at Palio Faliron, and may be visited during normal working hours. It is also possible to visit the Averoff where an extensive restoration programme is under way. The Admiral's quarters, Captain's quarters, and Ward Room are now complete.

Along the same quay there is another museum ship, Thalis O Milissios, a cable-laying ship of 1909, which belongs to the Dracopoulos family, whose Empros Line so generously helped to bring Olympias over for the 1993 Democracy celebrations.

It is also hoped that Kyrenia II, managed by Mr. Harry Tzalas, which is an important replica of the small merchant vessel of c.300 BC that was excavated off Kyrenia in Northern Cyprus in 1968, might also be displayed in the same area. Like Olympias she is of mortise and tenon construction. Her performance, in a maiden voyage from Piraeus to Cyprus in 1986, was outstanding. It would be very interesting if a merchant vessel and warship of similar construction could be displayed together.

Plans have been drawn up for a Park of Hellenic Maritime Heritage, which will incorporate the Hellenic Maritime Museum. It will occupy a well-positioned square site of 35 stremmata (approx. 8.75 acres) behind Averoff, with quay access on two sides. The ship shed for Olympias will have a slipway. There is space to build a double ship shed, which would be ideal in that the other half could be used to provide Olympias with her own museum space.

Admiral Bezerianos who, when he was Deputy Chief of the Hellenic Navy in 1994, was a good friend to the Trust, is Chairman of the Project. Admiral Paizis-Paradelis, the President of the Maritime Museum, is also well known to us. It is also fortunate that David Blackman, with his expertise in ancient ship sheds, should be the Director at the British School at Athens. This is a large and exciting project, which will necessarily take several years to complete. It deserves our full support.

2004 Olympics

It is particularly welcome that Athens has been awarded the 2004 Olympics. With the new metro and new airport scheduled for completion in 2000, and the successful staging of the European Games this summer, things are looking promising. We would hope that Olympias might have some small part to play, and that in order to fulfil it we might be given the opportunity to have seatrials in 2003.


A day conference, entitled "The Trireme: Lessons from Olympias" is planned to be held over the weekend 26/27 September, 1998 or, failing that, the weekend on 12/13 September 1998. The final date depends on which weekend is easier for Oxford Colleges to provide accommodation for invited delegates. [subsequently the date was fixed for 19/20 Sep]

The purpose of this conference is to expose the Trust's plans for a Trireme Mark II to expert criticism and comment, on the lines of the Greenwich conference held in April, 1983.

On the Saturday, papers will be presented by members of the Trust and invited independent scholars. John Coates will present a paper on the new design; Boris Rankov will be presenting a resume of operations with Olympias, and Ford Weisskittel will be writing about the TT USA Contribution. Timothy Shaw has written three papers:

  1. From the Golden Horn to Heraclea: Duration of the passage in calm water.
  2. The Performance of Ancient Triremes in Wind and Waves
  3. Towards a revised design of a Greek Trireme of 450 BC: advantages of a long stroke

It will provide a chance to meet and talk to leading scholars from all over the world. There will be ample opportunity for people who have rowed in the ship to provide feedback, and thus have some input into the new ship. Those present will also be able to try the new mock-up, which will reflect the new design, and to visit the new River and Rowing Museum at Henley. There may be an opportunity for a reunion. Admission cost to the museum will be included in the conference cost, which we expect to be no more than 20.

If you are interested in attending, please contact Andrew Ruddle.

On the Sunday, members of the Trust will meet with invited international scholars in order to hold a workshop to discuss details of specific aspects. This will be followed by a summing-up by the Chairman. Papers will be circulated to invited experts before the conference.

Pacific Boatbuilding

Meph Wyeth writes:

Surely one of the oddest places for the trireme flag to fly is Kalua Bay on Taumako, in Temotu Province of the Solomon Islands. Although approximately the size of Poros, Taumako, largest of the Duff group, appears on few maps. In fact, many maps of the Solomons omit Temotu, the country's easternmost province, altogether. Indeed, compared to the large islands that lie westward, Temotu does not look like much, a mere 926 of lands scattered over 150,000 of ocean. So how did Olympias' colours make it way out there?

The answer to that question is a story that began in 1968 when Dr. David Lewis came to Temotu to study traditional Polynesian navigation with the late Basil Tevake, one of the greatest sailors of his generation. Until Lewis began his work in the 60's the anthropological establishment - which at the time included few sailors - held that human settlement of Oceania was more or less accidental; that people simply drifted around until they bumped into isalnds. underlying this mindset was the notion that what white people cannot do cannot be done, that because Europeans could not confidently navigate the vast Pacific without sophisticated technological aids, no one else could.

Lewis' research, first published in 1972 in his book We, the Navigators, proved this assumption wrong. Not only did the Oceanic peoples know what they were doing when they first colonised islands from Te Pito o te Henua (aka Easter Island) to Hawai'i to Aotearoa (New Zealand) to Madagascar, some of them still knew. Although the introduction of European methods had largely replaced Austronesian ones, and colonial administrators had in many cases forbidden voyaging by canoe, a few men and women in remote areas like Temotu retained the ancient skills. Because these take years of on-the-job training to learn, and because navigators customarily taught by demonstration, no systematic documentation existed till Lewis began his studies.

In 1993 Lewis and his colleague, cultural anthropologist Dr. Mimi George, returned to Temotu to visit friends and collect material for the new edition of We, the Navigators. Stopping at Taumako, they met up with Kruso Kaveia, who had been Tevake's steersman in 1968 and was now Paramount Chief of Duff Islands. Chief Kruso told them he feared that unless he and the few people in their 70's and 80's taught a new generation of navigators soon, the skills of his people would die with him and his contemporaries. Moreover to teach traditional navigation, they would need a traditional canoe or tepuke, and the people who knew how to build one of these were also likely to die soon. Lewis and George shared his anxiety and promised to help make the construction and sailing of a tepuke possible. The minimum length of a real tepuke is 12 metres, although some of old people remember ones that were as much as 20 metres. This is, in a nutshell, the story of the Vaka Taumako (Taumako Canoe) Project, an endeavour that, despite cultural and geographical distance, shares many features of the Trireme Trust's work.

How the flag got to Taumako was aboard the Gryphon, Dr. George's yacht, which furnished transport to Taumako for her, Nils Thomas and myself. The nearest airfield to Duffs lies on Santa Cruz island, some 300 km to the southwest. Ships to Duffs are few; sometimes months go by between the theoretically monthly rounds of the government cargo vessels. There being no harbour at Taumako, sometimes even when the ship arrives rough seas prevent unloading of passengers or cargo. A support boat is therefore almost essential.

We anchored at Kalua Bay on 28 June to document the final stages of construction for the two tepuke being built under the auspices of Vaka Taumako Project. Previously, Mimi and I had visited in April of 1996 to finalise the Project agreement, secure government permits, and do all the other things necessary to get things rolling. I returned in December and January to record preliminaries, including felling of the first tree. This time we stayed until after the two project canoes and one constructed by one enterprising member of the community were launched on 12 September.

For most of the time, the flag flew from Gryphon's mast. Several people asked about it, and some enjoyed looking at photos of Olympias. Because of their geographical and cultural situation, citizens of Temotu are always interested in canoes, and the "bigfella custom war canoe blong Greece" intrigued them (I should add that Duffs might be a fruitful recruiting site for future trireme trials).

Anyone who wants to know more about Vaka Taumako Project is welcome to contact Dr. Mimi George at P.O. Box 2224, Puhi, Lihu'e, HI 96766, USA (Fax: 001 808 823 6741). The project is setting up a website: Mimi's personal e-mail address is, and the project address will be very similar.

The River and Rowing Museum at Henley

Andrew Ruddle writes:

I was lucky enough to be invited to look over the new museum recently. It has been almost ten years in the making; its beginnings can be traced to a meeting of the founders in January, 1988, originally inspired by a temporary exhibition at the University of California, Santa Barbara, at the time of the 1994 Olympics. It is scheduled to open in time for the 1998 Henley Royal Regatta.

It is surprising how close it is to the Regatta course - for those who know the town, it can be found between Hobbs' riverside premises and the station, at the very end of the Mill Meadows car park. The building design has attracted a great deal of admiring attention; I quote from The Architectural Review

"The architecture is established in the choice of traditional pitched-roof forms that recall the wooden barns of Oxfordshire, the riverside boathouses at Henley, and the temporary tents erected to house the boats and spectators at Henley Regatta. This formal decision also proved to be successful in helping the design fit into the planning constraints of a sensitive, conservative and historic town".

and Building

"Barefaced use of non-traditional materials- exposed concete, steel and glass - and modernist forms might be expected to raise an eyebrow. Its architect, David Chipperfield, has got away with it by combining natural leanings towards modernism with the traditional building forms of the south of England to produce a curious hybrid that is half Miesian glass box, halk oak-panelled rustic barn"

From a layman's view, I can report that the galleries are tall, light and airy, and would offer a huge potential for almost any form of display - the rowing world is fortunate to have such a building to itself.

The exhibition can be summarised as approximately one third each covering Henley-on-Thames, the Thames from source to mouth, and the History of Rowing. It is in the latter gallery - at the very beginning - that the trireme is presented in the form of a life-size triad.

The Museum has worked hard to attract specimens of every development in boat construction over the last century; I was particularly struck by a prototype German shell from the 1970's, comprising a thin hull over a completely rigid and non-adjustable metal, ladder-like interior frame. They are also fortunate in having acquired an excellent library.

The Museum has an informative web-site at [2010,now], which includes a number of interesting pictures.

I am deeply grateful to Christopher Dodd, Rowing Historian and Curator, for his kind invitation to view the museum. He has been one of our longest-standing supporters, and the first trials of Olympias in 1987 were a cover story for Regatta magazine, of which he is Editor.

The Great River Race 1997

Cameron Stokes writes:

On 27 September the Trireme Rowing Club, Ynys Mon, entered its first race.

When I suggested that we enter the Great River Race, a 22-mile marathon on the Thames from Richmond to Greenwich, responses ranged from doubtful to unprintable. The prospect of the post-race party swung it.

Our boat, a Pembroke longboat, was crewed by: Steve Jarrett, bow; Tom Charlton, 2; Tich Craddock, 3; myself, stroke; plus Geraint the obligatory passenger.

We boated from Richmond forty minutes after the starting cannon had given me kittens and loads of adrenalin, then awaited our handicap start time. Our start was somewhat hindered by the flotilla of waiting competitors loitering in the way: "Are we racing now?" called Steve from the bow, "Yes" we chorused. A scrunching sound followed - the bow foot-stretcher had sheared off! (big lad, our Steve). Undaunted we rowed on into our inaugural race.

I was surprised how many were really "giving it some" right from the start, charging past at 40-odd strokes a minute. "This is a marathon" I kept thinking, "Pace it". We rated a steady 24, concentrating on length and technique, with intermittent "pushes". Sure enough, further downstream we began overtaking those who had bolted off the start. We passed fours, skiffs, gigs and one Viking longship whilst being overtaken ourselves by faster craft, the most impressive of which were the dragonboats. To see and hear them bearing down drums beating and crews chanting, was awesome.

Geraint sang in Welsh to every crew we overtook, and steered a canny course. We shot 34 bridges, then we were into the long, wide, Limehouse Reach where we pushed for the Finish. Fighting off desperate attacks by a Solent galley we overtook one final victim at the line.

Starting position 176 we finished 181 in 2 hours 52 minutes - not bad for a debut. The party that night lived up to everyone's expectations. Curiously, nobody sat down ... I can't understand why.


  • The revised edition of The Athenian Trireme will be published by Cambridge University Press in 1998. It will contain a substantial new chapter by Boris Rankov, covering the limitations of the Olympias experiment, problems of rowing - especially crew communication - sailing, performance and the lessons of the seatrials.
  • Morrison and Coates: Greek and Roman Oared Warships 399-30 BC has now been published by Oxbow, and copies are available at 65, hardback only. The reprint of Greek Oared Warships is not yet available.
  • John Coates has a letter in IJNA 26.1, and an articlein IJNA 25.2 on shipworm in and the beaching of ancient Mediterranean warships.
  • There has been an article on the trireme in Saga Magazine for April 1997 by Byron Rogers.

The Liburnian

The proposal to build a liburnian at Maryport, Cumbria is being revived. John Coates has been approached to advise, and he has asked Owain Roberts and Edwin Gifford to assist.

Andrew and Fiona Taylor

We are delighted that Andrew and Fiona Taylor have returned from Australia. The most permanent address at which to find them is Durham School, Durham, DH1 4SZ. Their address until March 1998 is 3, Pimlico Rd, Durham. Andrew will be teaching at Durham School, and will be looking afte the rowing. Andrew has been invited to become a member of the Trireme Trust.


Captain Roger Lockyer R.N.

We are all greatly saddened by the death of Captain Roger Lockyer, the former Naval Attache in Athens. Roger has been a tremendous help to the Trust; the 1994 crew may remember him visiting the ship for the projected trip to Methana. His illness was diagnosed in May 1995, and he died after a spirited and courageous fight on 15 November 1996, aged 50. Our condolences go to Sue, his widow, and to Simon and Richard.

Hermann Pietrusky

We were also sad to learn of the death, on 24 July 1997, of Hermann Pietrusky, who was a staunch supporter of the trireme. He came to see and row the trial piece at Henley in 1985, and came to the commissioning ceremony in 1987. He wrote a number of good, well-informed articles in the ship research and modellers' journal Das Logbuch which he edited, and also made some of the best fully-detailed models yet built of the Olympias. He delighted us all by his enthusiasm and deep interest in the trireme. We extend our sympathy to Frau Lore Pietrusky.


1997 has been the year when the Trust has finally been able to claw its way out of its overdraft, and to release its guarantors. As we no longer have an overdraft facility, money is rather tight at the moment, and we are therefore particularly grateful for the support that the Friends give us. We would especially like to thank those people who have covenanted their subscriptions; this has in effect guaranteed a substantial part of our income, and enabled us to continue our research. If you would like to help us in any way, please contact Andrew Ruddle.


As a result of the tight cash flow we have been unable to develop new lines for the catalogue. It is maintaining the volume of sales - preferably through retail outlets - which enables us to bring you new designs (the minimum order for mugs is 196). Our thanks, therefore, go to Anne and Philip Powell-Jones of the Classics Bookshop, Oxford, and to the Archaeological Museum in Amsterdam, for all the sales they have made on our behalf. We hope that we may be able to come to a similar arrangement with the new River and Rowing Museum at Henley.

In the meantime, I am afraid we are having to put up our prices by a modest amount. It is the first price rise for several years - we have absorbed a number of manufacturers increases - and I hope you will feel that our mugs and cards still represent good value. If you feel the earthenware mugs are too heavy for the designs, do try the bone china. We are not encouraging you to spend more - we genuinely fell they are much nicer!


Andrew Ruddle, Trust Treasurer, writes:

I am pleased to announce that the Trust has recently joined the CAFcard scheme, which enables us to accept donations by 'phone from anyone who has a Card account with CAF. I know that many readers already give through the CAF Cheque scheme - this is the paper-less equivalent; both methods enable you to make donations free of tax. To donate to the Trust, all that is required is a telephone call to either Rosie Randolph or Andrew Ruddle.