The Trireme Trust - Newsletter 21

Newsletter mailed out to Trireme Trust members during November 2002


Chairman's Report

(from Boris Rankov, Chairman, Trireme Trust)

In the 2001 Newsletter we announced that plans were afoot to have Olympias repaired in Germany at the initiative of the Director of the Schleswig Museum, Professor Claus von Carnap-Bornheim. The intention was then to make the ship the centrepiece of a major exhibition at the Museum during 2003 (while the Museum's own Saxon Nydam ship was on loan to Copenhagen), and to sail her at the Kiel sailing week. The story of the last year has been one of several reversals of fortune which have seen the plans for Germany almost completed before being overtaken by an offer to repair Olympias in Greece instead.

Professor von Carnap-Bornheim's scheme was an ambitious one. He would raise half the money need for the repair of the ship from German sponsors and the Museum's own funding, if the Hellenic Navy would find the rest. This had been agreed by the end of 2001, and Claus soon gathered the sponsors together. When one major German sponsor, a shipyard, dropped out, he almost immediately found another, a bank, to step into the breach. In the meantime a shipwright had been found and detailed plans had been drawn up for the repair in consultation with John Coates.

By May, 2002, everything was in place for Olympias to be shipped to Germany in the autumn for repairs to begin. At this point it was announced that the Elefsinia shipyard at Eleusis near Athens had offered to repair Olympias without charge as part of a contract to build new warships for the Hellenic Navy. The Navy understandably accepted an offer which saved a considerable amount of Greek public money.

Claus was of course disappointed but nevertheless attended, at the Trireme Trust's invitation, a ceremony hosted by the Hellenic Navy on the deck of the battleship Averoff on 21st June to inaugurate a new John Morrison Memorial Fund for Hellenic Maritime Studies. This is a fund set up by a generous donation from the Morrison family to provide scholarships for research into Hellenic Maritime Studies at the British School at Athens, where the outgoing Director, David Blackman, had been a student of John's at Cambridge. The event was attended by several of John's family as well as academics, students at the British School, and senior officers of the Hellenic Navy. John was remembered in a number of entertaining speeches, with Olympias serving as a backdrop before being moved to the Elefsinia yard from her regular dry dock near to Averoff.

Olympias was by this stage in a bad way, with numerous large holes eaten into her lower planking by a fungal disease. Analysis carried out at the request of the Schleswig Museum indicated that this had been the result of spores from nearby trees having blown onto the hull. The fungus had probably taking hold in the cavities of the mortise-and-tenon joints, which had become damp through rainwater seeping down. This at least revealed why it was felt to be so important to house warships in ship sheds in antiquity.

In October, the ship was visited in Eleusis by Professor Barry Strauss of Cornell University, USA, who is writing a book on the battle of Salamis, accompanied by the Trust's former secretary, Rosie Randolph. There they met Admiral Kolliniatis, a director of the shipyard, who also happens to have been the officer in charge of the Naval Construction department of the Hellenic Navy when Olympias was built in 1985. It emerged in conversation that the intention had been merely to patch the holes and make the ship suitable for museum display, but Admiral Kolliniatis was persuaded that it should be made seaworthy in time for 2004.

This is where things currently stand. It is unclear at present whether Olympias will go to sea or take any part in the Athens Olympics celebrations in 2004, or whether she will be available for further sea trials either in 2004 or thereafter. The Trust will pursue these possibilities and will inform members of any positive developments.

In the meantime, the Trust will continue with its academic work related to the project. A Danish research student, Bjoern Loven, has just begun a PhD supervised by the Chairman with assistance from David Blackman and John Coates on the architecture and function of the Zea ship sheds. The remains of these sheds in one of the harbours of the Peiraeus provided the key evidence for the dimensions of Olympias, but an underwater survey carried out by Bjoern only this summer has revealed that the sheds are considerably longer than was previously suspected. This has shown that there was ample room for the Mark II design described in the second edition of The Athenian Trireme, or even for a ship several metres longer. The Chairman and John Coates will in January 2003 be resuming active work on the publication of the 1992 and 1994 sea trials and the papers from the 1998 conference held at Oxford and Henley. A second conference, on the larger oared ships of antiquity, and funded by donations in memory of John Morrison, is planned for some time in 2004, depending on whether and when sea trials might be held in that year.

The Trireme Trust thus ends 2003 still active and at last with some hope of seeing Olympias go to sea again. Members are advised to keep their fingers crossed and stay fit.

The John Morrison Memorial Fund for Hellenic Maritime Studies

(from The British School at Athens)

Generous gifts from the family of the late John Morrison have led to the founding of the John Morrison Memorial Fund for Hellenic Maritime Studies at the British School at Athens as a lasting tribute, together with the trireme Olympias, to this great seaman-scholar and a means of encouraging the continuation of the studies to which he devoted so much of his life. The John Morrison Fund is part of the School's commitment to research in Greece and Cyprus through Students (members) of the School of all ages and nationalities. The School will offer an annual award or awards, to be chosen by competition, for research into any branch of Hellenic Maritime Studies of any period. Grants may also be available from the Fund for buying maritime books and journals for the School's Library, with the aim of creating a centre of Hellenic Maritime Studies. If enough money is raised, the fund could also perhaps support John Morrison lectures, to be given alternately in Greece and Britain.

The British School at Athens now welcomes further donations to the Fund. The School envisages that the Fund will be open-ended; the more money available in the Fund the more can be disbursed, but even modest awards are of great value to researchers, particularly young researchers, with travel costs and other expenses. The British School has already a major Archive and Library and study facilities, which would be considerably enriched by the addition of a comprehensive maritime section with plans, drawings and records as well as books and journals. An immediate aim of the School will be , through the John Morrison Memorial fund, to create such an archive, and to encourage young scholars to pursue studies in Greek maritime history, lore and archaeology. The chronological scope of the research will cover all periods from prehistory through the Greek and Roman periods - to include also research on ships larger and smaller than the trireme, which became a great interest of John Morrison's later years - down to recent times, where for example it is vital to record traditional boat-building methods before they are lost for ever. The John Morrison Memorial Fund for Hellenic Maritime Studies will be a lasting tribute to a great scholar and lover of Greece, by fostering excellence and continuing interest in Greek maritime studies, and cementing the historically close seafaring bonds between Britain and Greece.

Boris Rankov adds:

Anyone wishing to make a donation to the John Morrison Memorial Fund for Hellenic Maritime Studies should contact:

Dr S.E. Waywell,
Secretary, The British School at Athens,
c/o Institute of Classical Studies,
Senate House,
Malet Street,
London, WC1E 7HU.
Tel: 020 7862 8732; fax: 020 7862 8733

Letter from Athens

(from Rosie Randolph)

Greece joined the Euro at midnight on New Year's Eve. We got our first within the hour. The currency itself is disappointing in design but of good quality, and said to be indestructible. You can put it through the wash or into the oven (why ?) and nothing untoward will happen. Inevitably it has resulted in a massive price hike - people treat it like 100 drachs, and not like a dollar, and don't much care for the tiny coins. Food, tavernas, cinemas, newspapers, rents have gone up, without a noticeable rise in salaries. The changeover went very smoothly. ATMs only give Euros, so the drachma - although still legal currency - left circulation very quickly.

Shortly afterwards, Greece disappeared under deep snow. It was a novelty and a nightmare; happening so rarely, there are no stockpiles of salt. Snowploughs cleared the roads, which froze instantly into ice-rink conditions. One of the Petty Officers from Averoff drove back from Corinth to Athens. With the motorway tolls struggling to extract E 1.47 in unfamiliar currency, icy roads, and post-holiday traffic, a normal hour-and-a-half journey took twelve hours, with young children in the car. We were luckier, returning from Spetses by car ferry as the mountains were impassable.

Weather conditions have other wise been very nice; a beautiful spring from January to April, with the best flowers we've ever seen in Delos. The summer wasn't too hot (I froze most days with the over-zealous air-conditioning in the Gennadion library !). We had a month of thunderstorms from the middle of August, so everything was green and flourishing by the end of September, two months earlier than usual. Autumn has been full of crisp sunny days, with late summer butterflies, cyclamen and autumn crocuses. Winter is almost onto us - we have begun having a fire in the evenings, and last night's thunderstorm brought hail strong enough to break 100 windscreens in the suburb of Peristeri.

We have had some wonderful opportunities for visiting the islands this year. In February we went to Crete (research), and swam in the morning, and had snow in the afternoon. We went to Mistras for the Byzantine exhibition, Rhodes (Navy), Mikonos and Delos (research), Chios (conference), Aegina (baptism) - it was the first time we'd explored inland - there is a beautiful mini-Mistras, where 24 churches survived an attack by Barbarossa, and in spite of being so close to Athens the island is not over-developed. Aegina was the first capital of the newly-independent Greece, and if you want to know what became of the base of the temple, it was removed by the American philhellene and philanthropist Samuel Gridley Howe to form part of a new mole for the harbour. Harry Tzalas had a very well-organised and nice conference in Hydra in September: what an excellent idea to give summaries of the papers.

We also went to Tzia (Kea) for a wedding, and to Corfu, where the Russians were commemorating Ushakov, an admiral from Napoleonic times, who mounted a joint expedition with the Turks to free the Ionian islands from the French. He was canonised in 2000, and after unveiling a memorial his icon was paraded to St. Spiridon. There were two receptions, a ship's visit, a business round table conference and an ambitious concert given in one of Corfu's Venetian fortresses, for which 30 tonnes of equipment had been flown over. The concert began traditionally with choirs and Cossacks, and ended with three rock groups, fireworks and cannon-fire. It was all huge fun. Corfu was as beautiful as ever; the tourist season had ended, but the sea was still invitingly warm.

The biggest headline this year has been the unravelling of the November 17 terrorist group. Over the years they had acquired a spurious mystique - that they were intellectuals, that they were inaugurated in Paris in 1968, that they were classmates of those in Government, which might preclude proper investigation. On 29 June Xiros tried to place a bomb in some luggage on a Flying dolphin going to Spetses. The bomb detonated early, damaging his eyes and ears and blowing off some fingers. The police net was already closing in on the gang, but Xiros's confession implicated his brothers, his `boss' Yiortopoulos, and another family member, which shortened the time frame. Yiortopoulos and his wife had French connections, but nothing to do with the Government. The assassins were small artisans; an icon painter whose father was a priest, a bee keeper, a guitar maker. Political aspirations had given way to bank robberies and an accumulation of property - their Damareos hideout was a few minutes walk from us. It is perhaps fitting that the new Mayor of Athens is Dora Bakoyianni, the widow of a November 17 victim. The Mayoral elections took place in October, in most cases over two weekends; the first round with a number of candidates, reduced to two in the final round. In the islands they were especially keenly fought. The resulting map shows a slight move to the right; in many instances, long-serving mayors lost their positions. The mix of people is still refreshingly democratic - taxi-drivers, constructors, nursery gardeners. A friend tried to take two kittens to the vet - no luck, he was off celebrating !

Recently, Athens was blocked by anti-war demonstrations. The newspapers seem to have gone ominously quiet over war with Iraq. Popular opinion is against it, although a frigate has been sent to the Gulf.

Preparations continue to make haste slowly for the Olympics. Major hotels are being renovated (although the bulk of visitors will be moored in liners offshore); the perifique is looking is looking more finished, though no new sections have been opened. The IOC seems to be scolding less, and there is every chance that things will be ready on time.

The Navy high command changed this year, just as negotiations for the repair and exhibition of Olympias in Germany were taking place. We take this opportunity to thank Claus von Carnap Bornheim of the Schleswig Museum for all his plans, generosity and hard work. Olympias is now being repaired by Elefsina shipyards, where we are fortunate in having as Technical Director Admiral Kolliniatis, who was instrumental in the original push to get Olympias built.

This year we had Navy Week; on Averoff the most unusual event was a performance of Aristophanes' Birds for ELEPAP, a home for crippled children.

The evening on Averoff to commemorate John Morrison was organised by David Blackman, a former pupil of John's and outgoing Director of the British School, in conjunction with the Hellenic Navy, to launch the John Morrison Memorial Fund for Hellenic Maritime Studies. The evening was a great success, with speeches, a reception, and a party of about twenty people went on to Zino's in Plaka afterwards. The Morrisons were well represented by Tom, Annis and Will; it was great fun to see them all again, on what proved to be a very happy occasion.

A further high-profile evening on the ship was a commemoration of Eleftherios Venezelos, in conjunction with the Venezelos Foundation on September 19th.


Regular readers will have noticed the lack this year of an article about the Great River Race; our regular correspondent Cameron Stokes was unfortunately injured so unable to give us his customary captain's-eye view, but I am pleased to report that the two Trireme Ynys Mon crews came first and third in their class (Pembrokeshire Longboat), in times of 2 h. 26 m. 10 s. and 2 h. 32 m. 46 s.. This was particularly rewarding for John Allan, the Trust's Hon. Secretary. He writes:

`... in my day job as Master of the Watermen's Company, I was on hand to see fair play and the triumph for the fifth year in succession of the Trireme RC Y Crac in the Pembrokeshire Longboat Class, despite the absence of its skipper, from a comfy grandstand seat on board the Environment Agency launch Windrush; it was another splendid Race, blessed by fine weather, a fair (if rather stiff in the Pool) wind and tide, and good fortune - one boat overrun by one of the big new Thames cruise boats, but no casualties, thank the Lord - notwithstanding an exceptionally late start because of the tide. No shortage of potential oarsmen for the trireme if /when we get the chance, etc; fixed seat rowing is alive and well.'

Despite his status the Master/Secretary found he could not walk on water, as he tried to make it back to Windrush after doing the courtesies on shore at the chaotic and cheerful Start and discovered that the gangplank he had used to get ashore was no longer long enough to bridge the gap caused by the rising tide. (The Master's lady was carried piggyback; the Master had to take off his Gucci's and wade). Paul Satow asks me to stress that the ability and commitment of the rowers governs the results. The handicapping is based on hull design and its optimum ability to be pushed through the water. It is then up to the crew to achieve the potential. As they do.

The trireme cross-section built by Coventry Boatbuilders that was in the Millennium Dome during 2000 thanks to the sponsorship of the Ford Motor Company is now installed at the Manchester Museum, and is proving a huge hit with school parties. Keeper of the Archaeology Collection, Dr. John Prag, writes:

The trireme section is in our new Discovery Centre. At present it is not open to the public, and the rooms are used as classrooms and for meetings. The section can be seen by appointment, so long as the room is not in use. When we finally manage to open our various new and refurbished bits of the Museum the Discovery Centre will be open to the public, though the room with the trireme is one of two that will continue to be used as classrooms during teaching time (i.e. term-time, roughly 10-3). There is now no date for the opening, but (late) next summer seems likely. Intending triremers are thus advised to ring in first to check even after we have reopened fully (0161 275 2634). I'd love them to come and see and use it! The Museum's website is on:

Regular readers will know of the fascinating Vaka Taumako project, to re-create the Polynesian voyaging canoe (the tepuke) by utilising the skills of the islanders of Taumako in the Temotu province of the Solomon Islands. Hosted in Hawaii, their website has been greatly expanded in the last year, and successfully combines both background and up-to-date news: Of interest to scholars is the wide-ranging bibliography; there are some spectacular photographs, and even an offer of models for sale.

Continuing thanks go to Anu Dudhia for his maintenance of the Trust website, which is still averaging more than 1,000 hits a month. The address has changed slightly recently; there is an automatic re-direction in place, but for future reference you may like to note the new location:

As always, if your copy of the Newsletter has gone to an old address, if you have recently been in touch with a fellow crewmate who has lost contact with us, if you have an especial interest in any field that you think would interest future Newsletter readers, if you would like to follow-up any topic mentioned, or if you are seeking material for a school project (as teacher or student), please do contact me:-

Andrew Ruddle,
59 Berkeley Court,
Surrey KT13 9HY

Stop Press: Repairs on Olympias begin

Rosie Randolph reports from Athens that repair work on Olympias has now begun at a specialist boatyard and is expected to take around six months. Repairs will involve making good the holes in the hull where it has been eaten through by fungal infection, which are now extensive. This will be done by patching rather than by wholesale replacement of the planking, which would be much more expensive and time-consuming because of the mortice-and-tenon construction of the ship. The intention is nevertheless to make the ship wholly seaworthy. It is understood that there will also be refurbishment work to some of the oars as necessary. In the meantime, it will obviously not be possible to visit the ship as before at the Averoff museum in Neon Faliron.

This is all extremely good news, although it must be emphasised that it has not yet been decided whether the ship will actually go to sea again, or will simply be put on display. The Trireme Trust will of course be exploring the possibility of obtaining permission for further sea-trials, perhaps in 2004, and will make an announcement once the precise future of Olympias becomes clearer.

Trireme Crew Required

(from Andrew Ruddle, Secretary of the Trireme Trust and mailed as a separate notice with the newsletter)

The Council of the Trireme Trust is currently exploring options for a possible set of sea trials in 2004 or - more likely - 2005. If you are at all interested, and could be available for about 3 weeks in July-August either year [although trials would not overlap with the Olympics in 2004], please let us know.

You need to be no more than 5'10" (177cm) tall, and of a reasonable rowing standard. We suggest a 2K ergo test score for men of 7.30 or better, and women 8.00 or better. Do bear in mind that this is a working expedition, and the rowing will take up to 3 hours per day - possibly up to 6 hours depending on the final trials format.

If you are at all interested, please drop a line to

Andrew Ruddle,
59 Berkeley Court,
Weybridge, Surrey,
KT13 9HY

or email and you will be contacted as further information becomes available.

NB: this is separate from the contacts mailling list, which is for more general information.