Ship Shape

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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WPTA21) – This is Fort Wayne’s magnificent Karpeles Manuscript Museum, but the name is misleading. The world’s most historic documents are on display here… 500-year-old letters written by Queen Elizbeth the First, the personal letters of Samuel Morse, inventor of the telegraph. But the museum also has a splendid collection of ancient Egyptian artifacts..carved images of Egyptian gods, artifacts from tombs of the pharaohs. And then there are these.

“Seeing a ship like this that’s made by hand from somewhere else,” says museum director Al Brothers III, “you’re able to touch another part of the world.”

These are hand built models of the world’s greatest sailing ships. This is the Vasa, built by the King of Sweden as a declaration of that country’s growing military power. On her maiden voyage in 1628 the Vasa sailed a thousand yards, keeled over and sank in Stockholm harbor. She lay there for 350 years until raised in 1961. She rests today, magnificently preserved, in Stockholm’s Vasa Museum. This is HMS Victory. In this ship Lord Nelson defeated the French fleet at the battle of Trafalgar in 1803, establishing Britain’s dominance over the oceans for a hundred years.

“These ships are like the modern versions of the cruise lines or our modern battleships,” says Al Brothers. “And to have the ability to go from continent in, of the day, some luxury…it’s mind blowing.”

The best known sailing ship for Americans is the USS Constitution, Old Ironsides, built in 1797, named by George Washington himself. She is the world’s oldest commissioned naval vessel still afloat and still part of the United States Navy. These models were hand built in Indonesia. They are historically accurate in every detail and you can spend hours just drinking in those details. The vessels they represent were built at the height of a shipbuilding technology dating back thousands of years, a technology that disappeared virtually overnight with the advent of steam power. But many nations including our own owe their existence in part to these great vessels, and though we can’t walk their decks or watch in awe as they harness the wind we can do the next best thing, and do it in our own backyard.

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