Monday, April 25, 2016

El Galeon and Updating History

On a quiet afternoon this weekend, it was easy to imagine the waves erasing the years, to imagine that we were experiencing the vision Native Americans saw 450 years ago when a Spanish tall ship rounded the tip of Parris Island and came into view off Port Royal, South Carolina.

More than 40 years before the English settled at Jamestown in Virginia, the Spanish built a town and fort on an island in Port Royal Sound.

Jamestown has long claimed the title of First European Settlement, but recent archeological work on the 9th hole of the Parris Island golf course proves a different story.

The Spanish established a permanent settlement in 1566, Santa Elena, on that very spot on the island you see in the background of the photo.

Santa Elena served as the Spanish capital of Florida from 1569 to 1587. The area then called Florida encompassed most of what is known as the United States today.

As we watched, a Coast Guard tender and several yachts escorted El Galeon, a 125 foot tall, 500 ton replica of a 16th century Spanish ship, into the harbor, to the Port Royal Dock.




Along with those of us gathered on the beach, kayakers watched from the water.


The ship left St. Augustine, Florida, the day before, following the historic journey of Pedro Menendez de Aviles when he sailed into Port Royal Sound on the same day in 1566.


This week the 450th anniversary of the settlement at Santa Elena is being celebrated with lots of events, including the opening of the new Santa Elena museum in Beaufort and the arrival of El Galeon in Port Royal.

It is docked among the shrimp boats and will be open for tours over the next week.

If only they had had the sails up!



  1. Very impressive and historically - well one wonders - what if?
    Certainly a pity that when "El Galeon" was in the Bay area that the
    sails had not been unfurled.
    I wonder is that on the bow of the galleon the present day flag of
    Spain, it looks so, or the flag of the all powerful Spain of 450 years

  2. I didn't know that, very interesting!

  3. It must have been exciting to see that ship coming in. Wish I had been there. Another interesting history lesson.

  4. Look at all that rigging! What a site to see. I hope you get the chance to go aboard. It is certainly a look back in time. I haven't heard of that particualr vessel before. Thanks for sharing.

  5. European history in that area is very long.

  6. Now that is a very impressive looking ship, I can only imagine its beauty with the sails up.

  7. That's an interesting piece of history. What a ship, imagine seeing that come sailing in all those years ago, the Spaniards seeing the Natives and visa versa.

  8. I love that first photo, seeing a ship on the horizon. It must have been the same experience in the past for the inhabitants. I am always impressed by that the Euopeans went so far away to explore the unknown world. I have seen many of these tallships here in Amsterdam last summer. It is amazing that they could sail over the oceans with those rather small ships.

  9. It doesn't look crowded there on the beach. The tall ship is a magnificent sight. Unfurling the sails would have been wonderful!

  10. Oh yes the sails would have made it all perfect! The Tall Ships are coming to Duluth in August, we tried to get a hotel, no dice they were already full so we hope some ships are there a day early and we will try to get over there! :)

  11. That's interesting how we find out later that someone had come before who we thought were the original settlers . It happened here too.

  12. It would have been a wonderful sight if the wind was in the sails.

  13. Ahh yes but someone would have to climb those masts to put the sails up and down.... not me!!! What a superb replica and a joy for those watching on the beach and in kayaks, I do hope they can paddle fast enough to get out of the way, they would not easily be spotted I mean 'Ship ahoy' is one thing, but 'kayaks ahoy' is something else!
    Wren x