Once a plausible design had been created through academic research and computer modelling, shipwrights were employed to build the ship using techniques from the ‘age of discovery’ (15th to 17th centuries).
It took about two years and a half years to build and rig the replica, from the laying of the keel on January 12, 1997, to the time of its first trial on July 10, 1999. Thousands of people contributed to the construction of the vessel.
A team of experienced shipwrights was headed by Australia’s most acclaimed master shipwright, Bill Leonard, an supported by volunteers. Volunteer guides showed people over the ship as she was being built, and the Friends of the Duyfken and the Duyfken 1606 Club represented the wider community and business supporters.
Authentic age-old techniques
A major goal of the Duyfken 1606 Replica Foundation was to ensure the Duyfken was as authentic as possible.
This required the replica’s shipwrights, who had previously honed their skills building the Endeavour Replica, to use a couple of construction techniques that hadn’t been employed for many centuries.
Plank-first construction – which required building the lower part of the hull first before adding the internal framework – had been used by Dutch shipwrights in the late 1500s and early 1600s.
Shipwrights of that time, then known as some of the best in the world, would construct the lower hulls ‘by eye’ to create the best hydrodynamic shape using the properties of the available timber.
Once the the hull was extended up and beyond the bilge, the internal framework was placed inside the hull ‘shell’.
The other technique was to mould timbers planks into shape over an open fire using levers, pulleys, fulcrums and weights. As there was no detailed modern knowledge of this technique, shipwrights experimented to work out how it could be applied. After some initial difficulty, they let the planks bend gradually under their own weight over a slow fire.
Much was learnt about this process. The planks – northern European oak (Quercus robur) imported from Latvia – were fairly green but the drying effect of the heat was significant. Planks that felt distinctly wet before bending worked more like matured timber a couple of hours later.
Master Shipwright Bill Leonard and his team were able to fit up to a full port and starboard strake of planks in one week.
See the image gallery below of how the Duyfken replica was built.
The building process
It took about two and a half years to build and rig the replica, from the laying of the keel on January 12, 1997 to the time of its first trial on July 10, 1999. Thousands of people contributed to the construction of the vessel. Experienced shipwrights headed by Australia's most acclaimed master shipwright, Bill Leonard, were supported by volunteer shipwrights. Volunteer guides showed people over the ship as she was being built, and the Friends of the Duyfken and the Duyfken 1606 Club represented the wider community and business supporters.
The curved stem that shaped the Duyfken’s bow was imported as a whole tree trunk and milled in Western Australia.
The keel was laid by by the then Dutch Crown Prince Willem-Alexander of Orange on 12th January 1997.
Massive traditional wooden clamps were used to hold planks together as the keel was built up.
Planks were bent to shape with direct heat from a fire and then applied to hull. Shaping was done by eye.
The shell of planks was held together with temporary cleats before frame timbers were fitted.
After the framing timbers (floors) were fitted into the lower hull, the keelson was lowered on top of the floors to form a girder with the keel.
With the lower hull finished, the internal framing continued ahead of the upper hull planking.
More than 3,500 oak dowels were used to pin planks to the frames.
The main and upper deck were fitted as the planking progressed on the inside and outside of the hull.
All deck beams were racketed to the inside of the hull by huge timber knees, seen here being carved.
On January 24, 1999, thousands of people attended the hull’s launch. They watched as the hull emerged from the Endeavour Shed and was lowered into the water for the very first time. The Duyfken had symbolic olive branches placed on its beak by master shipwright Bill Leonard.
Over the next six months, the ship was fitted with masts, spars, rigging and sails ready for its first trial. In that time, the interior of the hull was also fitted out and a blacksmith and his team supplied fastenings, ringbolts, hoops. A customised anchor was also created and fitted.
The big day arrived on 10 July 1999 to test if the replica was able to match the performance of the original Duyfken. A flotilla of vessels followed the ship as it made its maiden excursion under all but two sails. The ship performed well, easily making an average of four knots in moderate conditions and reaching up to seven knots.
The replica’s performance reinforced archival research that showed the original ship was exceptional – often out-sailing much larger ships, and manoeuvrable enough to be taken close to unexplored shores even during stormy conditions.
The day of the trial was one of great joy for those involved in the project – some reportedly close to tears as the ship turned out its sail. It was also a day of sadness. Michael G Kailis – who was instrumental in turning this unlikely dream into a reality – had passed away only weeks before its maiden excursion.
The ship was hailed by historians as the most exacting ‘age of discovery’ replica sailing ship constructed. It is believed to be the only ship operating in the world using a traditional Dutch whipstaff or ‘kolderstok’ for steering.