Audrey Wells' Virtual Nau
A Project by Audrey Wells
It is impossible to imagine, let alone describe, such a thing as a 40 m long Portuguese Indiaman of the early 1600s. Loaded with 450 people, including crew and passengers, food and water for six months, spares and fittings, personal possessions of each and any one, plus the main reason of its voyage: a cargo of around 250 tons of peppercorns, which was complemented with many other spices and drugs, countless bales of cotton and silk cloth of all sizes and colors, furniture, porcelain, exotic animals and thousand of luxury items manufactured in the most exquisite workshops of the far east.
Audrey Wells, a student in the Department of Visualization Sciences at Texas A&M University, has modeled one of these ships and then tried to populate it and load it. Each decision regarding the partition of a space, the design of a detail, the dimensions of a ship part, was pondered, discussed, evaluated in light of the known archaeological parallels, iconography, and contemporary literature.
This is a work in progress that will probably never be finished. So far it has helped us understand much better these complex machines, conceived and built to be inhabited during long periods by an enormous amount of different people and under adverse circumstances. Sailing the long and dangerous maritime route from Lisbon to India and back, these Portuguese India naus were the dark, wandering places Joseph Conrad wrote about four centuries later.
One can only image how many dreams of happiness, wealth and power they carried to and from Asia, how many fearful moments their inhabitants endured, and what anguishes and hopes they have inspired.
Audrey has tried to give us a glimpse of this long gone past, based on the tiny window opened through the excavation and reconstruction of the Pepper Wreck.
We hope that her work may excite the curiosity of the viewers of this project and help us make a case against the destruction of the last Portuguese Indiamen by looters and treasure hunters.
1. To get a better idea of what the "Cave" is see Parke, Frederic I., "Lower cost spatially immersive visualization for human environments" in Landscape and Urban Planning (2005) 73:234-243