Audrey Wells' Virtual Nau

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Virtual Nau

A Project by Audrey Wells



Audrey Wells in the "Cave"1

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

Building a Virtual Nau

Hull Shape

10-13-virtualnau 09.jpg
10-13-virtualnau 10.jpg
10-13-virtualnau 12.jpg
10-13-virtualnau 06.jpg


10-13-virtualnau 04.jpg
10-13-virtualnau 06.jpg
02-27-nau 0002 Layer 16.jpg
02-27-nau 0003 Layer 15.jpg
02-27-nau 0004 Layer 14.jpg
02-27-nau 0006 Layer 12.jpg
05-18 largebitts persp.jpg
05-17 largebitts persp.jpg
05-18 pumps.jpg

Weather Deck

02-27-nau 0000 Layer 18.jpg
04-19-fc-bow above.jpg
04-19-fc-main hatch.jpg
Virtual nau 0000 Layer 10a.jpg
Virtual nau 0001 Layer 9a.jpg
11-17-grapnel model.jpg

Masts and Rigging

10-13-virtualnau 03.jpg
10-13-virtualnau 07.jpg
02-27-nau 0007 Layer 11.jpg
04-19-fc-sails persp view.jpg
02-27-nau 0001 Layer 17.jpg
10-13-virtualnau 01.jpg
Virtual nau 0002 Layer 8a.jpg


12-04-Layer 1.jpg
12-04-Layer 4.jpg
12-04-Layer 5a.jpg
12-04-Layer 6a.jpg
12-04-Layer 6.jpg


08-01-31-deck1 barrels below.jpg
08-01-31-hull pepper persp.jpg
08-01-31-deck1 barrels persp.jpg
08-01-31-pp-bow end.jpg
08-01-31-pp-stern end.jpg
08-02-07-persp deck1.jpg
08-02-07-top deck1.jpg
08-02-07-top hold.jpg
08-23-barrels all.jpg
08-23-barrels closeup.jpg


People were modeled after the sketches of 16th century Italian painter Luca Cambiaso (1527-1585).

These relatively small ships transported perhaps as many as 400 people in a normal voyage.

To install all these persons in such a small space is a challenge on which we that we are still working. Belew: 400 people next to a 600 ton Indiaman.

Posed small.jpg
Reference small.jpg
Soldier small.jpg
04-24-468 onlypeople.jpg


External Links

The Virtual Nau Project on YouTube

Personal tools