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H.M.S. Pallas:  Historical Reconstruction of an 18th-Century Royal Navy Frigate

Peter Erik Flynn
Thesis: May 2006
Chair:  Crisman

    A 1998 joint survey undertaken by the Institute of Nautical Archaeology and Portuguese authorities located and identified the sunken remains of the Royal Navy frigate HMS Pallas (1757-1783) off of the Azorean island of São Jorge. Physical remains are so limited as to suggest that excavation would likely yield little new information. However, much documentary evidence has been preserved in Admiralty archives.

    Contemporary treatises about 18th-century British ship construction focus on glossaries of terms, scantling lists and design theory, and include only short sections on frigates insofar as they apply to those topics. They rarely address specific construction aspects. Most current works address individual aspects of ship construction for the period, but provide little significant detail about the frigate as a ship type. All of these works are useful and reliable, however none attempt to combine the ship with the crew, or pursue the complete history of one ship.

    As the flagship of a prototypical class, intended to address French superiority in cruiser design, it is reasonable to expect that a history of Pallas would exist with some analysis of how successfully these new frigates fulfilled the Royal NavyÂ’s perceived need. However, to date there has been no attempt to consolidate the evidence of her 26-year career. This study provides a comprehensive history of a single ship from perceived need and conceived solution through design and construction. The shipÂ’s logbooks and additional primary sources made it possible to accurately document and analyze PallasÂ’ activities, maintenance, modifications, and ultimately to draw conclusions about the overall effectiveness of the frigate type.

    I began with basic background information to establish the perceived need for a new frigate type, followed by an examination of the conceived design solution. A partial set of admiralty drafts served as a foundation from which to develop a more complete set of construction plans, a spar plan, and rigging plans. Comprehensive research into life aboard Royal Navy warships of the period provided a social context within which to examine the service history of Pallas. Finally, a review of the maintenance record and the events leading up to her sinking enabled an informed assessment of how well HMS Pallas fulfilled the perceived need for which she was developed.

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