domingo, 21 de julio de 2013

The Arsenal of Cartagena

Versión en español

Among all the historical attractions of the city of Cartagena, one of the most important is the Arsenal.

Arsenal’s construction began in 1731 as a result of the reorganization of the Spanish Naval Defences designed during the reign of Philip V, first of the Bourbon Spanish Dynasty. The Spanish coast was divided into three areas supported by an arsenal (Ferrol, Cadiz and Cartagena) head of the corresponding Maritime Department.

There was also another big arsenal at Havana (Cuba) and a smaller one in Cavite (Philippines).

The Arsenal of Cartagena was the largest industrial complex of the Mediterranean in the eighteenth century by the activity of its shipyards and subsidiary factories. The activities included to boat carpenters, riggers, sail makers, blacksmiths and craft work shoppers and fine artists to size of the ornamentation of the ships of the time.

During the second half of that century they were built in it, regardless of a large number of smaller vessels: 21 ships of the line, 17 frigates and over 50 brigs, jabeques, urcas, galleys, etc.. Thousands of people worked daily at the Arsenal in the construction and maintenance of the Spanish Navy units.

The Arsenal dock is a large rectangle of 550 meters long by 318 meters wide, oriented almost in the north-south direction.

The Arsenal of Cartagena in 1782
The main activity was shipbuilding, whose key raw material was the wood. Wood curing was performed upon arrival at the Arsenal in large saltwater ponds [1] located at the west, between the wall and wharf buildings in that side.

After wood was cured, it was moved, floating through the Arsenal dock, to the dock of wood [2], which is the small central ramp in the north pier, or to the so called Moroccan dock [3], located in the northeast corner. From there logs were passed to the ponds situated by the north [4].

After selecting the wood needed for a construction, it was left to dry and aerate in the northern most area of the Arsenal [5], either outdoors or in a temporary sheds.

From there it went to the carpenters’ workshop and gauges [6], current a submarine base, where they proceeded to cut, carve and shape of the different parts required for new construction.

Ships of the line and big frigates were built in the two main stands located to the east of the north pier [7]. Smaller size vessels were manufactured in the stands of the current dock of Morocco [8] and occasionally in temporary bleachers in areas nearby. There was also a shed for building small boats along the dock [9].

In the north-western corner of the dock, there were located two large careening dams [10] with the pumps house [11] between them. Large units were careened there. For the smaller ones, they still used the system of toppling to one side, using a special boat and rafts of logs for men, as you can see in the dock.

The Arsenal of Cartagena in 1782
Ships construction was completed with the masts, operation performed using the "machina", at the southern end of the eastern dock [12].

Next steps were the installation and tensioning of the rigging, the braiding tarred and making of rolls. These works were made in the premises in the south pier of the dock [13]. As for rigging sails, they were manufactured in the central building in the eastern dock [14]. The Command of the Arsenal [15] was attached to that workshop. 

Behind the “machina” you can see the parks of artillery, anchors, and hardware [16], located near the forge and smithy building with small forest of chimneys [17].

The huge amounts of equipment and various materials needed for the construction and repair of ships required huge storage areas which were the majority of the buildings of the Arsenal. The main ones were:
  • The General Warehouse [18], located in the extreme north east of the pier with its classic square arrangement with a central courtyard.
  • The big rectangular warehouses located on the east [19] and west [20] docks (the last were called "for disarmament" due to host charges, rigging and equipment of ships during peacetime).
  • The several warehouses attached to the wall on its way along Calle Real [21].
Buildings compound was completed by:
  • The Convicts Barrack [22], that later become Seamanship Instruction Barracks, located to the east of the entrance to the dock right behind the battery of defence [23].
  • The assembly formed by the gate and the guard [24].
  • The military park [25] located behind the eastern dock warehouses. 
Original text and drawings courtesy of the Ministry of Defense of Spain.

Map of Cartagena and the Arsenal in 1799
Ministry of Defense of Spain
Armada Española (Spanish Navy)
Armada Española. Arsenal de Cartagena. Historia
Portal de Cultura de Defensa del Ministerio de Defensa

Entrance to the Arsenal
Admiral’s House

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