Reconstructing the San Salvador

Episode 37 with Carla Rahn Phillips

In 1542, Spanish explorer Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo’s galleon San Salvador sailed into San Diego Bay. In 2015, 473 years later, the San Diego Maritime Museum christened a reconstruction of the ship in the same harbor. How was a ship that sailed almost 500 years ago rebuilt in today’s world? In this episode, Prof. Carla Rahn Phillips, chair of the project’s historical design committee and an expert in early-modern Spanish maritime history, takes us through the amazing story of the project from historical research to naval design to construction, complete with anecdotes from her own experiences lending a hand in the building of the ship.

The Episode

The Guest

Carla Rahn Phillips earned her B.A. from Pomona College in Claremont, California, and her Master’s and Ph.D. in European history from New York University. She taught at the  University of Minnesota  from 1972 to 2013, when she retired as the Union Pacific Professor in Comparative Early Modern History. In retirement, she continues researching the social, economic, and maritime history of Early Modern Europe and the Iberian Atlantic world. Her publications in maritime history include Six Galleons for the King of Spain: Imperial Defense in the Early Seventeenth Century (1986); The Worlds of Christopher Columbus, co-authored with William D. Phillips (1992); The Treasure of the San José. Death at Sea in the War of the Spanish Succession (2007); and The Struggle for the South Atlantic: The Armada of the Strait, 1581–84, ed. and trans. (2016).  She was elected to the Spanish Royal Academy of History as a Corresponding Member in 2005 and was awarded an encomienda in Spain’s Noble Order of Isabel the Catholic in 2008.

Suggested Readings

  • Casado Soto, José Luis. Los barcos españoles del siglo XVI y la Gran Armada de 1588. Madrid: Editorial San Martín, 1988.
  • Gardiner, Robert and Richard W. Unger. Cogs, Caravels and Galleons. the Sailing Ship 1000–1650. Conway’s History of the Ship. London: Conway Maritime Press, 1994.
  • Kelsey, Harry. Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo. San Marino, Calif.: Huntington Library, 1986.
  • Kramer, Wendy. El español que exploró California: Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo (c. 1497–1543). Córdoba: Diputación de Córdoba, 2018.
  • ________. Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo: A Voyage of Rediscovery. Special publication of Mains’l Haul: A Journal of Pacific Maritime History 55, Nos. 1-4 (2019).
  • Phillips, Carla Rahn. Six Galleons for the King of Spain: Imperial Defense in the Early Seventeenth Century. Baltimore:  The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1986. [pertinent for the discussion in Chapters 2–4 regarding Spanish ship design and shipbuilding]
  • Recreating San Salvador, 1542–2015, special issue of Mains’l Haul: A Journal of Pacific Maritime History, published by the Maritime Museum of San Diego 51, Nos. 1-4 (2015).
  • Smith, Roger C. Vanguard of Empire: Ships of Exploration in the Age of Columbus. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993.

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