The Ships of Jack Aubrey - HMS Surprise

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H.M.S. Surprise

"… he was aboard a thoroughbred frigate, a ship he knew through and through and that he loved entirely, not only for her amiable qualities but because she was part of his youth – quite apart from the fact that he had commanded her in the Indian Ocean, where she had behaved quite beautifully, he had served in her long, long ago, and even the smell of her cramped and awkward midshipmen's berth made him feel young again. She was rather small (few smaller left in the service), she was rather old, and although she had been very much strengthened, almost rebuilt, in the Cadiz yard, it would never, never do to take her across to meet the heavy Americans; but he had found to his delight that her refitting had not altered her sailing qualities in the least – she was astonishingly fast for those who knew how to handle her, she could come about like a cutter, and she could eat the wind out of any ship on the station."
The Surprise was Jack Aubrey's favorite frigate, a ship that served him well on the oceans of the world, both while in the Royal Navy and during his involuntary exile from the service he loved. In these pages I present deckplans and a longitudinal section of the Surprise, showing her as she was while in the Mediterranean during The Ionian Mission in the Long Year of 1813. These plans are based upon the actual Admiralty drawings of her hull, with details of her inner layout drawn from other Royal Navy frigates of the era and from descriptions within the pages of Patrick O'Brian's novels. On the longitudinal section below, click on to the area of the ship you wish to explore further. On succeeding pages, each deck is shown separately in greater detail. Click on labels and "hot spots" within those diagrams for further information about internal compartments, fittings, and personnel, including authentic early 19th Century portraits of the officers. For many of these items and for all the named officers, relevant quotations from the Aubrey-Maturin novels are given.

The real Surprise was built as the French L'Unite from August, 1793, to April, 1794, at Le Havre, captured by the Royal Navy on April 20, 1796, and taken into service as the Surprise. Her specifications (taken from page 225 of Rif Winfield's "British Warships in the Age of Sail. 1793-1817", Chatham Publishing, 2005) were as follows:

Launched Length Keel Breadth Hold Tonnage Crew
1794 126' 0" 108' 6-1/8" 31' 8" 10' 1/2" 578 73/94 200

Armament: Upper deck: twenty-four 9-pound long guns; Quarterdeck: eight 4-pound long guns and four 12-pound carronades; Forecastle: two 4-pound long guns and two 12-pound carronades
Plans for HMS Speedy (NAN 94)

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