Dom Fernando II e Glória
Written by Jonathan Manuel
In world history, there are few examples of ships being preserved and restored that were at the brink of total destruction, a famous example is Brunel’s revolutionary SS Great Britain a ship that had spent nearly 100 years in the water and was before being salvaged she was sitting beached in the Falkland Islands with extensive corrosion, wood rot, and major structural damage, including a large crack in the hull. Yet this revolutionary ship was salvaged and after a large restoration project, she was opened to the public as a museum ship. However, there is one ship that completely defied world expectations in terms of restoration, where some said it could not be done the Portuguese Frigate Dom Fernando II e Glória proved them wrong. After a devastating fire in 1963, that burnt her to the waterline and spending nearly 29 years as a beached and partially buried hulk in a Mudflat, she was recovered in 1993 and restored over the course of five years in an amazing restoration considered by the former World Ship Trust to be “One of the most astonishing historic ship preservation achievements of our time “.
The Dom Fernando II e Glória’s history starts in 1821 when the then intendent of the of the Royal Navy of Goa, Cândido José Mourão Garcez Palha proposed to the Portuguese government that a new sailing frigate should be built in the colony of Daman due to the presence of a large Teak wood forest in Nagar Haveli, that would make construction easier and would make the ship stronger at sea (3700 trees were cut down just to build her). Teak itself is an excellent material for building strong ships due to the natural strength of the wood itself. In 1824 the King of Portugal João VI (also know as The Clement, and John VI of Portugal) officially ordered the future Dom Fernando II e Glória. However due to the Political and economic situation in Portugal at the time as well as the ongoing Portuguese Civil War, her construction was delayed again and again until her completion in 1843. Upon her Launching she was named Dom Fernando II e Gloria as a tribute to the King Consort Dom Fernando II and to Our Lady of Glory who was a special figure of devotion for the primarily catholic population of Goa. She was then towed to Goa to be fitted as a fully rigged sailing Frigate. Glória differed from many fully rigged frigates of the time in no small part due to her extremely spacious accommodations which was a critical factor on her long voyages where she would sometimes spend three or more months without making a port call.
Following her completion Dom Fernando II e Glória set out on her maiden voyage which lasted between February 2 and July 4 1845, on this voyage she was commanded by Captain Torcato José Marques, with a crew of 145 men sailing from Goa to Lisbon. In her service life Glória partook in many different types of voyages, from transporting troops, settler’s, colonial authorities, and convicts to Portugal’s colonies, to transporting high profile figures in history such as António da Silva Porto, as well as the Empress consort of Brazil, Amélie of Leuchtenberg, and her daughter Princess Maria Amélia of Brazil who was sick with tuberculosis. In the year 1865 she replaced the Sailing Frigate Vasco da Gama as the artillery training ship of the Portuguese Navy and as such was modified and refitted to serve that role, she would serve as an artillery training ship until 1938. In 1938 she was re-designated as the Flagship of the Congenital Naval forces of Portugal, a role she would serve until 1947. By 1947 Dom Fernando II e Glória was declared unfit for further active naval service, however it was decided that she would not be decommissioned, rather she would be converted to serve as the headquarters of the Fragata Dom Fernando Welfare Institution, a navy run institution dedicated to teaching teenager’s and Young Men (mostly orphans who were from Portugal’s disadvantaged classes) the technical knowledge that would allow them to eventually join the Portuguese Navy or pursue lives as seafarers. She served this noble role until 1963, where on 3rd of April trajedy struck. On the 3rd of April 1963 Dom Fernando II e Glória was undergoing restoration and general repair, a normal practice for the ship and the cadets aboard, however a massive fire broke out on board the ship, despite hours of valiant fighting by the Portuguese Navy, Firefighter’s, and the Cadets/students aboard the Dom Fernando II e Glória was reduced to a burnt-out hulk with very little left above the waterline (although many fittings were saved by firefighter’s, 3 of which refused to leave the burning ship without the National Flag that was flying from her main mast). Several days later the wrecked hulk of what was once Dom Fernando II e Glória was towed to an area of the River Targus where she would not impede navigation. The hulk of Dom Fernando II e Glória was then abandoned and left to rot in the mudflats for nearly 29 years, alone and almost forgotten by all except a few.
In October of 1990 both the Portuguese Navy and the National Commission for the Commemoration of the Portuguese Discoveries began efforts to salvage and restore the hulk of Dom Fernando II e Glória back to her as completed state. These efforts were a major success and on January 22nd, 1992 Dom Fernando II e Glória was refloated and placed on a floating drydock, to be towed to the Naval arsenal of Alfeite. In 1993 she was then brought to the Ria-Marine shipyards in Aveiro to undergo a full restoration. Restoration would take around five years to complete and was done with the utmost care and attention to historical detail, many of the fittings salvaged during the 1963 fire were brought back aboard and reinstalled. The restoration itself received intense Public and Private support, by 1997 the ship was mostly restored and left drydock. On the 27th of April 1998 the Dom Fernando II e Glória was officially reinstated as the ceremonial flagship of the Portuguese Navy and was received a navy designation as UAM 203. In 1998 she was brought to Lisbon and partook in Expo 98 as a symbol of Portuguese accomplishment in naval exploration. Today the Dom Fernando II e Glória is not just a museum ship, but it also hold two great honors one of which is being the fourth oldest armed frigate, and the eight oldest sailing warship in the world and the other is the fact that her restoration is considered to be “one of the most astonishing historic ship preservation achievements of our time” by the former World Ship Trust.
Ccm. “FragataD. Fernando II e Glória Uma Viagem No Tempo.” Museu De Marinha, ccm.marinha.pt/pt/dfernando.
Ccm. “Partilhar.” Museu De Marinha, ccm.marinha.pt/pt/dfernando/historia.
“Dom Fernando II e Glória.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 8 June 2018, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dom_Fernando_II_e_Glória.