Abora III building and history

ABORA III is the prehistoric style vessel intended to sail across the North-Atlantic from New York, USA to Pontevedra, Spain. Built entirely from reeds and rope, the hull is constructed by the Aymara-Indians on the shores of Lake Titicaca, Bolivia. The German biologist leading the expedition, Dominique Goerlitz, argues that traces of cocaine and nicotine found a few years ago in the stomach of the ancient Egyptian pharaoh, Ramses II, were native to the Americas, so must have travelled to Africa by sea. He says he is also hoping to overturn current thinking that says the prevailing Atlantic winds would have allowed ancient mariners to sail west to the Americas, but would have prevented them from returning home.

“There is growing evidence that before Columbus or the Vikings made their maiden voyages to the New World, people were regularly crossing the Atlantic to trade goods. Scientists have discovered traces of nicotine and cocaine in the mummy of Ramses II. Neither drug became popular until after Columbus returned to the Old World. Moreover, remains of tobacco beetles, which could not have flown from the Gulf of Mexico to the Mediterranean, were discovered in Egyptian graves. The discovery of the same cultivated plants on both sides of the Atlantic is further indication that Stone Age Man made these transatlantic business trips. How did they do it? Cave drawings from the Magdalene Old Stone Age cultures in France and Spain point to the advanced nautical knowledge of these pre-Ice Age seafarers. The most remarkable example of this originates from the “Cueva del Castillo” in northern Spain, dating back to 12,000 BCE. It refers to the Canary Islands Gulf Stream System, a downwind course – much easier than sailing in the windy Mediterranean. Even the types of stylized boats used to cross the Atlantic from East to West with the North Equatorial Current, as well as from West to East on the Gulf Stream, are clearly depicted. The dotted circles on the left most likely refer to the Caribbean Current, from which the Gulf Stream rises.”

diagram of Abora III construction

cross section of reed ship construction

building Abora III at Huatajata, Lake Titicaca, Bolivia

Lake Titicaca, Bolivia. The Abora 3 is finally finished!

Launching of reed boat ABORA III.

in tow 2007

Sea Trials on R Hudson. June 2nd, 2007

The maiden voyage for ABORA III occurred on June 18th 2007 in the shadow of the Statue of Liberty
in New York harbor. The prehistoric reed boat sailed majestically with a full sail before the wind.

Abora III at sea

day 1 - July 11th, 2007
The ABORA III expedition started on Wednesday July 11 2007 at twelve past nine from New York to Spain. Many Journalists, friends and helpers where there to say goodbye. The ABORA III crew organized a little far well before they started. Expedition leader Dominique Görlitz used this moment to thank all volunteers and sponsors. He also gave a brief prospect of the following days. The Explorers Club, New York, names the expedition as flag expedition. The handing over of the flag took also place at the ceremony. Besides the ABOORA team got the Berlin "peace clock" on board. The famous "ABORA-band" gave them their musical greetings. After a short goodbye to friends and expedition volunteers the crew jumped on board and set sail. They sailed along the Hudson for a short while and later again in front of the Statue of Liberty. After that they brought down the sail and a towboat from Aqua Survey, one of our great sponsors, towed them towards the Atlantic. The entire team felt relieved and all looking forward fort his amazing adventure.

day 5 - July 15th, 2007
ABORA III Makes Good Headway Towards the Gulf Stream
The prehistoric reed boat ABORA III, skippered by scientist Dominique Görlitz, is well on its way from New York into the Gulf Stream, on one of this summer's most unique events. Görlitz and his ten person crew are sailing from the U.S. to Spain using a boat constructed from a Stone Age design. Since its July 11th departure from New York City, the boat has travelled 188 miles into the Atlantic. "I expect to reach the fast westerly current within the next few days," says Görlitz. So far, the trip has been eventful. Waves have been reaching 10 feet and winds have been blowing up to 17 knots per hour. Handling the fragile boat demands conservative judgment. Last night, Görlitz had no choice but to partly lower the sail in order to temporarily reduce the speed of the ABORA III. The boat performed well in the challenging conditions, but left many a crewmember sleepless as ABORA III rolled heavily in the waves. Helmsman and former Mount Everest-skier, Tormod Granheim, worked the rudder through the night. Three broken lee-boards may prove an additional challenge for the team as they approach the Azores. The damage also provided a more immediate challenge for the ABORA III's diver, Sabrina Lorenz, who had the task of diving beneath the boat and untangling a mass of ropes which had become tangled due to the damaged lee-boards. Of a total of 14, 11 lee-boards rest intact, and Görlitz has decided to decrease the draft of his lee-boards in order to ease the stress on these items. The lee-boards are an essential part of the ABORA III's design; without them the vessel would only be able to sail downwind. The crew has found their rhythm in making the transatlantic journey back to the Old World. They work six hours, rest six hours and have six hours off-duty before going back on watch. But being off-duty also means lending a hand to the many tasks onboard the ABORA III, including maintenance, fishing and cooking. Markus Uhlig has caught the first fish, big enough to provide dinner for all sailors on the ABORA III. Not only was this the first fish caught aboard the ABORA III (hopefully the first of many) but it was also the first fish that was caught on any of the ABORA expeditions. The last 24 hours have also provided many rich animal encounters, as the ABORA III team has spotted a grey whale as well as several dolphins. Since starting out from New York City, the ABORA III has sailed a South-Easterly course, averaging 40 nautical miles a day. Once entering the Gulf Stream, Görlitz expects the boat's speed to approach 4 knots, with a daily progress of about 70 nautical miles. The ABORA III is the prehistoric reed boat skippered by experimental archaeologist and botanist Dominique Görlitz. Based on the expedition, Mr. Görlitz is investigating the need to re-write naval history for his Ph.D. at the University of Bonn in Germany. His thesis is that intercontinental journeys happened thousands of years before both Columbus and the Vikings.

day 15 - July 25th, 2007
ABORA III is not moving because of calm winds
On July 11th the ABORA III started its voyage over the Atlantic. In the first week we were able to sail 330 sea miles towards east. The wind was coming most of the time from a southern direction. The main aim was to reach the American shelf. This area is known for its strong relation to tide. The strong current out there was a hindrance for the ABORA III because a raft is more defeated to the current than any normal modern sailing boat. Weather data from the last ten years show southwest and northwest winds during the summer months in this area of the North American coastline. But unfortunately these winds are missing so far. The ABORA III has the capability to sail crosswise to the wind. So we could use the south winds and could make good progress. Right now it seems that the element is completely against us. For six days we have been sitting in front of the Georges Bank waiting for a change in wind. For the last few days we've had some easterly winds which meant we could sail only north or south in order to stabilize our position in front of the American shelf. The weather forecast does not bring hope for an improvement. Until July 26th we will have no wind! The ABORA III is proving itself to be a very manoeuvrable vessel. The courses already driven attest to this fact. We've lost three leeboards but this has not influenced the steering ability of the boat. With the help of Michael Grünert and our American partner Aqua Survey, we got eight reserve leeboards delivered. Now we can fall back upon our regular leeboard strength. On a prehistoric reed raft you cannot switch on the engine and go off to the next area which has favourable wind and set sail again. We have to wait until the wind comes to us. This is part of the experiment of the ABORA III. When a leeboard cracks or the wind stops moving for days on end, useful data is collected that ultimately contributes to our understanding of Stone Age peoples. With our collected data it is now possible to explain how historical seafarers survived in such conditions. The mood onboard is excellent. We've been using our free hours to read books and go swimming. We also made some small improvements to the boat. Our only concern at the moment is the age of our vessel. Because the Totora reeds with which the ABORA III is constructed are now nearly three years old, the vessel will not be able to float for a full 18 months as originally projected. We will have to make sure that we do not loose too much time in accomplishing our goals. At the moment we remain confident in the ABORA III's seaworthiness and believe that we will reach our final destination long before the age of the reeds becomes an issue. In the mean time we just need wind to sail to the Azores.

day 16 - July 26th, 2007
Low Pressure Area Holds Back ABORA III
Sailing is bit like a game of chess. Wind, current, and changing weather conditions need to be recognized in time and require foresight in planning. All of these factors become even more important when you are sailing across the Atlantic in a prehistoric vessel that doesn't have the help of an engine. Modern sailors can use their engine to escape calm winds; that is an option we simply do not have. Right now we are positioned between a high-pressure area and two low-pressure areas and this is the main reason for our current situation. It looks like our luck with the weather will a be continuing a while longer as a third low-pressure area is moving in from the south side. These conditions are impeding us from sailing east for the moment. It is possible to evade these problems by sailing southwest, but if the tide is too strong we may end up actually sailing west for a short period of time. Regardless of these setbacks, the ABORA III has been performing excellently. For the first time we were able to sail 77 degrees on the wind. We have been able to stabilize our position against changing winds and currents for days on end. This is an improvement from the designs of Thor Heyerdahl's RA I and RA II which where not able to sail against the wind. This is among the first real evidence in support of our theory that it was possible for Stone Age peoples to navigate effectively against the wind. The weather forecast shows no weather changes in the next two days. It looks like we may be sitting here until the weekend. Things could be worse. The break has given us a bit of time to relax as we repair and optimize our vessel. One thing is for certain, the weather won't stay like this forever and when the wind does become more favourable we will be better prepared than ever to complete this journey.

Abora III note the guara boards

day 18 - July 28th, 2007
Good-bye America - the ABORA III Sails into the Open Atlantic
After some very long days of calm and turning winds the ABORA III has set sail again. Last night we sailed 35 nautical miles. The wind was coming from the south and allowed us to sail crosswise to the wind. At the moment we are enjoying our first day of sailing with a favourable wind. Tomorrow we expect wind from southeast. Wind from this direction will not hold the expedition back but it will mean that we'll be travelling at a reduced speed. We are making further eastward progress as I write this.

day 23 - August 2nd, 2007
ABORA III Overcomes Stormy Seas
Life aboard the ABORA III has recently taken a turn for the exciting as we've hit some rough seas. We've reduced the square of the sail in response to the tropical storm Chantel and the force six winds she brought with her. We've been riding waves up to 18 feet high and have measured the wind speed at 27 knots. It is an awe-inspiring feeling to stand on a vessel which is pushed into the air by the waves when all you can see is the foam on top of the waves below. Our boat has slowly pushed onward over these waves and has performed quite smoothly in these rough conditions. Last night we dealt with hundreds of high waves. Only one wave managed to come overboard; it had happened to break just as we were beside it. It was only the foam, however, which slipped over the deck amongst our feet. Yesterday we were able to sail 72 nautical miles. The design of the ABORA III has proved itself quite stable and manoeuvrable in rough wind and sea. Our cabins have been quite useful in keeping both the crew and our supplies dry. Now that we've made it out of the worst of this rough weather, the ABORA III is continuing her journey without any wear and tear for the worse. We remain in high spirits as we make up for lost time. We hope that Gulf Stream will soon aid us. However, after looking at the weather forecast, it looks as though we may soon again encounter hindering winds from the east. Dealing with unfavourable conditions like this is just part of the nature of the experiment, and we'll just continue to manage these challenges as they arise.

day 48 - August 27th, 2007
Severe Storms Batter ABORA III: Reconstruction at Sea
Six hundred miles west of the Azores, Dominique Görlitz and crew are trying to rebuild their vessel after being battered by two heavy storms, the last of which was a large cyclone lasting over three days. These storms caused a good deal of damage to the portside rudder and broke the stern end of the vessel off in its entirety. At the moment, the multi-national crew has stabilized the situation by tightening the spiral-ropes that hold the reed-rolls together. The sailors feel confident that the ship will neither sink nor disintegrate further. Görlitz has developed designs for a new rudder and a different trim of the mast, both based on ancient Egyptian rock drawings, in hopes that these modifications will allow them to continue in their journey to the Azores. The work will progress further during the day, and Görlitz expects to keep working for another day or two before being able to sail his vessel. His comments are: "First of all, I'm very proud of the crew who has all done a marvelous job during our crisis. Second, although saddened by what happened to our proud-looking ABORA III, I'm glad to confirm what I always believed: Reed-boats are incredibly safe. Even after loosing 25% of the ship we are still floating safely. No other ancient watercraft than a reed boat would have this kind of seaworthiness." The weather in the area has improved since the incident, at the moment all forecasts predict the prevailing anti-cyclone surrounding the Azores to return and stabilize, bringing favorable mild northerly or westerly winds to the sailors of ABORA III. The ABORA III is the prehistoric reed boat skippered by botanist Dominique Görlitz. Based on the expedition, Mr. Görlitz investigates a need to re-write naval history in his Ph.D. at the University of Bonn, Germany. His thesis is that intercontinental journeys happened thousands of years before both Columbus and the Vikings.

Day 51 31th August 07
Goerlitz calls in Escort Boat
The crew continue to make good the damage to ABORA 3, the boat is considerably shorter, having lost its entire stern end. Now without a toilet & rear deck, Goerlitz is confident that she will not sink & its safe to continue the expedition. After dismissing claims that it was too dangerous to attempt to cross the Atlantic without a support vessel, Goerlitz. has had a change of heart. A back up vessel has been called in. It's expected to rendezvous with ABORA 3 in 3 days. ..... ..... Tormod then describes the moment the ship began to break up "First went the rudder, and then went the boat.. Joe (Cuba), Ingo (Germany) and I had been on watch for about an hour early Saturday morning. I brought out my video camera to do some filming. A quick glance back revealed that one of our rudders had broke." "No one knows exactly when the breakage happened, I take it must have occurred shortly before dawn. Soon after, a straight crack in the aft cut through the boat." Bit by bit, the ship began to fall apart. All crew was ordered up, and began to fix the only remaining working rudder and rearranging the rig to hold the remains of the boat. Ingo commented, "now it's the rig holding the boat together, not the other way around." Dominique Goerlitz said, "Any other boat would have sunk after being split in two - and look at us - still floating." "But our enthusiasm was dimmed by the sad sight of our proud dream reduced to a pile of beach wood in only 24 hours," ..... ..... With the boat now stabilized, the guys will redo the rig for a more forward position. This will maintain the balance of the boat. There will also be a new, permanent keel. Göerlitz has developed designs for a new rudder and a different mast trim, both based on ancient Egyptian rock drawings, he hopes these modifications will allow them to continue in their journey to the Azores. "We hope to fix the ship good enough to at least be able to sail with the wind in our backs." ..... ..... After emptying out the damaged rear cabin, the crew voted themselves double rations in anticipation of fresh supplies arriving - This provided some welcome relief & led to a major feast. Norwegian Tormod Granheim said "Ingo ( German) made the best pasta sauce so far on this cruise - out of walnuts, parmesan cheese and bacon!" source Goerlitz added by saying , "With a bit of luck and with good weather, we ought to be able to reach the Azores." The estimated date of arrival is still mid-September.~ The events of last week have brought home what a serious undertaking this voyage is. Again we wish them -God Speed and a safe passage to The Azores

Day 54 03rd September 07
After the dramatic events of the last week, ABORA 3 stopped sailing to await the arrival of the support vessel. This decision not to stress the newly configured ABORA 3 until back up arrives looks like wise safety precaution. The dynamics of the hull and how she handles will have altered. We can expect the cautious build up of sailing times until Goerlitz is confident of her new characteristics The team have joking renamed the repaired boat ABORA 3 B. I trust this is not the new official name? -- seafarer's ( a superstitious lot at the best of times) generally believe its bad luck to rename a vessel mid-voyage!.

Day 57 06th September 07
12.30hrs UCT Just received news that Dominique Goerlitz has bowed to the inevitable and called the expedition off. The damage to ABORA 3 is just too severe to safely continue. More news will be posted as it arrives. 12.30hrs UCT

13.30hrs UCT It appears that after patching up and making good the damage, ABORA 3 was fit to continue as long as the weather was kind. Unfortunately - the weather has conspired against them. A new storm with winds forecast Force 6 is predicted to arrive in the area over the next 30 hours. Göerlitz told his base yesterday "One just has to know when it's over... ..it would be irresponsible to keep the crew on the patched-together vessel any longer" . As for the fate of ABORA 3 ? --well the plan is to transfer as much equipment as possible to the support vessel and cast her adrift to be broken by the sea. A reflective navigation beacon will be left to warn other shipping.

position of Abora III on 7 September, 2007

failure of the steering mechanism and stern lead to abandonment of the voyage, 6th Sept 2007

atlantisbolivia.org homepage