top of page

Where was Gazela?

Guild craftsman and Portuguese-speaker, Tony Souza found an interesting Portuguese blog post by Dr. Anna Maria Lopes where she deduces the time and location of an historic Gazela photo. Below, he offers his analysis:

Where was Gazela in 1918, 1939, or 1959? I can answer the question about 1918, Gazela was home in Portugal all year. The previous year a sister ship, Gamo, fully loaded with the year’s catch, was boarded and sunk by the crew of a German submarine. Not willing to risk further loss the fishing company didn’t send Gazela to the Grand Banks in 1918.

In 1939 Gazela returned to fishing now with its first engine, a German-made MANN diesel of 180 HP installed in 1938. The engine installation required the extension of the ship’s stern and installation of fuel tanks. The engine and addition of a radio enabled Gazela to fish north to the Arctic Circle.

Portuguese historians still write about our adopted ship. In the July 2012 blog of Dr. Anna Maria Lopes I learned of the 1959 detective-like approach she used to date the photograph shown in her blog post.

Freely translated, the introductory paragraphs talk about how a photograph without any accompanying notes can be frustrating to historians. The photo being discussed is an aerial view of a shipyard with a new ship under construction and another in drydock undergoing extensive repairs.

Through the use of optical magnification of the photo Dr. Lopes identified the shipyard as that of Manuel Maria Mónica of Gafanha da Nazaré, Portugal. The ship under repair is Gazela Primeiro and the date of the photo July 5, 1959. Gazela Primeiro at that time belonged to Parceria Geral de Pescarias.

This identification was confirmed to Dr. Lopes by former Gazela Captain Antonio Marques da Silva. Captain da Silva at age 28 was assigned as Captain of Gazela and was responsible for the repairs being carried out in 1959. Major repairs were made involving the complete hull. The keel and keelson were replaced, an enormous project.

From an April 2013 visit to Philadelphia by a former seaman, João da Costa, who sailed on Gazela in the years 1955 to 1960 I learned that Gazela survived a large, late-season storm in 1958 and limped home to Portugal. The storm damage was so great that major repair was necessary.

A folder in the Maritime Museum of Ilhavo, Portugal records the 1959-1960 rebuild. It contains a set of two annotated drawings of Gazela illustrating the areas that were rebuilt. An accompanying file contains the correspondence between the ship owner and shipbuilder discussing the details of the repair.

The date of the aerial photo was determined from the banner draped on the drydock. The banner welcomes the visit of President Salazar of Portugal to the Shipbuilding Company of M. Mónica. Newspaper accounts from that time state that the President’s visit took place on July 5, 1959.

In her concluding remarks to this blog Dr. Lopes notes that the town of Gafanha is much the same now as it was in 1959, and that Gazela still sails, but not in her native (Portuguese) waters.

Each article I find on the subject of Gazela draws me to learn more about the very long history of this proud ship.

10 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page