Time on My Hands Chapter 36 - 330-343 CE: The Founding of Ramzab

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Time on My Hands
Chapter 36: 330-343 CE: The Founding of Ramzab

Bjorn stood to speak. “We here at Olvishaugen have Raben Corvo and the clan he founded, Clan Corvo, to thank for our prosperity. We have grown greatly in population and land because of their assistance. My grandfather recognized our relationship with the Clan Corvo by declaring us the Clan Ravn. He was right but too stubborn to fully admit the truth. Yes we are the Clan Ravn, but more importantly, every one of us is also a member of the Clan Corvo. The reality and truth is that we are not two different Clans, but one single clan! Henceforth we shall be know as the Clan Corvo. Raben and Fiach Corvo are the Clan Corvo leaders and thus OUR leaders!

Those of the Clan Corvo cheered, obviously supporting the changes.

“Thank you.” Raben responded. “I humbly acknowledge the leadership of this branch of the Clan Corvo and appoint Bjorn as my deputy and leader of Olvishaugen. I know you will continue to grow and absorb your neighbors. It is also understandable their pride may be hurt by subsuming their fealty to a rival like Olvishaugen. As a first step I suggest we rename this settlement. Olvishaugen is a farmstead which the clan has far outgrown. I founded the Clan Corvo at a place called Barmaz. I established 2 smaller sites for business purposes of the Corvus Scriptorium. At the great city of Rome is Mazbar. At the great city of Alexandria is Zamrab. I recently established a third small site as home port for Corvus Shipping, near the city of Marsailles is Zarbam. The names were made by rearranging the letters of the original Clan Corvo location of Barmaz. I suggest we move our local Clan Corvo headquarters to a new site and name it and by association this entire Clan Corvo settlement, Bazram. In addition, at this time I want to formally invite those neighbors who sent ships to help bring my people north to openly join the Clan Corvo and Bazram. Obviously you were already interested in partaking of the growth and wealth of Olvishaugen. During our voyage here you had a chance to talk to myself and my people just as we grew to know you. You know we are open and honest. Together we can do great things and build a bright future for OUR children and grandchildren. Will you join us by pledging fealty to me?”

Those who had accompanied the voyage had indeed been impressed and even jealous of the Clan Ravn before the trip. What they experienced during the trip north left them even more envious. They knew on their own they could never equal the Clan Corvo. The power, wealth and knowledge that came north was simply impossible to duplicate. They also knew they couldn’t fight the expansion of the Clan Corvo which had already absorbed over a dozen farmsteads. All had children or grandchildren who had married into the Clan Corvo so they had learned of the benefits and allure of their prosperity. Their pride held them back, they didn’t want to pledge fealty to one of their own. Doing so to Bjorn, despite seeing his ability to rule justly and with wisdom was a step too far. However, Raben was not a local, nor would he stay here. At the same time they noted he was clearly head of the Clan Corvo and obviously had Bjorn’s unquestioning fealty. Pledging fealty to Raben would put them on an equal footing with Bjorn salving their pride. With a bit of discussion amongst their individual families, they all agreed to join the Clan Corvo. All were inducted into the Clan Corvo whom warmly greeted their newest clanspeople.

"Our rapid growth and wealth has been noticed by our more distant neighbors,” Raben continued. “They know of our militia and have not dared to openly attack us. Some may grow desperate and do so. To assist with the shift of names I feel we should also shift the location of the Clan Corvo seat of power. That hill to the north {GM 63.754510, 11.273368} is the perfect place to build a fort. It's height dominates the surrounding area. I suggest you terrace the hill in steps of twenty feet with a palisade at the edge so one level overlooks the other. Dig out underground storerooms for food and supplies. It is close enough to the water so you can build docks creating a walled town to the north. It would be a good project for your slaves."

Again everyone approved.

“In my past visits I noticed each farmstead, if they are able, builds their own ships,” Raben stated. “That is practical for smaller holdings. However for a larger holding such as the Clan Corvo it is inefficient. I’d like to see us build a central shipyard where we construct ships. By combining our better shipbuilders in one place they can share their techniques and labor. Instead of taking years to build a ship, by working together we should be able to build a ship in a few months. In the studies I’ve had done, it takes 100 men working 8 hours a day for 1 year to construct a ship. The study started with selecting trees to the finished vessel. We can share the work load, a few skilled men to select trees, unskilled men to fell the trees and transport them to the shipyard. Skilled men to make the planks and keels, skilled men to shape and fit the planks with the help of unskilled men and so on. By working together at one site we can have 20 or more ships in different stages of construction at the same time. Even if it takes 6 months to build a ship I estimate we could produce a new ship every 2 weeks. I think Eisbotn will be the perfect place for the Clan Corvo shipyard. One last thing in this regard... we must insure that any trees felled, except to create more farmland, must be replenished. Additional trees should be planted wherever possible, even on steep hillsides that are currently barren.”

Raben moved on to the main point of his visit. “In my vast reading I’ve found several references to uninhabited islands off the Iberian Peninsula and African Coasts. I’ve pieced together the details of several recorded voyages and have a fair idea where four sets of islands are located. Far out is a 9 island group. The south of them is a 2 island group. Further south is a 7 island grouping, and even further south is another 9 island grouping. The 2 northern groups are uninhabited while the 2 southern groups are inhabited so I want to hold off on those. This year I want to launch a 3 ship exploration mission to find the 2 island group and ensure it is habitable so we can set up a colony there. Since you are the seafaring branch of Clan Corvo, I’d like to have you provide the initial nautical expertise for the Clan Corvo in a joint voyage of discovery and settlement. I’ve brought 250 people to be colonists. They are between 16 to 30 years old, some are married couples with children. In my raven mail note I asked the Clan Ravn for 50 colonists and 30 ships. I’d like the combined 300 adult colonists trained as crew to sail the vessels and learn woodworking skills to build and repair vessels as well as open sea fishing.”

Much discussion was held as Raben laid out his information and maps. Raben’s plans called for Bazram to send 30 ships next spring with Raben putting up the funding to purchase additional vessels if needed. They would sail to pick up an additional 1200 colonists at Zarbam, 1100 from Barmaz and 50 each from Mazbar and Zamrab. Corvus Shipping would have 30 additional ships crewed and waiting. The 300 colonists now here would crew and captain the 30 ships from Bazram to start the new colony while Raben organized crew for 30 additional Caravel style ships from the people of Corvus Shipping. He provided Bjorn enough gold to purchase/build the needed ships. The only addition to the normal supplies for a long voyage, would be a ton of bog iron.

Raben also said he’d increase the number of teens and young adult families from Barmaz journeying north each year to 500, doing so during the spring iron delivery. Barzam would be expected to send crew for 23 vessels. Those would be in addition to the 30 ships for the colony. Bjorn would have to send a raven mail message letting Raben know how many ships he could supply so agents of Corvus Shipping could purchase enough vessels to complete the fleet, gathering them at Bonna. As normal, the basic ship crews would be augmented by those moving north.

The 250 adults from Barmaz as well as 50 adults from Bazram began their year long lessons in shipbuilding, sailing and fishing as well as other tasks. Raben set out with 3 ships and Norse crews to explore the Atlantic Ocean to find the uninhabited dual islands. Raben invited 6 ravens to join the voyage, 2 per vessel, flying ahead of their ship and keeping an eye on the other vessels and potential trouble spots as they traveled. They traveled down the coast of Norway, Jutland, Frisia, Gaul, and the Iberian Peninsula to the Pillars of Hercules putting in at the port of Gibraltar. For the most part they had stayed within sight of the shore as they sailed. They averaged traveling 4-5 days before putting to shore to resupply making it to Gibraltar in 26 days.

Raben went ashore to make arrangements with the locals to beach the ships, resupply and to check and make any needed repairs to the ships. A large sandbar that was a few feet above high tide proved a safe location and the ships beached at high tide. Raben contracted with local fishermen to ferry supplies and provisions. They eagerly supplied whatever was needed in exchange for Raben’s silver coins. On their last evening after they finished their work Raben explained they had completed the easy portion of their journey.

“When we leave we will sail away from the coast,” Raben stated. “We will travel southwest. The islands we seek should be 400 to 500 miles away. We will need to keep the ships together. If the wind fails or we encounter fog we’ll position ourselves in a line, tie the ships together with three lines and if we decide to row will do so slowly so we don’t wear ourselves out. For that matter, whenever we stop, tie ourselves together with three lines. If we do get separated, each ship has 2 ravens who can search out the other ships and guide us together. The ravens inherently know which way is north so they will be direction finder as well as our eyes. The weather looks clear so hopefully we’ll have good sailing. We’ll put ourselves in God’s hands.”

“How can we make sure we stay on a southwest course,” the head captain asked.

“I have a gift from Odin,” Raben answered as he petted the ravens. “I’ll tell the ravens which way I want to head and they’ll help us stay us on that course. My ship will lead and using Odin’s shield to guide us.”

With the ships were repaired and stocked, the next morning at high tide, with the locals helping they pushed off. Raben set himself up in the stern with his kit from which he removed his lodestone ‘toy’. After tying it into place so he could see the disk pointing north he took over the steering oar. On the voyage down Raben had played with the lodestone, matching direction with sailing. He was able to judge their speed by the way the wind filled the sail and the way the ship cut through the water. He’d even practiced keeping on a straight course while tacking through cross winds learning to judge when to turn. He hoped his calculations would be correct.

The winds were from the north east so they had to tack or jibe, as appropriate, into the wind to move southwest. As darkness fell they tied themselves together to be sure they didn’t get separated. They sailed in line from dawn to dusk for three days. Each day the ravens flew ahead of them returning to roost each night. On the fourth day two hours after dawn the ravens returned ‘krocking’ with excitement. They landed by Raben and spoke.

“They’ve spotted land,” Raben called out adjusted the steering oar as the ravens again flew ahead.

A few hours later an excited shout rang out. “Seagulls! I see seagulls!” Everyone turned to follow the pointed finger. Indeed there were several seagulls off to one side! As they searched the sky they saw more birds as the Ravens returned. The spirits of everyone soared just like the birds. They stayed the course. By mid afternoon they saw an island about 10 miles away to the southeast. As they neared it they saw it was rocky with four much smaller rocky islets. The ravens had done a flyover survey of the island and reported their findings to Raben.

“We want the next island,” Raben shouted as they sailed around the north side of the small island. They stayed at least half a mile out to avoid any shoals and checked out the inhospitable high rocky shore. “The Ravens have told me this island is about a mile wide and 5 miles long. The south side has sandy beaches but the vegetation is sparse with little sign of running water.”

The ravens took to the air again once more heading before them. As they sailed past the island they saw a much larger island (PD Madeira) about 26 miles further southwest. Continuing straight they approached the northeast corner of the island, then turned to cruise west along the northern shore.

The northern shores of the island were tall and rocky but they could clearly see lush green vegetation. Several narrow ravines cut through the heights to the sea. They could see many had streams with flowing water. The coast was rocky and offered no obvious safe places to beach. As they turned south around the western end of the island the ravens returned and spoke to Raben.

The sun was approaching the horizon so they headed to a site the ravens spotted with a short flat sandy beach and a stream of flowing water. A natural half moon bay was just 800 feet west of the stream. The site was about 2/5 of the way along the southern shore. As they headed into the sheltered bay they noted it was semi-circular with a diameter of 200 feet {GM 32.647245, -16.974978, PD Camara de Lobos Bay}. The shore was crowded with monk seals who were not happy at the intrusion. The small bay was thereafter referred to as Seal Bay. It was too late to try to find somewhere else so they swung east and beached at the stream {between PD Camara De Lobos & Santo Antonio, suburbs of Funchal}.

By the time they had the 3 ships beached and secured the sun was at the horizon. Raben gathered everyone. After thanking God for their safe voyage he pronounced. “On this date, September 10 in the year 330 of our Lord, I claim these islands in the name of Clan Corvo. This island shall henceforth be known as Ramzab.”

“These islands match the descriptions of the islands I was aiming for,” Raben continued. “The weather here should always be fair with no winter. We should be able to get two, possibly three crops per year. The ravens spotted no sign of a native population. We’ll have to take star and sun readings to figure out where we are so we can bring the colonists and supplies.”

"This is the island we want to settle," Raben called out. "Based on what the Ravens have told me the width varies from 7 miles wide in the west to 14 miles then narrows to 9 miles in the east while it's 34 miles long. There is a lot of vegetation in this area but decidedly less than the north and west."

They spent two weeks exploring the island making sure the land was fertile with adequate water verifying there was no sign of recent human activity. They found the surrounding ocean waters to have easily accessible abundant fish. Although it would take work to settle, life here would be fruitful.

Raben was able to meet some ravens that lived on the island. At first the intelligent corvids had been leery of the strange intruders but they recognized that 6 ravens had arrived with them and lived amongst them. Slowly Raben made friends with the local Ravens. He explained the beneficial arrangements of living with and working for humans provided. After explaining raven mail he convinced a dozen native ravens to accompany them when they left.

The small fleet headed directly to Africa. Raben guided them directly to the nearest north African coast at the village of El Bedouza {GM 32.541450, -9.283449}, a 2 day trip. They spent a day at the small village. Raben explained to the 18 ravens they needed to fly the same route they’d just sailed or the distances over water would be too great.

Raben used his empathetic ability to found a trustworthy area family who had lived there for generations. They were amazed he spoke their language. Raben openly explained his family was eccentric and did unusual things. One of those was using ravens for scrying and communication. Even though ravens were not normal inhabitants of the region, they were occasionally seen so the natives knew the birds were exceedingly intelligent. Raben told them that at irregular times he would dispatch ravens into and out of the area and wanted a secure site where the ravens could roost, feed and access water. More importantly, he was willingly to pay the family a yearly stipend to host the roost. The stipend was simply too lucrative for the family not to accept. Raben had prepared a roost which he set up and paid them for a year.

It was another two days sailing north to Gibraltar Raben kept one ship and crew to sail to Zarbam sending the other 2 vessels back around the European coast to Norway with the information needed to lead the colonizing fleet back to Gibraltar. Each of the ships making the exploratory voyage created maps and charts detailing the European coastal trip in both directions so future voyagers could follow the route. Raben also provided them with charts and maps for the voyage from Gibraltar to Zarbam. They reached Bazram at the end of the first week of November. While they had encountered a few storms during the voyage around the Norwegian coast, none were severe and they had time to seek shelter in a nearby Fjord. Their stories of the virtual paradise they had discovered excited everyone.

Raben guided the single ship to Zarbam docking the ship. The captains and crews of the Caravel style ships were naturally curious about the Norse ship. The captains discussed the merits of the Norse clinker construction versus the caravel type construction. Both types start by laying the keel, the main center structure on the bottom of the vessel. Caravel built wooden boats next attached the ribs to the keel then attached planks to the rib frame so the planks butt up against one another. In Clinker {lapstarke} built hulls the planks overlap along their edges being riveted or tied together. The ribs are then made to fit the planks and keel. In Caravel construction a smooth hull is created, that is stronger than a clinker built hull. However more caulking is required between the joints in caravel than in clinker construction. The framing gives a caravel construction a stronger hull, meaning it can carry a more masts and sails as well as decks, and can have a longer, broader and taller hull. Clinker built vessels are lighter because they have less internal framing, meaning they move faster because they displace less water. Clinker vessels are less rigid then caravel constructions; this limits the type of sailing rigs the vessel can take but was lighter, faster, and the vessel flexed as needed. The caravel was slower but easily accepted decks. The draft of a clinker vessel was less than half that of the same size caravel.

Raben based the crew at Zarbam and had them train the Clan Corvo crews on the Norse ship. Raben invited the captains and crews he’d hired months earlier to train the Clan Corvo crews to join the Clan Corvo encouraging them to move their families into the growing settlement. All had seen the cohesiveness and cooperation of the members of the clan and were quite interested in joining. They all eagerly accepted.

The fleet at Zarbam had grown to 40 ships. Cargos were delivered about the eastern Mediterranean giving the new sailors experience. In Barmaz Raben recruited an additional 350 people to serve as crew for the growing Corvus Shipping fleet, sending them to Zarbam.

After receiving raven mail from Bazram, Raben sent Corvus Shipping agents north to the Rhine delta to purchase or have built 20 ships to meet the spring iron shipment in Bonna. The 500 people promised to Bazram were recruited.

In the spring of 331 raven mail messages reported when the 2 fleets left Bazram. The 500 transferees to Bazram headed north as part of the Corvus Shipping caravan, accompanied by a brigade of Raven Raiders, to meet the iron shipment fleet in Bonna. The Bazram iron fleet used their excess crewing to man the 20 additional ships. After familiarizing themselves with the additional vessels, the 23 ship fleet headed north.

Following their charts and maps the Bazram colonial fleet made it to Zarbam. Their vessels were inspected and repaired as needed as the 1100 Barmaz colonists in a Corvus Shipping caravan, accompanied by a company of Raven Raiders, headed south to meet the combined fleet at Zarbam where 50 colonists each from Mazbar and Zamrab were waiting. By the time the fleet arrived at Zarbam, the port had 25 docks ready. The 30 clinker ships from Bazram joined the 30 Caravel style ships to form the colonial fleet carrying the 1500 colonists. The ships were loaded with supplies, chickens, sheep, goats, pigs, horses and cows before loading the people.

Raben joined the 60 vessel fleet as they set sail. They stopped at Gibraltar for a day to top off their water barrels, then sailed out into the Atlantic. A bit after noon ton the fourth day they spotted the small island. By mid afternoon they reached their destination on the south side of the larger island. The shallower draft Norse ships landed offloading people and supplies. Raben led the groups inland to the site they’d selected the year before to start setting up camp. A few adults oversaw the older children as they gathered firewood.

The Norse ships transferred the colonists from the deeper draft Caravel ships to the shore, then returned to begin transferring the animals. The animals were offloaded and staked in grassy areas. Everyone worked together and by the time darkness fell, they were able to gather around the campfire and relax. All were filled with excitement that they had found the place. It was mid June, the voyage from Zarbam had taken 11 days. A common kitchen was set up as were sleeping tents.

The next day large temporary brush walled pastures were built for the pigs, sheep, goats, cattle and horses. A mile upstream a sturdy five foot high dam was built. When the dam was completed they began digging a level aqueduct 2 feet wide by 2 feet across the east side of the valley, heaping the excavated earth on the downhill side of the trench. They were careful to keep the water in the aqueduct even with that in the dam.

An armed team tried to secure Seal Bay for use as an anchorage. The large monk seals covered every available inch of the shore. Using spears they tried nudging the humongous seals out of the way. The bull monk seals averaged 8 feet long and weighed 710 pounds. Needless to say the seals were not happy and voiced their objections. Since they were not familiar with humans they had no fear of the puny annoyances and fought back. After several futile efforts to clear the bay, someone sent for Raben.

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I Hope Raben Can Work Out...

...some form of peaceful coexistence with the seals.

Trouble from Clan Corvo's POV is that they have more value dead (as sources of meat, oil and skin) than they do when alive. I can't think of anything the seals can do that would benefit the colony except stay out of the way.


Maybe Next The Azores

joannebarbarella's picture

This is the time when the Roman Empire really started to fall after the death of Constantine and the increasing concentration of power to Constantinople and the Eastern Empire.

Perhaps Raben can keep his domains moving westwards to the Azores and even on to Bermuda and eventually America? His caravel-type ships would be capable of those sea voyages and so would the Norwegian longships. After all they made it to Newfoundland via Iceland and Greenland in later times.

Stillloving the story

Wendy Jean's picture

What I'm reading matches the little history I know. In the words of the late Spock, Fascinating.