Turtle Ships

We’re down on Namhae Island, at the very bottom of South Korea. Its claim to fame is that this is where Admiral Yi, the country’s greatest ever mariner, scored his unexpected victory over the Japanese invaders in 1598 and brought to end their occupation of the peninsula. Against all odds his fleet of 12 ships defeated one of 133. The secret of success was the turtle ship – a fortified vessel powered by oars, thus ensuring better manouverability and speed than the sailing ships of the enemy. They contained cannon but were impervious to it themselves, their sides being reinforced with iron plate. The enemy’s shot it is said, simply bounced off.

It was the Admiral’s endeavours that brought to an end the first invasion of the peninsula by the Japanese. He died however in that final battle, so didn’t get to see the outrageous victory his outnumbered fleet scored.

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