Monday, December 17, 2012

Building a Monster Medieval Trebuchet: Warwolf

Warwolf Trebuchet

If you missed seeing PBS's NOVA story about building a replica of the legendary medieval trebuchet, Warwolf, be sure to check out the photo log for that show. The show was first aired back on February 1st, 2000.
NARRATOR: 200 years before cannon appeared in Europe, chroniclers make reference to what appears to be the ultimate 13th century siege weapon - an ingenious new form of heavy artillery that flung huge stone balls with such destructive power that castle walls were reduced to rubble. But no ancient weapon of this type has survived. Were such claims gross exaggerations, or did such a weapon really exist? To answer these questions, NOVA brings together a team of experts in medieval warfare who believe they know the secret.

JOEL MCCARTY: It's chaos. It's Wednesday, I think. I don't have a clue whether or not we'll finish.

NARRATOR: Their task - to build siege machines capable of destroying a castle wall at a range of about 200 yards...
The plan: NOVA and a team of master builders from England, Germany, France and the United States will reconstruct one of the most destructive of medieval weapons ever made: a giant trebuchet. They will raise the weapon in the shadows of Castle Urquhart, located on the shores of Loch Ness in the Scottish Highlands.

This is one of the castles that English armies attacked during Edward I's Scottish campaign 700 years ago. As part of the campaign, the army was said to have built one of the most monstrous trebuchets ever. Only its name survives: Warwolf.
PBS Nova builds a medieval trebuchet
In examining medieval drawings of trebuchets, mechanical engineer Wayne Neel, a professor from Virginia Military Institute, can't help but notice that many are represented with wheels.

He decides to add what is one of history's most fundamental inventions to his second prototype. To nearly everyone's surprise, the wheeled trebuchet shoots about one-third farther than its fixed counterpart.
Trebuchet builders gather at Castle Urquhart, located on the shores of Loch Ness in the Scottish Highlands

Almost overnight, this Scottish field is turned into a medieval construction site. Timber framers, stonemasons, carpenters and blacksmiths turn back time and employ medieval building techniques to construct two giant trebuchets. One design features a fixed counterweight and wheels; the other is wheel-less and is loaded with a swinging counterweight.

Observes Marcus Brandt, an on-site carpenter: "If it weren't for the jets flying overhead, you'd think you were in the 12th century." ....
NOVA Online / Secrets of Lost Empires:
Medieval Siege -- NOVA Builds a Trebuchet

Show Transcript: "Secrets of Lost Empires: Medieval Siege"