Navio-Hospital Gil Eannes

The Hospital Ship Gil Eannes, which is currently berthed at the port of Viana do Castelo (Rambla Alves Cerqueira, Doca Commercial 4900-321), was built in1955 to provide healthcare to the portuguese codfishing fleet in the seas of New-foundland and Greenland.
Its name derives from the portuguese navigator and explorer Gil Eanes who was the first to cross Cape Bojador in 1434, unwittingly introducing the age of great discoveries.


The hospital ship consists in five floors: two floors above sea level and just three below. The medical restricted levels are the main desk (-1) and the surgery (-3).

Surgery: level -3

Operating Theater

It’s made from seven rooms, each one with specific functions.
When you go down the stairs, the first place you can immediately see is the operating theater.
As it can be seen, it could be considered as one of the first operating rooms of the modern hosptial – of the XX sec.
It’s a very big room, in fact it could house several surgeon simultaneously, as the mannequins shown (figure 1). Besides, it was equipped with basical and emergency instrumentations for surgical offshore operations.


figure 1

Along the walls, there are showcases in which are conserved the original and authentic surgical irons (figure 2-3-4).


figure 2


figure 3


figure 4

Main deck: level -1

On the floor-1 there are the wards for first crew’s care, medical assistance and treatments. The most important areas are the physician visit room and the X-Ray room.

Consulling room

The physician visit room was used as the infirmary and for crew’s routine visits too.
In this room you will find the examination table (figure 5), the first sphygmomanometer"modern" models and some different stethoscopes.
The sphygmomanometer is among the first oscillometric models: you can already see the absence of the mercury column, feature of the ‘800 instruments, and the introduction of the rubber bulb (figure 6). Monaural stethoscopes are wood and metal, removable (figure 7).


figure 5


figure 6


figure 7

A further evidence of the particularly technological and innovative navy’s instrumentation is given by the presence of the electrocardiograph (figure 8), an instrument that was planned for the first time in 1903 by Einthoven.


figure 8

X-Ray room and dark room

Next to the consulling room there is the X-Ray room (figures 9-10). It was available for more accurated medical exams to diagnose mild and serious traumas.


figure 9


figure 10

In fact, the adjacent dark chamber (figure 11) was used to develop patients’ x-ray images.


figure 11


There is an elevator used to directly connect the level -1 to level -3. It was uniquely designated to transport the stretchers from the operating theater to the main deck and conversely: in fact it didn’t stop at level -2 (under deck) for ordinary travels.

As you can see (figures 12-13), the lift is very large and spacious to transport medical staff in addition to the bedridden patients.


figure 12 -Lift of stratchers' front at main deck level-


figure 13 -Lift of stratchers' front at surgery level-

  • Photos and main text by Francesca Cappelli moc.liamg|8.illeppacacsecnarf#| and Marta Ascione ti.ilacsit|enoicsa.atram#|

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