A vessel that carries passengers or freight.
Large seagoing vessel. The Greeks, Phoenicians, Romans, and Vikings used ships extensively for trade, exploration, and warfare. The 14th century was the era of European exploration by sailing ship, largely aided by the invention of the compass. In the 15th century Britain's Royal Navy was first formed, but in the 16th–19th centuries Spanish and Dutch fleets dominated the shipping lanes of both the Atlantic and Pacific.
The ultimate sailing ships, the fast us and British tea clippers, were built in the 19th century. Also in the 19th century, iron was first used for some shipbuilding instead of wood. Steam-propelled ships of the late 19th century were followed by compound-engine and turbine-propelled vessels from the early 20th century.
The earliest vessels were rafts or dugout canoes, many of which have been found in Britain, and date from prehistoric times. The Greeks and Phoenicians built wooden ships, propelled by oar or sail. The Romans and Carthaginians built war galleys equipped with rams and several tiers of rowers. The double-ended oak ships of the Vikings were built for rough seas.
Development of sailing ships
The invention of the stern rudder during the 12th century, together with the developments made in sailing during the Crusades, enabled the use of sails to almost completely supersede that of oars. Following the invention of the compass, and with it the possibilities of exploration, the development of sailing ships advanced quickly during the 14th century. In the 15th century Henry viii built the Great Harry, the first double-decked English warship.
In the 16th century ships were short and high-sterned, and despite Pett’s three-decker in the 17th century, English ships did not bear comparison with the Spanish and Dutch until the early 19th century. In the 1840s iron began replacing wood in shipbuilding, pioneered by British engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s Great Britain 1845. Throughout the 19th century, improvements were made in warships, including the evolution of the elliptical stern. However, increased rivalry between us and British owners for possession of the Chinese and Indian tea trade led to improvements also being made to the merchant vessel.
The first clipper, the Ann McKim, was built in Baltimore in 1832, and Britain soon adopted this type of fast-sailing ship. One of the finest of the tea clippers, the Sir Launcelot, was built in 1865 and marked the highest development of the sailing ship. The us ship Champion of the Seas, was one of the fastest of its time, averaging speeds of 20 knots.
Early steamers depended partly on sails for auxiliary power. In 1802 the paddle-wheel steamer Charlotte Dundas, constructed by William Symington, was launched on the Forth and Clyde Canal, Scotland. However, the effort was halted amid fears that the wash produced by the paddle would damage the canal banks. In 1812 the Comet, built in Scotland 1804 by Bell, Napier, and Robertson, was launched. This ship, which had a paddle on each side, was a commercial success, and two others were built for service from Glasgow. From this time the steamship-building industry rapidly developed on the banks of the Clyde.
The first steamship to cross the Atlantic was the Dutch vessel Curaçao, a wooden paddler built at Dover, England 1826, which left Rotterdam April 1827, and took one month to cross. The next transatlantic steamer, the Royal William, crossed from Quebec to London in 17 days 1833. Britain’s entry into the transatlantic efforts began with Brunel’s Great Western paddle-steamer, which acheived recognition when it completed the journey from Bristol to New York in 15 days—three days faster than a clipper.
The first great iron steamship, Rainbow, was launched 1838. In the following year, Pettit Smith designed the Archimedes, the first steamer to use a screw propeller, followed quickly by Brunel’s Great Britain, which crossed from Liverpool to New York in 14.5 days 1845.
In 1862 the Cunard Company obtained permission to fit mail steamers with propellers, which suffered less from the rolling of the ship, and the paddle-wheel was relegated to comparatively smooth water. The opening of the Suez Canal 1869, together with the simultaneous introduction of the compound engine, raised steamships to superiority over sailing ships. In 1902 the turbine engine was employed on passenger steamers on the Clyde, and in 1905 was applied to the transatlantic service. This was followed by the introduction of the internal combustion engine.
The Blue Riband of the Atlantic.
The trophy for the fastest Atlantic crossing, the “Blue Riband”, has been held by many passenger liners, including the Cunarder Mauretania (1909–30), the Queen Mary (1938–52), and United States (1952–89).
Following World War ii, when reconstruction and industrial development created a great demand for oil, the tanker was developed to carry supplies to the areas of consumption. The shipyards of the world were flooded with orders for tankers; due to economic demands, the size of the tankers became increasingly larger. The Suez Canal crisis 1956, with its disruption of the free flow of the world’s oil supplies, focused attention on the possibility of working giant tankers over the Cape route. The prolonged closure of the Suez Canal after 1967 and the great increase in oil consumption led to the development of the very large tanker, or “supertanker”.
More recently hovercraft and hydrofoil boats have been developed for specialized purposes, particularly as short-distance ferries. Sailing ships in automated form for cargo purposes, and maglev ships, were in development in the early 1990s.
1. To engage to serve on board of a vessel
2. To embark on a ship.
3. To transport (cargo) by ship.