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Sailing through history: A lookback at the origin of ships

Team StoryWeavers|January 21, 2021| 129

Welcome back to yet another interesting #Origin Story. So far, you have explored the origin of some popular board games, learnt about the history of famous toys, and came across some beautiful accidental discoveries. This month, we will take you on a long tour across the world via one of the world’s oldest modes of transportation – ships!

Did you know that ships have the oldest and the most uncanny history of all time? Besides being  the prime reason for Columbus’ successful voyages, or for the Chinese to introduce a compass for maritime navigation, ships have been an essential constituent of human history. From ancient vessels like hollowed-out logs called dugout canoes and wind-driven ships like the Roman Triremes, to modern-day behemoths like nuclear-powered supercarriers, ships have gone through a major evolution over a period of centuries.

Today, as we rewind  some key moments in the history of ships, we will also explore how our forefathers used to cross water bodies, who came up with the idea of shaping a boat, and how boats transformed into huge ships over time.

 So get onboard, as we set sailing.

Sailing through history

©Giphy

Once upon a time

The earliest version of a ‘boat’ was the Pesse Canoe, a three-metre long vessel carved out of a single log. Dating back to around 8,000 BCE, it came much before the Iron Age, or the invention of scripts, or even the rise of kingdoms.

The ones who built the pesse canoe were not just acknowledged for their boat-building skills. They were also known for their strength and survival instincts, which make up for an interesting read when studying the maritime history of that time. For instance, a pesse canoe did not have simple oars. Instead, people used their hands to paddle under their own weight.

Pesse Canoe, one of the earliest version of boats.

Pesse Canoe, one of the earliest version of boats.

Prehistoric rafts

You can say that anything that could be lashed (tied) together to float was made into rafts that served as boats. Using only primitive cutting tools, and raw materials like logs of bamboo, bundles of reeds and air-filled animal skins, people back then made several versions of boats in order to traverse small water bodies.

Prehistoric rafts made of logs of bamboo

Prehistoric rafts made of logs of bamboo

The Egyptian ships

Historical evidence of similar makeshift ships was also found in Egypt from the 4th millennium BCE. They used these ships for hunting, fishing and travelling across the Nile River.

A fair share of credit goes to them for inventing sails that took manual paddling out of the equation. These sails were made by lashing together and sewing small pieces of wood. With these advanced sailing cargo ships, they could embark on longer journeys and carry a heavy load in their vessels.

An ancient Egyptian papyrus showing a boat on the Nile River

An ancient Egyptian papyrus showing a boat on the Nile River. ©Keith Wheatley/Fotolia.com

Contribution of Phoenicians and Vikings

Around 1550 BCE, the Phoenicians  were considered the pioneers of the wooden sailing vessels that were meant to sail to high-sea countries later. They fashioned out galleys in their vessels and had sails and oars to provide the necessary power. These galleys were used to fight as well as trade with neighbours.

Galleys used by the Phoenicians fro maritime trade

Galleys used by the Phoenicians fro maritime trade

Gradually, as the galleys grew larger, specifications were made to add rowers at two levels to move the vessel faster. The Greeks and Romans called these the biremes. Later on, they developed triremes that are galleys with three banks of oars.

Phoenicians were recognised as the first true seafarers

Later, around 1000 AD, the Vikings started to build longboats that were large ships consisting of sails and oars. These ships would require up to sixty men whose only job would be to row the ship.

By 800 AD, hulk came into vogue. (No, not the Marvel superhero) Hulks were ships designed by developing countries in Europe and were used primarily as a river or canal boat, with limited potential for coastal cruising.

Hulk boats

©Giphy

Interesting, isn’t it? Let’s move on to Asia and see how different vessels were used in Asian waters.

The development of boats and ships happened at pretty much a parallel pace when it came to European and Asian countries. During the Mongol invasions of Japan in 1281, the Japanese used defensive naval techniques to defeat the Mongolians.

The Chinese junks!

Around 1100 AD, the Chinese began to use boats that they called junks! These boats featured a rudder, for steering, in addition to watertight compartments and battens located on the sails that served to make them much stronger. These were mostly used for trade, transportation and for fighting wars.

Chinese junk ships had many uses in ancient Chinese culture, including fishing, transportation, trading, warfare and the exploration of Southeast Asia. Along with its innovative rudder steering system, they were built to withstand rough seas, to be easy to maneuver, and to move quickly.

Chinese junk ships had many uses in ancient Chinese culture, including fishing, transportation, trading, warfare and the exploration of Southeast Asia. Along with its innovative rudder steering system, they were built to withstand rough seas, to be easy to maneuver, and to move quickly.

The Age of Discovery

A lot happened across the world between the 15th and 17th centuries.

Japan introduced the world’s first ironclad called Tekkōsen (meaning iron ships). In China, the Ming dynasty assembled one of the largest and most powerful naval fleets in the world for the diplomatic and power projection voyages of Zheng He.

By the end of the century, Portuguese explorer Vasco Da Gama, and Italian explorers, Christopher Columbus and John Cabot, had made their revolutionary journeys. Their voyages connected European countries with Asia and introduced new global trade routes.

Vasco da Gama was known for being the first to sail from Europe to India by rounding Africa's Cape of Good Hope. Over the course of two voyages, beginning in 1497 and 1502, da Gama landed and traded in locales along the coast of southern Africa before reaching India on May 20, 1498

Vasco da Gama was known for being the first to sail from Europe to India by rounding Africa’s Cape of Good Hope. Over the course of two voyages, beginning in 1497 and 1502, da Gama landed and traded in locales along the coast of southern Africa before reaching India on May 20, 1498

Ships for wars

The first half of the 18th century saw the French Navy develop a new type of vessel known as a “ship of the line”, featuring seventy-four guns. These ships were 56 metres long and were made of 2,800 oak trees and 40 kilometres of rope. With their capacity to carry a crew of about 800 sailors and soldiers, the ship of the line soon became the backbone of all European fighting fleets.

Along with warships, ships in service of marine fishery and trade were also developed during the Renaissance.

The rise and fall of Clipper

A fast merchant sailing ship of the 19th century, the clipper was generally narrow units length, could carry limited bulk freight, and had a large total sail area. They sailed all over the world, primarily on the trade routes between the United Kingdom and China. But gradually, they fell into commercial disuse. With the introduction of steamships in 1819 with better fuel efficiency and the opening of the Suez and Panama Canals, clippers’ time came to an end.

Origin of steam ships

The era of the Cruisers 

With the Industrial Revolution, new mechanical methods of propulsion, and the ability to construct ships from metal, triggered an explosion in ship production. The 1990s saw the rise of passenger cruise ships that were used to take people on holidays. These opulent ships featured fine-dining and other luxurious services, and staterooms with finer appointments and other types of recreation.

Ships built for other purposes, such as firefighting, rescue, and research, also began to be made.

Titanic was one of the luxury cruise of the 20th century

21st century and beyond

The turn of the millennium saw the construction of stealth ships. These ships employ construction techniques with stealth technology to ensure that it is harder to be detected by radar, visual, sonar, and infrared methods.

Throughout history, ships have taken many forms and have undergone several modifications to fulfil their purpose. Today, ships are used for guarding the country’s water boundaries,  deep-sea research and luxurious vacations.

Have you ever been on a  ship? Tell us about your experience in the comments below.

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About the Author


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Tanaya Goswami

Books are Tanaya Goswami’s first love and cheesecakes come a close second. Talking about movies, music, calligraphy, politics, and Elon Musk will get you listed under the friends’ section of her diary. Ever since moving on from her job as an English lecturer, she spends her time at BYJU’S crafting stories filled with emotion and sprinkled with sarcasm. Outside of work, she’s either learning something new (French, most recently!) or is curled up with a book and a cup of coffee. She firmly believes that discovering what you don’t know is the key to knowledge and is constantly working towards improving herself. Drop in a line at [email protected] if you liked her stories, have something nice to say, or if you have compelling ideas to share!

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Comments


Swastika

January 22, 2021

Not just the ships, but I call almost every product from China “junk”!
⛵🇨🇳🤣


Nehal Pohane

January 27, 2021

Well,this was the first junk I call BEAUTIFUL!😃


Meriya Elsa Minson

February 16, 2021

Nice I love this boat ⛵⛵😍


Poorvaja Vimal

February 16, 2021

Nice


Adbutha

February 16, 2021

I love it!!!


Vanshit

February 16, 2021

Not just the ships. But I call almost every product from China “junk “


Abdur Rahman

February 16, 2021

I love this 😀


Satyam Kumar Baghel

February 16, 2021

What is this not understand this topic


shagun

February 16, 2021

curios to know what happened to rest 44 lifeboats in titanic!


Satyam Kumar Baghel

February 16, 2021

Once upon a time a Titan ship go sea and drawing into the sea on 10 April 1912


Yasmin Bano

February 16, 2021

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Chaitanya Satsangi

February 16, 2021

This is very informative


Akshad sachin jain

February 16, 2021

This is very useful


Aditya Madhu Prasad

February 16, 2021

Never new that earlier people called ship hulk!!!

😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂


Aditya Kale

February 16, 2021

😂😂😂😂😂😂😂 Chinese Junks


Muktai Patil

February 16, 2021

This story is very amazing and informative


Aqsa

February 16, 2021

Thanks a lot for information.


Ritu Gupta

February 16, 2021

Loving it 😻💟😻


Rachana

February 16, 2021

I


M.Sahithi Ratna Reddy

February 16, 2021

I love it


Saleha jamal

February 16, 2021

Use ful I liked it


Debdatta

February 16, 2021

Wow! It’s amazing. I really love this.


Ibrahim.M

February 16, 2021

Interesting.
Junk and hulk are actually a ship!!🤣😀😀
Thank you byjus…and do keep sending us more great stuff like this.


Rajkumar Kalsangrha

February 16, 2021

Nice


Nupur

February 16, 2021

Super


Harshit

February 16, 2021

I love to read it and want to have a travel through the ” junk”.😀😀


Nishant Raj

February 16, 2021

Really it’s very interesting about the invention of boat.


Abhishek Kumar Dutta

February 16, 2021

Really….. A wonderful story, and lot to know


Ayush Solanki

February 16, 2021

I really loved 😍 it.


Pvs vinay

February 16, 2021

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Aashvi

February 16, 2021

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Thanks byjus

February 16, 2021

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HB ROYAL

February 16, 2021

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Prithika

February 16, 2021

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Prithika

February 16, 2021

I call very beautiful


Vuppu Abhishek Sri vardhan

February 16, 2021

This gives a lots of information


Darshna pandey

February 16, 2021

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Bhushan Yogesh rathod

February 16, 2021

Nice story


Khushank singh

February 16, 2021

I love it
Thank u for byju’s team


JANNAT

February 16, 2021

👍🏻👍🏻👍🏻👍🏻


Krishna periwal

February 16, 2021

Great thing to know


Divyasree

February 16, 2021

Wow! This is an amazing thing we have learnt today.


Deepanshu Nagpal

February 16, 2021

Very very nice


Tholkappian

February 16, 2021

Love it 💓


Kanak

February 16, 2021

Interesting


Joy syndavi

February 16, 2021

I just enjoyed reading it👍👍


Pranjali

February 16, 2021

Nice information 😃


PRANESH

February 16, 2021

It was very interesting reading this and it was useful for me. I loved reading it. Thank you for giving me more information about the ship


Tafseer Anwer

February 16, 2021

very informatic knowledge by her.
Thanks


Raghveer Verma

February 16, 2021

It is full of knowledge.Amazing china junk


Mukund

February 16, 2021

I love this😀


Theertha

February 17, 2021

Wow..!!!! Amazing😊😊I loved it!❤️👍👍


JAI

February 17, 2021

I love it


HarshVardhan Singh Yadav

February 17, 2021

Every product from china always junk😂😂😂🤣🤣🤣🤣


Kirti

February 17, 2021

Nice. Thanks for the information.


Shrashti Tiwari

February 17, 2021

It’s very nice and interesting thank you for this information


Pragya

February 17, 2021

It’s amazing 😍
thanks for this information ☺️


Prakjoy Kabiraj

February 17, 2021

The story was interesting. So much ships ⛵⛵⛵⛵⛵⛵⛵⛵⛵⛵⛵⛵⛵⛵⛵⛵⛵⛵⛵⛵⛵⛵⛵⛵⛵⛵⛵⛵⛵⛵⛵⛵⛵⛵⛵⛵⛵⛵⛵⛵⛵⛵⛵⛵⛵⛵⛵⛵⛵⛵⛵⛵⛵. And the RMS Titanic🚢🚢🚢🚢🚢🚢🚢🚢🚢🚢🚢🚢🚢🚢🚢🚢🚢🚢🚢🚢🚢


Sanghita Roy

February 17, 2021

Really this information is very interesting.I am so much happy to know about the invention of ship.🛶⛵🛥⛴🛳🚢🤩🤩👌👌


Diya Mariam Biju

February 17, 2021

very interesting fact !!!


kamya agarwal

February 17, 2021

very nice


Padmapriya.S

February 17, 2021

Historic ! .
Awesome ! ..
Marvelous ! …
Pioneering ! ….
I love it….∆….
Thank you for this Great Fact that is necessary to know.
Thank you Byjus
…… Byjus…..
I love Byjus , the best learning app in the world..


Juhi Sharma

February 17, 2021

Ohh!! I just loved reading the information about ships and was very interesting…. Thank you Byju’s.


Krishna Pandey

February 17, 2021

This shows how much can humans evolve things according to their needs . From the land living creatures who wanted to cross water bodies , to those who learnt to swim , to those who developed such machines such as the ships , which can carry those also who can’t swim ……. This is what we truly are !!!!!
Always learning
Ever Creative !!
Thanks for such useful info.


Zobia.

February 17, 2021

This shows how people evolved according to the time.


Vinit

February 17, 2021

Very good byjus i love it


Mohit Singh Karki

February 17, 2021

Every product from china always junk😂😂😂🤣🤣🤣🤣


PRITI NAIK

February 17, 2021

It was nice information about ships.
Very interesting. Thank you


Pragati

February 17, 2021

It’s amazing ❤❤


Jahnavi

February 17, 2021

Woww I have no words to talk


Hemalata

February 17, 2021

Well, this was the first junk I call LOVELY!😃


Adrija

February 17, 2021

Amazing information……
I love it 😍
Thank you byju’s team…….


Aniket Patil

February 17, 2021

Amazing information about boat and ships. I enjoyed it


Shruti Mishra

February 17, 2021

The Chinese ship looks very much like dragon. There national animal


Vaishnavi

February 17, 2021

Very useful.I like it


AMRUTA

February 17, 2021

Very nice article (•‿•)


Ritik

February 17, 2021

How ships in present day work so much better what is use in them?
Why war ships were constructed and by whom?
But the above give information is interesting.


Sonam Pradhan

February 17, 2021

Well …. My father has been to a ship .I also didn’t know that ships have undergone loads of changes.Thanks for sharing so much information about ships.


Siddesh S Belagavi

February 17, 2021

Not just the ships but every thing like Corona virus is also a China “junk😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂


Archish Patil

February 17, 2021

YaY RmS TiTaNiC!!!!


Anish Kuley

February 17, 2021

I liked it 😻nice


K.A.Shalrvesh

February 17, 2021

It is very useful byjus thankyou


Ashwin Kumar Maharana

February 17, 2021

I want know more about RMS Titanic


MAHI KASHYAP

February 17, 2021

Amazing Information 🤗
Interesting 😍
“RMS TITANIC”🛳️


Sarvesh kanade

February 17, 2021

It real story mam?
I understand the story


Femida

February 17, 2021

I love boats 🚢🚢🚢🚢🚢🚢🚢
Very interesting 💦💦story
Thank you byju’s


Anika shree

February 18, 2021

First i request you all my friends to download the byju’s app. It is so helpful……i completed the course for one year. And history about the ship is very interesting. I am eagerly waiting for the next.


Shambhavi Kumari

February 18, 2021

It’s really Amazing…
It tells me a lot , But The most interesting for me is knowing about RMS Titanic. Thankyou BYJU’S…


Rida Hifza

February 18, 2021

no but have been on a boat
I love this topic about ships
they are interesting…..


Harita Kulkarni

February 18, 2021

Amazing,,😃


Harsikaa

February 18, 2021

every product from China. like: junk, toy, watch and Book 📚 also .
(I DON’T like China)


SUSHIL KUMAR

February 18, 2021

Wow…… It’s great…. But I already knew about max….. But thank to BYJU’S to sending uss this interesting information…… It’s really a interesting…….!!!! Nice.. 😃😃😃


Archit

February 18, 2021

Great


Swetha Anil

February 18, 2021

This shows how much can humans evolve things according to their needs . From the land living creatures who wanted to cross water bodies , to those who learnt to swim , to those who developed such machines such as the ships , which can carry those also who can’t swim ……. This is what we truly are !!!!!
Always learning
Ever Creative !!
Thanks for such useful information


Anushka Agrawal

February 18, 2021

Wow Such a nice information 😊 It increased my knowledge and vocabulary. I am very thankful to the writer 😃😃😃😃


D.harshith

February 18, 2021

Today I leaned about ship and the discovery of ship


K.srinija

February 18, 2021

Byjus is the bridge that connects my imagination to reality
I love byjus.byjus is helping me a lot .tq byjus…………..

Not just the ships. But I call almost every product from china “junk” .


Naman jha

February 19, 2021

This is very important thank you


Bhuvana shree. D

February 19, 2021

Amazing story👌👌👌👌


Bhuvana shree. D

February 19, 2021

It is very interesting story I got to something new from this article


Dhimahi

February 19, 2021

Interesting
Hope our India would be there instead of China.
☺️☺️


Shinjan Majumder

February 19, 2021

Super


Anjali chauhan

February 19, 2021

It’s so beautiful


Mayank Kumar

February 19, 2021

Nice 👍🏻👍🏻👍🏻👍🏻


Harshita

February 19, 2021

Curios to know what happened to rest 44 lifeboats in titanic!
I love it


Ananthajith Girish

February 20, 2021

Ships’ history is very interesting


Prakjoy Kabiraj

February 20, 2021

China is a junk so they invented ” junk”🤣🤣🤣


Anand Deshnukh

February 20, 2021

Nice article 👍👍


Ankita Singh

February 20, 2021

Very important and knowledgeable information is given by you, so I thank you .
THANK YOU BYJU’S


Adnan khan

February 20, 2021

Wow vey informative


Sejal dayaram garg

February 20, 2021

BYJU’S app has helped me understand Maths and Science in a fun way. Now, I study from the Bygus app, understand concepts, and then go through


Omkar

February 20, 2021

Omg I didn’t know all of this about the boat history . Very informative !!


Avinava Nandi

February 20, 2021

This topic is quite interesting 👍👍


Sushmita Kumari

February 20, 2021

It ‘s amazing and shocked to know about that, first thing (ship)of China is still working ,till now but it ‘s weird to hear that junk and hulk are ships!!🤣


Vaibhavi and Vedika

February 20, 2021

Amazing 🤩💜


Gurucharan

February 21, 2021

Yeah know ….. But this is very discriptive THANK YOU BYJUS


Mahathi

February 21, 2021

Very interesting to hear unknown informations about ships⛵🛶⛴️🚢


NITESH CHOUHAN

February 21, 2021

thankyou ma’am it was very helpfull for me and i understood the story


nimisha saikia

February 22, 2021

interesting , but funny a little because the chinese ships were called junk !! but ya little sad because the titanic sank and so many people died , so overall it was really fun to read it


Aayush

February 22, 2021

Thank you. Would love to know about history of aeroplanes and fighter jets particularly in India.


Sneha

February 22, 2021

Wonderful discover 👌


Akash Rout

February 23, 2021

I love this ⛵ this is beautiful ship


A.P.MONISH INFANTA

February 24, 2021

Nice


Vishesh Kumar Singh

February 24, 2021

Every Chinese product is junk only, but the nice thing is, they knew that their product is junk😂😂😂😂😅🤣🤣, thus they named it as junk.


Ishika Sharma

February 24, 2021

I really love it


Shravasti Rajendra Kamblr

February 25, 2021

Its beautiful.. I love it too much😋😅😊


Advay Gupta

February 25, 2021

Good


Prerna Dansena

February 26, 2021

Love it to study from this


Mitali samant

February 28, 2021

I like motor boat this is most interesting saling boat


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