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Boats have been used by humankind for several thousand years.
The earliest boats were mere logs or rafts made of reeds. Today, we use boats of various kinds, such as motorized boats, paddle boats, boats with oars, among many others.
These days, you may find boats in innumerable styles and sizes. From travel to fishing, sports to recreation, boats have been used by people for various reasons too! Boats are much smaller sailing vessels than ships. While ships are meant for cargo and passenger movement in the seas and oceans, boats are primarily used for fishing and inland water transportation.
The size and material of construction of a boat differ according to the purpose for which it is intended to be used. Wood, fiberglass, and aluminum are some of the materials used in building boats.
Well! If you are curious to know more about the boat's journey in the past, continue reading for fascinating information on boats.
Have you ever been on a boat? Smaller boats such as canoes, rafts, or sailboats are designed for inland water bodies like rivers, lakes, or streams. However, larger boats or ships, which include military ships, cruise ships, yachts, and cargo ships, are designed for voyages across the oceans and seas. Boating is one of the most fun-filled and enjoyable activities. Not just boating, but the facts about boats can be equally interesting.
The Netherlanders are thought to have built the first boats in the world. The Pesse canoe, a dugout made from the trunk of the scotch pine tree, is the oldest found boat in the world. It was constructed between 8200 BC and 7600 BC. It is on display in the Drents Museum, the Netherlands.
Since ancient times, several myths have existed regarding boats. Early sailors believed in several superstitions and luck to guide them through their travels. For instance, seeing sea birds was considered a good omen. Sailors also believed that finding cats on a boat brought good fortune. Sailors practice spitting into the sea before sailing to bring good luck. Tattooing images of a compass rose is thought to bring good luck to sailors.
Carrying bananas on the boat is believed to bring bad luck to fishing boats. Whistling is thought to bring strong winds and rough weather. Traveling with women and red-haired people is also considered to bring bad omens.
These beliefs may sound silly, but many of these myths and omens continue among sailors even today.
In some places, houseboats are used to attract tourists. The houseboats have all the facilities similar to a house on land. Most boats are not motorized but moored to remain stationary all year long.
The Austronesian people from Taiwan were those who developed the first sailing ships that sailed on the sea. Outriggers, catamarans, and craw claw sails were a few of their inventions that have sailed far across the oceans.
Initially, boat propulsion was done by manual means, including paddling, rowing, or setting poles. Some boats sailed with the wind as a natural propellor. As we progressed, we developed advanced mechanical engines. For example, punts were boats propelled by poles. Other human-powered boats are kayaks, canoes, and gondolas.
Boats have been a vital element in trade and commerce. In the past, archaeological evidence suggests the use of boats as trade vessels between the Indus Valley Civilization and Mesopotamia.
The Uru, the traditional sailing vessel made of teak wood in Kerala, southwestern India, has been used since ancient times. The Arabs and Greeks of ancient times used uruses as trading vessels. Urus had a transport capacity of about 440 US tons ( 399 met ton)
Power vessels or sailing boats with good aesthetic qualities used for cruising, pleasure, or racing, which are at least 33 ft (10 m) long, are called yachts.
The Dutch invented the first yacht in the 14th century. Initially, the boats were used to chase out pirates and smugglers. However, later, these small boats sailed out to celebrate their merchant ships' return.
The world's largest ship today is the Symphony of the Seas. It is 1,184 ft (361 m) long, 216 ft (65.7 m) wide, has a gross tonnage of 228,081, and has a passenger capacity of up to 6,680 people.
Humans have been using boats since the prehistoric era. Yet, studies suggest that the first boats worthy of sail were most likely to have been built much earlier in time, around 800,000 years ago. Surprisingly, these boats were not built by humans but by their ancestors, the Homo Erectus - the upright primitive man.
However, John Fitch, an American inventor, takes credit for inventing the first steamboat. From boats made of logs and reeds to advanced large ships, yachts, and cruise liners, the journey of boats in history has been incredible. Let us look into the timeline that highlights some of the significant milestones in ship and boat building.
Several millennia ago, people created rafts using logs and the bark of trees and used them to sail through water. They used animal hides to cover the frames of the boats. Later, they used tree trunks, hollowed them out, and made dugouts.
Around 4,000 BC, the ancient Egyptians made the first sailing boats by tying up reeds together to sail through the Nile river. They used the papyrus reeds, which grew widely along the river and its delta region. This was called the skiff. Today, the Egyptian boat is called the felucca.
By 2500 BC, wooden boats were made by the Egyptians, who enabled them to sail across the seas and oceans.
Around 1550 BC, the Canaan civilization in Syria and Lebanon used the galley, a ship propelled by oars.
By 1000 AD, the longships of the Vikings became the epitome of the naval power of Scandinavia. Viking longships were marine vessels from Ireland and Scandinavia used for warfare, exploration, trade, and commerce. The long and narrow designs of these ships enabled them to sail in the open sea and on rivers.
Around the second century AD, the Chinese came up with their own sailing ships, called junk. The junks had up to five masts, projecting bows, and were designed with watertight compartments and steering rudders. The Chinese junks were used in warfare and transportation.
Since the 1450s wooden ships, with up to four masts, came into service and were used by travelers and explorers of several countries. They were also used as trade vessels and for warfare.
By the 1800s, British and American shipyards constructed merchant vessels called 'clipper ships' for cargo and passengers. These ships were known for their speed.
In 1818, shipping companies also used steam power in ships along with wind power. The first steamship navigated across the Atlantic Ocean.
In the 1850s, Glasgow's John Elder invented the marine compound engine.
The mid of the 19th century also saw the introduction of ocean liners into the shipping industry.
Later by the end of the century, riverboats with paddle wheels on either side, called paddle steamers, became the primary mode of transport on rivers.
In 1910, there was a change in the fuel used in ships. Diesel power replaced coal, and oil was used in place of steam.
In 1980, cargo transportation saw a significant change with the use of container ships to move cargo. Cargo ships can carry as many as one thousand containers stacked on deck at a time.
By the end of the 20th century, in the '90s, passenger cruise ships were widely used for holidaying. The cruise ships had state-of-the-art facilities, including restaurants, pools, and other recreational activities.
Boats are used for several purposes. Depending on the intended purpose, they differ in style, size, and construction material. From prehistoric times till today, boats and ships have been built using a wide range of materials. With advancements in technology and intellect, we employ new materials in boat and ship-building. These materials are subject to their availability and local traditions.
Prehistoric boats or rafts required only primitive cutting tools. Materials such as wooden logs, bamboo, or reeds were tied together using palm fibers or vines.
Later, when civilizations developed, natural materials continued to be used in building boats. Most boats were made of things available in the wild—primarily wood and other materials such as animal skins, barks of trees, and reeds.
Until the mid of the 19th century, early boats included reed boats, canoes made of birch tree bark, kayaks made of animal hide, dugout canoes, and coracles made of logs.
Later, many boats were built using steel frames or iron, along with wooden planks. Due to the reduced cost of steel, steel ships and boats have gradually begun to be widely used. Soon, steel boats replaced wooden boats in fishing fleets and industrial boats.
Around the '20s, pleasure boats and recreational boats made of galvanized iron and aluminum became widely used. Later, in the mid of the 20th century, fiberglass boats became popular. These boats are strong and corrosion-resistant. However, they can have structural degradation because of sunlight and temperature variations. Foam is also used as a layer between wood and fiberglass.
In 1955, Christopher Cockerell developed hovercraft boats that were designed to stay afloat on cushions. The engines provided propulsion to the boat by blowing air into these cushions, besides giving them a lift.
Today, people have gotten creative with innovative ideas for making boats; rafts made of hundreds of plastic bottles and Styrofoam are examples.
Boats played a significant role in the lives of ancient people. Boats are used for many purposes these days. From exploration to recreation, transportation to holidaying, boats and ships are used in several spheres. However, ancient times were different. It is believed that boats were probably an accidental invention by the Homo Erectus, our human ancestors. What did they use boats for?
Prehistoric rafts were used mainly for fishing needs.
Over a million years ago, they used them for water transportation, long before human beings.
In the ancient days, the most crucial purpose of a boat was to travel through water bodies such as lakes and rivers. Early boats were the chief means of water transport that facilitated trade and contact with distant areas.
Besides, early vessels were used in exploration and warfare too.
Many civilizations used boats in ways specific to them. For instance, the Egyptians used papyrus reed boats to transport royal mummies across the river Nile to their tombs. The early boat carried almost everything-from food grains to coffins across the river.
Kings moved Gods' deities from one temple to another.
Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for 151 facts about the history of boats that will amaze you, then why not take a look at the history of cooking oil or the history of drinking straws?
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