our evolving culture - ships
c. 850 – The Vikings’ longboats were versatile: they could either be rowed or moved by sail, maneuvered by a steering oar on the right side. They struck fear throughout Europe.
12th Century – The mariner’s compass was used by the Chinese well before 1050, the year the instrument made its appearance in European ships in Mediterranean waters.
c. 1200 – The steering oar was slowly replaced by the rudder, a maritime invention from East Asia that had made its way to Europe via Arab mariners.
1295 – Marco Polo described huge ships in Chinese seaports with separate watertight bulkheads. Without the compartments, ships with pierced hulls would sink. A half-century would pass before Western naval engineers adopted the technology.
1417 – Prince Henry the Navigator of Portugal organized a naval academy of engineers, mapmakers and ship’s pilots. Borrowing from Arab vessels, they designed the first caravels. Propelled by lateen rigging, the three-masted ships were fast and tacked into the wind.
1492 – In 1492, in the service of Spain, the Genoese navigator Christopher Columbus took the caravels Nina and Pinta along with the Santa Maria on his historic voyage across the Atlantic.
1588 – The invincible Spanish Armada, with about 130 ships, sailed to conquer England. Its defeat by the English navy, with its smaller but more maneuverable ships, would change the balance of world naval power.
1775 – American rebels gave the name Enterprise to a 70-ton sloop captured from the British. It was later burned to prevent recapture.
1807 – Robert Fulton’s steamboat Clermont ran from New York City to Albany in 32 hours. A sailboat would have taken four days.
1831 – The U.S. Navy had a fourth ship by the name Enterprise, a 194-ton schooner.
Mid-1800s – The French and British vied to build the better ironclad battleship. In 1862 the Union’s Monitor and the Confederacy’s Merrimack clashed in the first battle of ironclads in history. The result was indecisive.
1877 – The fifth ship by the name Enterprise was a 1,375-ton steam-powered sloop of war.
1938-1958 – In World War II, the U.S.S. Enterprise was an aircraft carrier. She sank 71 enemy ships and downed 911 planes. Severely damaged by kamikaze attack at the end of the war, she would later be sold for scrap.
1961 – The latest U.S.S. Enterprise was commissioned, the first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier ever built.
1981 – The space shuttle took a new ship shape into a new sea.
Final frontier? – U.S.S. Enterprise