Monday, 2 April 2012


For thousands of years ships have crossed the oceans. They carried goods and people. The cargoes were life necessities or luxury goods. They carried migrant people to all kind of places.
The Phoenicians, Egyptians, Greeks and Romans who were all great traders and empires but had no need for big merchants ships to cross the oceans. They had light merchant ships with one mast and large square sail.

In the Middle Ages the Viking built ships which could cross the Atlantic Ocean and deal with all the great storms. From the Vikings' long-ships the cog was developed. This type of ship had a stern rudder instead of steering oars and the sides were built up for protection as well as providing cabins.
A great change in shipbuilding came in the 15th century. The ships were fitted with two or three masts. These vessels were used by Christopher Columbus, Vasco de Gama and Ferdinand Magellan. These vessels were ideal for long journeys and great voyages of discoveries. They were able to take a lot more of cargoes or supplies for a discovery voyage.
The Dutch developed a fluyt which is a small but efficient cargo carrier, in the 17th century. The advantage was, it could carry a maximum cargo with a minimum of crew. These vessels made Holland a great maritime power, prompting rivalry and then war with England.
The Royal Navy was always the glory of England and displayed as a disciplinary, proud military machine. In the history books it was displayed as Britannia ruling the waves.
A newly published historical journal shows a different picture. Drunken sailors left the force all at sea. There was everyday chaos due to alcohol during Britannia's golden age. Ships surgeons wrote details in their log which shows the rum-soaked sailors and passengers caused mayhem.
These details William Warner a surgeon aboard HMS Villede Paris, states that danger comes not from combat but from watered-down rum called "grog". His entry on 17 April, 1813, states a seaman John Mclean died after a 10-day drinking while they were docked in the Solent.
He wrote that drunkenness kills more men than the sword, disease or accidents.
The surgeons Thomas Simpson aboard the HMS Arethusa, which was plying between Europe and the West Indies, wrote that a sailor John Downie earned his drinks by imitating animal’s impressions. Due to these curious qualifications he was given a glass of grog every time. He was drunk most of the time and pretended sickness to avoid punishment.
On a voyage to the West Indies on the HMS Arab 1800 James Stevens was bitten by a tarantula. The surgeon documented that he applied rum and oil and Stevens recovered completely.
In 1802 a sailor fell over board on the HMS Princess Royal and was revived with tobacco smoke and brandy,
With all these happening there still was 'Rule Britannia, Britannia rules the waves'.

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