Boats That Changed the World

Turtle – First Submersible Used In Combat

The Turtle, described by George Washington as an “effort of genius”, was created by David Bushnell. Some of the design features were quite ingenious indeed, such as the use of bioluminescent fungus as a light source as opposed to fire. Ballast made of lead was also attached to the ship in case of a breach. The Turtle was only reportedly used in combat twice with both ending in failure - but the idea of a submersible continued on. To this day submarines are still a vital strategic military resource and continue to have an effect on naval warfare and combat.


SS Ideal X – First Successful Container ship

Beginning life as a tanker, the SS Ideal X changed hands (and names) many times over the years. Finally the ship was acquired by Pan-Atlantic Steamship Initiative. Under the leadership of Malcolm McLean, who saw the value in containerisation, the ship was converted into the container ship that it’s famous for being today. The first voyage was from New Jersey to Houston, Texas, carrying 58 containers of petrol. While not the very first containership, the Ideal X showed the benefits of container shipping quite clearly. Today, container shipping is a huge business and a more efficient way of shipping. Its effects are felt all over the world with a massive boost to international trade after its introduction.


Vulcan – First Full Iron Hull

Constructed in 1816, the Vulcan was the first fully iron-hulled ship. Quickly decided upon to be a barge, the iron was hammered and constructed by two blacksmiths. The Vulcan has its first successful voyage carrying passengers between Edinburgh and Glasgow. Eventually converted to a cargo handler and finally sold for scrap, the Vulcan was a pioneer vessel. To make wooden ships was an art form that took years to learn and hone, while making ships out of iron could be done with a much lower skill requirement. The Vulcan led the way into the industrialisation of ship building.


USS Nautilus – First Nuclear-Powered Ship

Continuing on from what the Turtle started with the interest in submersibles, the USS Nautilus was a also a first and a submarine. Powered by nuclear propulsion, the engine consumes no air, which allowed it to stay submersed for a much greater length of time. The Nautilus shattered many records on its first year of operation and was the first ship to cross the North Pole under the guise of Operation Sunshine. Over the course of its lifetime it revealed limitations which allowed subsequent designs to be improved. As the World’s first nuclear-powered submarine, the Nautilus travelled to places no submarine had gone before, providing a wealth of knowledge.


Santa Maria – Discovered America

Christopher Columbus’ flagship changed the world a great deal when it first found the American coast. Running aground on Christmas day 1492, the ship was stripped of its timbers and constructed into a fort called La Navidad – the first Spanish settlement. The Santa Maria, both one of the first European boats to discover America and part of the construction of the first settlement, is truly a ship that has changed the world. Opening up the era of exploration for Europe, the world was forever changed when The Santa Maria reached America.


Author – Russell Kingsfield

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