Ships have been used by civilisations for centuries; for travel, maritime trade and leisure purposes, and ships throughout history came in a range of different types, including schooners, galleons, ocean liners and brigantines.Throughout the ages, many famous historical figures have used ships to sail around the world, discover new countries or go to war. There are too many fascinating ships to list here, but for a brief look at some of the most famous ships throughout history, see our guide below.
The Santa Maria
One of history’s most well known ships, the Santa Maria transported explorer Christopher Columbus from Spain to the ‘New World’ in 1492. The ship was tiny in comparison at only 70 feet long, and famously slow paced and awkward to maneuver. On Christmas day 1492, the ship crashed into the shore, but much of the wood was salvaged and used to build another ship, La Navidad.
This English ship was used to transport around 100 English Separatists and Puritans to the ‘New World’ of the Americas. The group known today as the Pilgrims lived on board the ship for a few months, before the crew set sail back to England, leaving the Pilgrims to establish the first British colonies in America.
Arguably one of the most famous ships of all time, the Titanic was a vessel unlike any seen before, although its infamous first voyage was to be steeped in tragedy. The luxury cruise liner was the largest ship on the sea at the time, and set off on its maiden voyage from Southampton to New York on April 10 1912. It tragically struck an iceberg five days later and sank, with around 1,500 failing to be evacuated due to a lack of lifeboats.
One of the largest wooden warships ships ever built, the HMS Victory led fleets in the American War of Independence, the French Revolutionary War and the Napoleonic War. Used by the British Royal Navy in the late 18th and early 19th century, the ship gained lasting fame as a key player in the defeat of French and Spanish armies during the Battle of Trafalgar. It now stands as a living museum for visitors at Portsmouth Harbour.
This British Royal Navy Research vessel was commanded by Lieutenant James Cook on his first voyage of discovery to Australia and New Zealand, between 1768 and 1771. The flat bottomed design made it well-suited to sailing in shallow waters, and it set off carrying 94 passengers, 18 months of provisions and livestock including pigs, poultry and a goat. It became the first ship to reach Australia, before being sunk during a blockade in 1778.
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