Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Ships: The Weight of Wood

I'm fascinated by how much ships weigh. It seems counter-intuitive to imagine a two million ton hunk of metal – like the Queen Mary 2 – floating blissfully on wave. At least to me. When I saw a chart of historical ships’ tonnage in Peter H. Spectre’s A Mariner’s Miscellany I thought I’d share just some of the weights in wood that have kept afloat, and moved men and history, over the centuries. I’ve added a few of my own favorites as well.

Khufu’s famous monoreme, which now hangs in the Cairo Museum, displaced 94 tons.

Medieval Cinque Ports ships that ran between Dover, Hastings, Hythe, Romney and Sandwich weighed, on average, 80 tons.

Columbus’ Santa Maria was only about 100 tons.

By comparison, Henry VIII’s Henri Grace a Dieu known as Great Harry, weighed in at a whopping 1,200 tons where as Mary Rose was 600 tons and Drake’s Golden Hinde was a mere 120.

Throughout the 17th century, ships grew in size. Mayflower (1620) was 180 tons. Vasa (1628) carried 1,300 tons, making her one of the largest ships of her era. In 1637, Sovereign of the Seas weighed in at 1,522 tons and by 1765 HMS Victory was over 2.000 tons.

Of course, smaller ships continued to have their uses. The pirates of the 18th century favored shallow draft brigs and sloops, usually no more than 120 tons. The privateers of the following century preferred the same types of ships, but usually even lighter and faster at between 90 and 100 tons. Renato Beluche’s Spy, for instance, was just 95 tons.

Over in the U.S., heavy warships began appearing at the end of the 18th century. USS Constitution, built in 1797, was 2,200. By 1890, ironclads were the norm; USS Maine weighed in at an almost unfathomable 6,650 tons.

These days massive tankers of 500,000 tons or more are pretty much the norm. And then of course there are those cruise ships and mentioned above. It’s hard to wrap your head around, and sometimes disconcerting to be aboard. I’ll take a good little sloop like Spy over a QM2 any day, thankee.

Header: Ship at Sea by Luis Graner y Arrufi


Timmy! said...

Ahoy, Pauline! Some of those giant cruise ships are so big that you can hardly tell you are on the ocean... Or so they say, anyway... I still don't believe that's true unless you are in extremely calm seas.

Pretty picture at the header today too, by the way.

Pauline said...

From what I've heard from people who cruise you are absolutely correct. Rough seas are just as miserable in a large ship as a small. Especially if you're prone to seasickness to begin with.