Ships That Changed the World


Dec 3, 2005
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Alright, here's an experimental thread. If you had to rank ships by order of importance in history, what would your top five be and why?

Mine.

1. Nina/Pinta/Santa Maria (tie) for bringing the western hemisphere to Europe's attention.

2. Mayflower, for the colonization of New England

3. USS Indianapolis, for delivering the atom bomb

4. Great Britain, for being the mother of the Atlantic greyhound.

5. Titanic, for obvious reasons ;-)
 
Aug 15, 2005
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1. HMS Victory, for securing Britain's title as the ultimate sea power (until we were actually challenged at Jutland, when we were paggered).

2. Kreigsmarine-schiff Bismarck for her ultimate power, stability, speed, beauty and practical invincibility.

3. Titanic, for obvious reasons.

4. SS Great Britain, for the same reason as you stated, Peter.

5. SS Birkenhead (or more so the men on board that fateful eve) for immortalising the strict discipline and bravery of the common British soldier.
 

Dave Gittins

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Apr 11, 2001
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Endeavour, Resolution and Discovery, for putting the east coast of Australia on the map, along with New Zealand and most of the Pacific.

Challenger, for pioneering oceanography.

Beagle, the ship that Charles Darwin sailed on.

Victoria, the first to circumnavigate the world.

One out of left field, as the Americans say. Spray, Joshua Slocum's circumnavigator, which inspired so many dreamers and practical voyagers in small vessels.

Queen Elizabeth, Queen Mary and others, for their huge contribution to defeating Hitler.
 
Dec 2, 2000
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Considering that the Bismarck didn't survive her one and only combat sortie, I wouldn't give her any marks for invincibility, but for all her shortcomings...and they were considerable...she and her sister, the Tirpitz, managed to tie up quite a few naval assets that could have been better used elsewhere.

For all that she was a commercial failure, let's not forget the Great Eastern for laying the first trans-Atlantic cable. If any one event could be pointed to as the beginning of the information age on and international scale, this would be it.

I think I'd also point to the S.S. Sirius for the real beginning of trans-Atlantic Steam navigation.
 

Dave Gittins

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Apr 11, 2001
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I forgot one of my favorite little ships.

Turbinia showed what turbines could do and she was real hoot to sail on as well. Bruce Ismay and his father had that pleasure. She's preserved in Newcastle-on Tyne.
 
Dec 4, 2000
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Some of the most important ships are lost to history.

For instance, the name of the first ship where some brilliant sailor decided to hang the steering oar on the sternpost, attach a lever arm, and create the rudder.

What was the name of the first Greek warship with sliding seat rowing? That innovation gave better speed with less fatigue--a winning combination in battle. (The Greeks did it by greasing their pants and sliding on fore-and-aft benches.)

Or, Viking longship forced the creation of "castles" on European merchant vessels. We still have the "forecastle," although it is hardly a place to shoot arrows down on marauding Norsemen. However, the creation of castles triggered the development of ships capable not only of crossing oceans, but doing it with cargo, horses, and people.

Some vessels that changed history, but indirectly. For instance, the R.J. Hackett built in 1969 at Cleveland, Ohio. It was the first bulk freighter for carrying iron ore. As a ship, it had an unremarkable career. As a prototype, it gave rise to the "ore boats" of the Great Lakes that helped win World War II. How did they do it? Well, ore they carried meant an unending supply of tanks, guns, aircraft carriers--all steel--for the Allies.

-- David G. Brown
 

Dave Moran

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Apr 23, 2002
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Well, HMS Dreadnought (1906) for a start - has any ship had an impact on both ship architecture and politics that Dreadnought had ? With Dreadnought the whole design ethos of the capital ship was changed, whilst this new style of warship. Moreover by seemingly setting the game of warship construction back to the starting block, it gave Tirpitz and Wilhelm II the impetus to begin their own large-scale naval construction programmes.

How about SMS Goeben - the ship that more or less lead Turkey into the war ? There is an argument, not one I fully support, that had it not been for the Goeben's arrival off Turkey and the German manipulations to get the Turks to give her docking facilities, then the Turks would not have joined the war on the side of the Germans. Push it further, and the possibility that Turkey remains neutral or even pro-Entente gives the French and British the opportunity to supply Russia with men, equipment and assistance that prevents her being destabilised. Push it to breaking point, and had it not been for the Goeben the Russian Revolution might have been avoided - or at least had a very different form and result.

IJNS Shokaku and Zuikaku - for by being completed ahead of schedule they gave the Japanese sufficient aircraft carrier capacity to attack Pearl Harbour. Likewise the USS Yorktown being rushed to repair after Coral Sea - without her the US would have real difficulty winning Midway.
 
Dec 3, 2005
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I was wondering where this thread went.

>>For instance, the name of the first ship where some brilliant sailor decided to hang the steering oar on the sternpost, attach a lever arm, and create the rudder.<<

Is it known at least who the first people were to have ships with proper rudders?
 

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