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A HISTORY OF NAUTICAL RESEARCH FROM
THE EARLIEST TIMES.
The Vessels of the Ancients—Ship-building among the Phænicians
The Origin of the Sail, Rudder, Anchor, and Cable--Notes on the Attic and Roman Triremes-Ancient Mariners and their Superstitions--The Art of Navigation among the Ancients.
BEFORE entering on the maritime discoveries of the ancients, a survey of the ships and vessels in use among them will be necessary, as the retrospect shows the vast disadvantage under which they laboured in their voyages in comparison with us moderns.
The most rude and elementary of all adaptations of a vessel to float on the water, is the 'catermaran,' or surf-raft, for one person, employed by the Madras native, or the canoe, which is simply a log of wood hollowed out and propelled by a paddle in the direction of the view of the sitter ; of such a character is the 'dug-out' of the South Sea Islander, and similar to it was the canoe which Arrian saw at the mouth of the Indus, when the Macedonian seamen thought the natives were digging the water with spades. In an expedition to the VOL. I.
North American coast, made in the year 1603 by Captains Pringe and Brown, of Bristol (See Harris's Collections of Voyages,' vol. ii. p. 222), was brought home from the coast of the United States, in 40° north latitude, one of the boats used by the Indians, which is described as
made of the bark of a birch-tree, sewed together with twigs, the seams covered with rosin or turpentine; and though it was seventeen feet long, four broad, and capable of carrying nine persons, it did not weigh sixty pounds. These canoes were paddled with two wooden instruments like to our bakers' peels.'
Scarcely less primitive than the canoe was the coracle of our British forefathers, a basket-like structure covered with hide, such as may still be seen on the Severn; and the very similar 'kufahs,' or round vessels, which were in use on the rivers of Mesopotamia at the time of Herodotus, who describes them, are still employed on the classic waters of the Euphrates and Tigris, the author having frequently employed them in crossing the latter stream at Baghdad. “The father of history' describes the kufahs as consisting of a framework of willow covered with skins, forming, when complete, a sort of large tub, which was managed by two men with long poles, without any regard to stem or stern. They were of various sizes, and carried an ass ebsides the merchandise; the animal was employed in conveying the vessel home by land, when taken to pieces, as the downward force of the river's current prevented the kufah from sailing up the stream.
The raft, formed by the lashing together of two or more planks, seems to have been an early, as it is one of the readiest, modes for conveyance on the water.
Thus Hannibal used rafts for transporting his horses and elephants across the Rhone. The Egyptians in very
THE VESSELS OF THE ANCIENTS.
early times used the raft on the Nile. An improvised sort of raft was found in use among the Peruvians at the time of the visit of the Spanish discoverers, tapered at the prow in order to pass through the water more easily, the planks being fastened together with leather thongs. The old timber rafts which floated down the Rhine to Dort in the Netherlands, from the forests of Germany, were oftentimes 1000 feet long, and 80 or 90 feet wide, consisting of trees fastened together with iron spikes and cross timber, a floating island with a village at the top, and requiring nearly 500 labourers to manage it. When the raft was broken up and sold, it sometimes fetched a sum of £30,000. The same method was employed on the coast of Norway, thereby saving the trouble and expense of landcarriage.
On a slight raft, the surf-swimmers of the South Sea Islands swim out to sea through a violent surf, plunging under every breaker, and rising beyond it. In returning, they are carried swiftly on the top of a large wave towards the shore, when they steer among the rocks, taking care to recover their planks.
Superior in contrivance and effect is the construction of the pottery-floats of Egypt. A large number of the jars and various earthen vessels, which are made in great quantities in Upper Egypt, are fastened together with cords and twigs into a triangular shape, having the mouths of the vessels upwards; they are then covered with bulrushes, and the raft is rowed and steered down the Nile to Cairo, where it is taken to pieces, just as is done at the present day in the waters of Babylonia. In ancient times, a vessel was in use on the Nile, made from the planks of acanthus wood, so laid together as to lap over, clinker-built,' as we call it, and fastened with
wooden pegs, the seams being tightened with leaves. It was also covered over with flags of the papyrus,
and properly cemented, to keep out the water. In process of time an acanthus mast was added, and a spar, on which was bent a sail, formed of papyrus leaves. In ascending the Nile the vessel was towed along; in its descent it was steadied against the effects of the north-east winds by a hurdle of wood from the prow.
The American Indians use wooden-ribbed vessels, covered with skins, which vessels, owing to their lightness, can be carried overland, when it is necessary to avoid the rapids and waterfalls, or traverse the 'portages' between the inland lakes. The Greenlander's canoe is covered in at the top with a skin, so as to be watertight, and encloses the lower part of his body when he is sitting in the vessel, in a manner rendered familiar to us in England by the tiny craft of the Canoe Club. The double canoe of the Society Islands, described by old voyagers, was an ingenious contrivance for affording a safe platform whereon the warriors may wage battle. Two canoes being placed alongside of each other, at a certain distance apart, planks are firmly fixed, across which they make a stage safe from capsising. The whole is so contrived that the rowers may work under. neath this floor, while the warriors engage in battle above. The proas of the Ladrone Islands present another form of the canoe, the peculiar quality of which is the great swiftness resulting from their construction. Like the boats in use among the Cingalese, the proas are long and narrow, and have a contrivance on one side, called an outrigger, to preserve a steady balance and prevent their upsetting.
With regard to the form of the vessels employed by