National Geographic : 1938 Jan
SHIPS, FROM DUGOUTS TO DREADNOUGHTS BY CAPTAIN DUDLEY W. KNOX United States Navy W HAT an eventful day when man first found that a floating log would bear his weight! What trial and error, what wreck and tragedy intervened even before the first dugout, or raft with clumsy sails of skins or plaited grass actually put to sea and finally reached a neighboring shore safely! Imagine the daring sailors' return from that first of all voyages. Shouting fel low tribesmen crowd about as they beach their craft, excited over the strange fruits and weapons the dusky Argonauts have brought back, and gaze curiously at the lone woman captive, snatched from her coral-beach shelter as the invaders re treated to the sea. Till then that distant shore, its peaks dimly visible only on clear days, had been a region of mystery; now they had landed upon it, had tasted its dangers and delights. "Let us return for more wealth," the ex cited welcomers urge. "Nay, brothers," reply the sailors. "The winds are evil and the waves run high. We must make a bigger raft and take more fighting men, for yonder they have mighty warriors to give us battle." To the perils and mystery of the sea; to adventure and romance in far-off, unknown lands, countless thousands have responded. ETCHINGS SHOW EVOLUTION OF SHIPS With this issue of THE NATIONAL GEO GRAPHIC MAGAZINE is presented a series of original ship etchings by the interna tionally known artist, Norman Wilkinson. They suggest man's colossal achievement in progressing from canoe and catamaran to modern liner, superdreadnought, air plane carrier, and flying ships. This evolution of ships, like that of land and air vehicles, reflects the incredible in ventive genius, persistence, and the ever growing needs of peoples living on sea coasts or inland waterways. Contrast pirate pistol and cutlass, hand to-hand sea-fighting technique with the World War Battle of Jutland, when armored giants hurled tons of projectiles at each other with lightninglike rapidity over leagues of intervening blue water (Plate XIV and page 85). When the Spanish Armada put to sea, it was acclaimed the most powerful fighting fleet ever assembled (Plate VIII and page 64). But today, in all its vaunted strength it could sail past an Iron Duke or a Hood, fire broadsides of solid shot, and do these modern "battle wagons" little more harm than heavy hail on a tin roof. TRADE, NOT WAR, WAS THE URGE Fighting on the water, perhaps, had less to do with the development of ships than did man's peacetime pursuits, his restless urge always to find and see new lands, and to gain wealth by barter with faraway people for salt, amber, and slaves. One primitive craft, in use to this day, is the Polynesian catamaran, shown in Plate II. Anyone who has lived in the Philip pines or cruised the waters of the South Pacific knows this outrigger sailing canoe and its age-old use in interisland traffic. Aboard this catamaran, long centuries ago, dusky adventurers from Asiatic coasts, guided only by stars, the flight of birds, or instinct, sailed for countless watery miles out into the Pacific. Hawaii, Easter Island, and New Zealand were all colonized by these daring sailors. There is some evi dence that a few of them even reached the coasts of Mexico and South America. Look at their small, flimsy catamaran, and reflect that a thousand years ago, and more, sailors had no coffee, sugar, canned goods, condensed milk, or hardtack to sus tain the ship's company on long voyages not even a compass. Yet these self-reliant brown men, taking women and children along, carrying water in gourds and coco nut shells, or catching it in straw mats when rain fell, crossed the widest ocean in the world to colonize virgin islands. Far better boats existed, even then, than the Polynesians' catamaran; but the South Sea islanders did not know it. Such larger boats had been developed in the Mediter ranean, where world commerce was born. To carry Roman wine and wool to Egypt and to bring back grain and cotton called for cargo ships with spacious hulls. To keep out waves, protect cargo, and strengthen the ship itself decks were in vented.