104

In age-of-sail fleet actions, the primary use of frigates (and smaller vessels) was to relay messages (usually in the form of flag signals) between the flagships and the rest of the fleet. They usually set themselves some distance from the main 'line' of battle where they could see and be seen by the ships of the line. A secondary purpose was to act as ...


70

I think it comes down to a few basic factors: Early steam engines weren't very efficient or reliable. So it made sense to retain sails as a backup should the steam engine(s) breakdown or should the ship run out of fuel (especially on longer oceanic voyages were replenishment was uncertain). Wind-power is essentially free (once you've invested in the masts &...


50

Europeans had an incentive to explore the Atlantic because they were dependent on the trade routes which pass through Arab territory. The Arabs and other peoples living in the Middle East made a lot of profit selling luxury goods to Europeans, so cutting out the middle man was very desirable. The Atlantic has currents that make it easier to traverse. Note ...


43

Yes, the bit in Master and Commander was based upon the real life action between the 14-gun H.M.B Speedy and a Spanish 32-gun Xebec-frigate named El Gamo in 1801. The British commander, Lord Thomas Cochrane, pulled off a series of bluffs to allow his ship to get along side. The Spanish captain was supposedly killed by the first broadside fired by the Speedy ...


36

As fate would have it, the first known globe of the Earth was created in 1492, the same year as Columbus' voyage. As such, it is also the only known globe to depict the area between Western Europe and East Asia prior to the discovery of the New World. None of the earlier flat maps I could find made any kind of legitimate effort at depicting this area. The ...


32

You can't completely replace sail with coal until you are 100% sure that you are going to have access to coal everywhere you need to go. This is basically an extension of Steve Bird's #1 and #2. It's beyond the economics and into the availability. Do you have reliably supplied coaling stations all the way to, say, Australia? If it's a military operation, ...


31

The earliest evidence for keel-hauling that I'm aware of is actually from ancient Rhodes (~800BC) in the Lex Rhodia. There are also depictions of the practice known from ancient Greece (one is included as the frontispiece of Henry Omerod's Piracy in the Ancient World). As the Wikipedia page notes, the Dutch Navy introduced the punishment in an ordinance ...


28

The problem was that during the 18th Century, they didn't know that scurvy was caused by lack of Vitamin C (mainly because they didn't know what vitamins were). Therefore, they didn't go looking for foods that were rich in Vitamin C to cure it. It should also be noted that there was no clear relationship between a food's acidity and its Vitamin C content. ...


27

Around 1800, you would have started to see the introduction of iron storage tanks for water, which would have replaced multiple wooden barrels in the ship's hold. By weight and volume, drinking water was the largest resource carried on a sailing ship - on long voyages drinking water could amount to several hundred tons. Drinking water wasn't pumped around ...


26

From Wikipedia: On 30 June she [the Peacock] captured the 16-gun brig Nautilus, which was under the command of Lieutenant Charles Boyce of the Bombay Marine of the British East India Company in the Straits of Sunda, in the final naval action of the war. Boyce informed Warrington that the war had ended. Warrington suspected a ruse and ordered Boyce to ...


23

The boats of a Napoleonic warship were a very important part of the ship's equipment. They were the main means (and often the only means) of moving men, goods and communications to and from the ship. The number of boats carried and their size would be dependent on the rate of warship. A ship-of-the-line could have as many as 7 boats, while an unrated sloop-...


22

China was a single state. If the emperor decide to stop long distance sea voyages (as did the Hongxi Emperor) they would stop. Europe had the advantage of being split in many states. The ruler of one of these states could not prevent other states from engaging in such voyages. This idea is developed in Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of ...


22

Yes, these existed and were generally known as gunboats. Sizes varied, but typically they were a galley, schooner, or sloop of less than 75 feet in length, single-decked, with a single large cannon (often 24 or 32 pounds) pointing forward. There were also variants that would have a gun fore and aft, one gun forward and one to either side, etc. The early ...


18

Battle of Sinop between Ottoman and Russian empires during Crimean war seems to be the last major naval battle with sail-powered ships. There were three steamboats in Russian fleet, and one steam boat in Ottoman fleet, but their firepower was negligible compared to sail-powered ships involed in the battle. It was in 1853, Russian fleet destroyed Ottoman ...


18

That would the Battle of Navarino fought during the Greek War for Independence in 1827. It was the last battle feature entirely sail fleets. Navarino is known as Pylos now. Sailing ships have come back into vogue recently so who knows how long they will be around and what was they might be involved in. The last active sailing warship appears to have been the ...


16

The book The Eventful History of the Mutiny and Piratical Seizure of H.M.S Bounty by Sir John Barrow includes a chapter on the remarkable voyage of Bligh and his 18 companions in their 23-foot boat, drawn from Bligh's description of the voyage. Unfortunately, Barrow concentrates on the hardships of the men and includes few details on how navigation was ...


15

Europeans, perhaps not, someone in the old world, yes. Al-Biruni (973–1050) lived in Khwarezm (modern Uzbekistan). Among other works in mathematics, astronomy, physics, mineralogy, history and geography, he calculated the circumference of Earth with a precision higher than his predecessors, and made some precise maps of known lands. In his work Codex ...


14

Using Aubrey/Maturin, beefed up with "Naval life in the time of Aubrey and Maturin" type texts: Shock and Awe. Few men died in most naval battles in the age of sail. Morale failure was a key structure in battle. Broadsides significantly reduced the numbers of boarders in a single wave. Three fast broadsides and board was an ideal to secure a prize by ...


14

Beat to quarters is what has become General Quarters in the modern navies. It was the call to ship's company to prepare for action/battle. All crew would prepare for action, depending on the reason for BtQ. (BtQ would be called during storm preparation as well as battle prep, for instance) The cannon crew would ensure their cannon were properly tied for the ...


14

It would seem that by the mid-18th Century, the act of keel-hauling was considered (by the British public, at least) to be a Dutch punishment. A contemporary dictionary gives the following definition: Keel-Hauling, a punishment inflicted for various offences in the Dutch Navy. It is performed by plunging the delinquent repeatedly under the ship's bottom ...


14

I believe this is somewhat overstating the risks and well as the severity of the disasters. A sengokubune (千石船) refers to a ship that can carry 1000 koku of rice (sen = 1000). The actual ship design being referred to is known as a benzaisen (弁才船), originally a type of small cargo boat developed in, and for use within, the Seto Inland Sea. In their calm, ...


14

I'm not aware of any ship built around a single cannon during the Age of Sail, although it's possible that they appeared as experimental vessels. At the smaller end, there were gunboats which had a single cannon on the centerline, which were used for coastal operations by most of the European nations. These could be operated from harbours or the shoreline ...


14

A quick search on the HMS Victory leads us to militarynavalhistory.net, where they have this to say concerning the armaments of the Victory: The armament comprised thirty 32-pound cannons in the lower gun deck, twenty-eight 24-pound cannons on the middle gun deck, thirty 12-pound cannons on the upper gun deck, twelve 12-pound cannons on the ...


13

I suggest that the reason was the Mediterranean. European civilizations had lots of places to sail to that could be reached, profitably, with fairly primitive technology. Starting with the Illiad & Odyssey, the Athenian's wooden walls, the Phoenicians, Roman grain ships, &c, then working up to the trade empires of Venice & Genoa. That could ...


13

I think we first have to ask what we mean when we say that the Europeans “dominate[d] oceans.” You describe this as something that “becomes more obvious after the fifteenth century,” when Europe began colonizing and conquering. However, Europeans did not in any sense dominate the Pacific at this time; the Polynesians colonized New Zealand about two ...


13

Discrimination against the Chinese was clearly a key factor, excluding them from higher paid and more desirable jobs aboard ship. Here is a quote from the article "‘I Espied a Chinaman’: Chinese Sailors and the Fracturing of the Nineteenth Century Pacific Maritime Labour Force" by John T. Grider, published in the journal Slavery & Abolition (2010). ...


11

Complex and disputed social, economical and cultural reasons With decent technology and a brave and enterpreneurish heart anyone can be a sea explorer. Leif Erikson from Iceland reached America, Zang He explored the Indian Ocean with chinese ships superior to their european counterparts. Pytheas circumnavigated Britannia in the classical antiquity... I ...


10

TL;DR: Multiple factors conspired to make big sailing ships impractical. There is a multitude of factors that, put together, caused the American cultures not to develop significant seafaring capability. If I were to point out the most important ones, they would be: Lack of exploitable sea routes Lack of metal tools No large-scale cultural interchange To ...


10

This is a tricky question to answer definitively given the complexity of the 250+ years of history of the East India Company in its various forms (referred to here, for simplicity, as the HEIC). While I think it would be impossible to prove that no single HEIC ship ever visited any part of the West Indies, I think it is safe to say that they didn't 'operate' ...


10

Even when the infrastructure was in place, why abandon a sunk asset which can still produce some revenue? Eric Newby wrote The Last Great Grain Race about his 1938 voyage as crew from Port Lincoln, South Australia to Glasgow, Scotland. These tall ships were carrying wheat grown on the plains of South Australia to the UK market. It did not matter to the ...


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