Sea, Canal, and Maritime Transport


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UK Canals  - See Appendix 1 below


23/12/2014, Construction work began on a canal across Nicaragua, 173 miles long but designed to take larger ships than the Panama Canal. The US$ 50 billion (UK£ 32 billion) project would displace 29,000 people and there were fears that freshwater Lake Managua would be polluted. The Chinese-backed project, headed by Hong Kong based  HKND, was granted a renewable 50-year concession to build and operate the canal, in return for a US$ 10 billion operating fee. President Ortega’s Sandinista administration promised the project would create thousands of jobs during construction, but many Nicaraguans perceived the government as corrupt.

13/1/2012, The Costa Concordia cruise liner was wrecked off the coast of Italy; 32 people died.

27/11/2008, The ocean liner QE2 was taken out of service, to become a floating hotel in the UAE.

15/11/2008, Somali pirates hijacked a Saudi oil supertanker off the Somali coast.

18/4/2002, Thor Heyerdahl died.

25/6/1997, Jacques Cousteau, French underwater explorer, died.

28/9/1994, The car ferry Estonia sank in off Uto Island in the Baltic during a heavy storm on its way to Sweden. Waves 10 metres high had ripped off the bow doors used for loading vehicles; only 140 of the 1,047 passengers and crew survived, the worst ferry disaster in Europe since World War Two. There were similarities to the Herald of Free Enterprise disaster on 7/4/1987. Ferry operators had been slow to follow recommendations for watertight bulkhead doors on the car deck.

5/1/1993, The oil tanker MV Braer ran aground off Shetland and began leaking 84,700 tons of crude oil.

4/1/1993. P & O European Ferries announced the closure of its passenger services between Dover and Boulogne after 170 years.

3/12/1992. The oil tanker Aegean Sea ran aground near La Coruna, Spain, making an oil slick 20 kilometres long.

7/4/1990, Fire ripped through a ferry going from Oslo, Norway, to Frederikshavn, Denmark; serious safety breaches contributed to the loss of 150 lives.

1/3/1990. The Royal New Zealand Navy discontinued the daily rum ration.

22/6/1989, The captain of the Herald of Free Enterprise was charged with manslaughter.

6/4/1989, The UK Government announced it was to abolish the ‘job for life’ guarantee to all dockworkers.

31/3/1989, The Master of the Exxon Valdez oil tanker was sacked for drunkenness.

25/3/1989. Oil from the 987 foot tanker Exxon Valdez was spilled on the Alaskan coast. She had run aground on 24/3/1989 and was holed in Prince William Sound. 35,000 tons of crude oil polluted 100 miles of coastline.

10/11/1988, The oil tanker Odyssey spilled 140,000 tons of crude oil off the coast of Canada.

7/4/1987, The Herald of Free Enterprise was righted (capsized 6/3/1987). On 8/4/1987 104 more bodies were found inside the ship.

6/3/1987. The ferry Herald of Free Enterprise capsized, after leaving Zeebrugge with her bow doors open. 193 people died, out of 650 on board. The bow doors of the 7,951 ton roll-on-roll-off vessel had been left open as she left Zeebrugge, and water had entered the car deck and destabilised her. She did not sink completely because of a shallow sandbank beneath. Sea temperature was just 3 C, which would kill a person in 15 minutes.

4/9/1985, The wreck of The Titanic was photographed by a remote-controlled submarine on the seabed off Newfoundland.

1/9/1985, A joint US-French expedition found the wreck of the Titanic off Newfoundland.

6/8/1983, The oil tanker Castillio de Bellver spilled 255,000 tons of crude oil off Cape Town, South Africa.

6/3/1983, Australian Christopher Massey set a world water skiing speed record of 143.08 mph.

17/9/1981, (1) Plans to close the Royal Docks, London, were finalised.

(2) Twelve divers began a successful operation to recover 431 gold ingots, valued at £48 million, from HMS Edinburgh, which was sunk in the Barents Sea off northern Norway in 1942.

19/7/1979, Two oil tankers, the Atlantic Empress and the Aegean Captain collided off Trinidad, spilling 300,000 tons of crude oil, the world’s largest oil spill.

8/1/1979, The French oil tanker Betelgeuse exploded in Bantry Bay, west Ireland, killing 49 people.

8/10/1978, Australia’s Ken Warby set a new world water speed record of 317.627 mph in The Spirit of Australia at Blowering  Dam, Australia.

17/3/1978. The Amoco Cadiz oil tanker ran aground on the Brittany coast.  She split in two on 24/3/1978; 220,000 tons of oil were spilled.

24/10/1977, The transatlantic liner France was sold to Saudi Arabia for use as a floating hotel.

24/1/1976. The oil tanker Olympic Bravery spilled 250,000 tons of oil off Brittany.

26/8/1972. Sir Francis Chichester, English round the world yachtsman, died in Plymouth, Devon.

22/4/1972. John Fairfax and Sylvia Cook arrived in Australia, having become the first people to row across the Pacific.

18/1/1972, The first plastic warship, the minehunter HMS Wilton, was launched at Southampton.

9/1/1972, The liner Queen Elizabeth, which had been moored at Hong Kong and served as a floating marine university, caught fire and sank. There were suspicions that the fire had been started deliberately, because the university project was failing. The Queen Elizabeth had been launched in 1938; she left the trans-Atlantic cruise business in 1969, when jet airliners had killed this business.

6/8/1971, British sailor Chay Blyth became the first person to sail single-handed east to west around the world.

31/7/1970,  The British Royal navy ended its 200-year-old tradition of a daily rum ration for the sailors (see 1687)

12/7/1970. Thor Heyerdal and a crew of 7 crossed the Atlantic, from Morocco to Bridgetown, Barbados, on a papyrus raft called Ra-2.  Thor Heyerdal had crossed from Peru to the Pacific island of Argutu, 4,300 miles, in 101 days in a balsawood craft of ancient South American design. He wanted to prove that the Polynesian islands could have been settled by prehistoric South American people.  In 1970 he built a papyrus boat to cross the Atlantic but it broke up and sank after 2,000 miles. His second boat made the Atlantic crossing from Safi in Morocco to Mogador in Barbados in 57 days. This was to show that ancient Egyptians could have introduced pyramid building to pre-Columbian Americans.

23/6/1970, Brunel’s 320 foot ship, Great Britain, the first all-metal ocean liner, returned to Britain from the Falkland Islands where it had lain rusting since 1886.

4/2/1970, The Liberian oil tanker Arrow ran aground off Nova Scotia, with 16,000 tons of oil on board. Eight days later she broke in half in a storm, causing oil pollution up to 160 km away.

11/11/1969, The owners of the Torrey Canyon agreed to pay £1.5 million compensation to Britain and France.

25/5/1969, The Norwegian Thor Heyerdahl set sail with seven crew from the Moroccan port of Safi in a reed boat in order to prove that The ancient Egyptians could have reached America, accounting for the Pyramids in central America. He used 12 tons of papyrus reeds, and traditional boat builders from Chad made the vessel. The boat did not sink, and Heyerdahl completed the voyage; in 1948 he successfully completed a voyage from Polynesia to Peru to prove that Pacific Islanders could have settled South America.

2/5/1969. The Queen Elizabeth II sailed from Southampton on her maiden voyage.

15/11/1968. Cunard’s flagship liner the Queen Elizabeth docked at Southampton for the last time. Launched in September 1938, she was used during the War as a troopship based in Sydney, Australia. Her first commercial voyage was from Southampton in 1946. She was replaced by the Queen Elizabeth II.

1/8/1968. The Princess Margaret inaugurated the hovercraft service between Dover and Boulogne.

4/2/1968. The world’s largest hovercraft, 165 tonnes, was launched at Cowes.

27/9/1967, The liner Queen Mary arrived at Southampton, at the end of her last transatlantic voyage.

20/9/1967. The Queen launched the Cunard liner Queen Elizabeth II, at Clydebank, Scotland.

7/7/1967. Using Sir Francis Drake’s sword, the Queen knighted Sir Francis Chichester, who had sailed solo around the world in Gypsy Moth IV.

28/5/1967. (+8,055) Sir Francis Chichester arrived in Plymouth after a solo voyage around the world in his yacht, Gypsy Moth IV.  See 27/8/1966.

4/1/1967. Donald Campbell died attempting to break his own water speed record of 276.33 mph on Coniston Water in the Lake District. He had made one run, then turned for another run too soon, and his boat hit its own wake and catapulted out of the water. His boat was called Bluebird K 7.

16/9/1966, Britain’s first Polaris nuclear submarine, the Resolution, was launched by the Queen Mother.

3/9/1966, Captain Ridgeway and Sergeant Blyth became the first Britons to row across the Atlantic.  The journey, in English Rose III, took 91 days.

27/8/1966, Francis Chichester left Plymouth on his solo round the world voyage in the yacht Gypsy Moth IV.  He arrived back in Plymouth on 28/5/1967.

30/4/1966. A regular hovercraft service began across the English Channel between Calais and Ramsgate.

31/1/1965, The Yugoslavian cargo ship SS Rascisce sank in the Ionian Sea, but all 30 crew were rescued

17/4/1963, The Royal Navy’s first nuclear powered submarine, Dreadnought, was commissioned.

10/4/1963, The nuclear-powered submarine USS Thresher sank in the Atlantic with the loss of all 129 men on board.

21/8/1962, Savannah, the world’s first nuclear-powered merchant ship, began her maiden voyage.

20/7/1962, The world’s first regular hovercraft service began, on the Dee estuary between Wallasey and Rhyl.

20/9/1961. Argentinean Antonio Albertondo completed the first non-stop swim across the English Channel and back. He completed the feat on 21/9 after 43 hours 5 minutes in the water.

21/10/1960. Britain’s first nuclear-powered submarine, Dreadnought, was launched at Barrow in Furness.

24/9/1960. The first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, the USS Enterprise, was launched at Newport, Virginia. She cost US$ 445 million, carried 100 aircraft, had a complement of 440 officers and 4,160 enlisted men, and a flight deck the size of four football pitches.

21/7/1960. Francis Chichester, 58, arrived in New York on his yacht, Gypsy Moth, having set a record of 40 days for a solo Atlantic crossing.

16/2/1960, USS Triton nuclear submarine began her round the world voyage, the first such vessel to undertake this journey.

23/1/1960, The US Navy submarine Trieste, manned by Dr Piccard and Lieutenant Walsh, reached a record depth of 35,820 feet in the Challenger Deep section of the Marianas Trench, Pacific Ocean.

20/12/1959, The first atomic ice-breaker, The Lenin, started operating.

25/7/1959. The hovercraft, SRN 1, made its first crossing of the English Channel from Dover to Calais in a little over 2 hours.

23/7/1959. Donald Campbell broke the world water speed record on Ullswater when he  reached 202.32mph in Bluebird.

21/7/1959. The first nuclear merchant ship, USS Savannah, was launched at Camden, New Jersey, in the USA.  She was launched by Mrs Mamie Eisenhower.

26/6/1959, Queen Elizabeth II and US President Eisenhower opened the St Lawrence Seaway, linking the Great Lakes to the Atlantic.

11/6/1959, The first experimental hovercraft capable of carrying a man was launched at Cowes, Isle of Wight.

30/5/1959. The first hovercraft flight took place at Cowes, Isle of Wight. The Suffolk boat builder, Christopher Cockerell, had announced its invention in 1958.

5/8/1958. The nuclear-powered submarine Nautilus completed its voyage beneath the ice of the North Pole.  William Anderson commanded it. Launched in January 1954, she left Pearl Harbour on 23/7/1958 and sailed through the Bering Strait, passing the North Pole on 3/8/1958, emerging near Greenland on 5/8/1958. The Nautilus was decommissioned in 1980 to become a floating museum.

23/5/1958, Christopher Cockerell patented the hovercraft.

25/7/1956, Italian ocean liner SS Andrea sank off Massachusetts after colliding in fog with Swedish liner MS Stockholm; 50 were killed.

For Suez Crisis see Egypt

10/8/1954, The Saint Lawrence Seaway project was officially launched.

7/7/1952, The American liner, United States, on her maiden voyage, made the fastest ever Atlantic crossing.  She covered the 2,949 nautical miles from Ambrose Light Vessel to Bishop Rock Light in 3 days, 10 hours 40 minutes.

31/5/1952, The Volga – Don Canal was opened

30/7/1948, The world’s first radar station designed to assist shipping was opened at Liverpool, UK.

27/4/1947, Thor Heyerdahl set sail on a balsa wood raft from Callao in Peru to Raroia in Polynesia in order to prove that Peruvians could have settled in Polynesia.

16/10/1946. The liner Queen Elizabeth made her first commercial voyage, after serving as a troopship during the War.

21/10/1941, The hull of Britain’s last, and largest ever, battleship HMS Vanguard, was laid at Clydebank.  She was launched on 30/11/1944.

30/6/1939, The Mersey Ferry, between Liverpool and Rock ferry, was discontinued.

30/10/1938, The Mitteland Canal in Germany, linking the Rhine to the Elbe, was opened.

27/9/1938. The 80,000 ton liner Queen Elizabeth, the largest passenger vessel ever built, was launched at John Brown’s yard at Clydebank, Glasgow.

26/9/1934. The liner Queen Mary was launched at John Brown’s yard in Clydebank, Glasgow.

1932, The Welland Canal, Canada, 42 km, opened.

18/7/1932, At Loch Lomond, Scotland, Kaye Don reclaimed the world boat speed record with a new mark of 119.81 mph in the Miss England III.

10/7/1931, The King George V Dock, Glasgow, opened.

22/7/1930, The large German battle cruiser Hindenburg was salvaged from Scapa Flow, 12 years after German sailors had scuttled here there on 21/6/1919.

13/6/1930, Sir Henry Segrave was killed on Lake Windermere, along with his mechanic, Vic Halliwell, when his speedboat crashed after he set a new world speed record of 158.93 km/hr (98.76 mph) in his boat, Miss England II.

16/9/1928,  In Glasgow the P&O liner Viceroy of India was launched; she was the first to have oil-fired electric turbines.

8/7/1921. King George V opened the King George V Dock in east London.

7/5/1915. The Lusitania, captained by William Thomas Turner, was torpedoed. 1,400 people drowned 8 miles off the Old Head of Kinsale, near Cork. 128 Americans were among the 1,208 casualties, including friends of President Woodrow Wilson and the millionaire yachtsman Alfred Vanderbilt, as the ship made its way back to Liverpool on a voyage from New York. America condemned the torpedoing of the ship by a German submarine as an act of piracy and this brought the USA into the War.

The 30,000 tonne Lusitania had sailed from New York on 1/5/1915. She carried 1,257 passengers, including 128 Americans; 702 crew; and an estimated 3 stowaways. Her cargo list, later a source of controversy, included small arms cartridges, uncharged shrapnel shells, cheese, furs, and, oddly, 205 barrels of oysters. The Germans later claimed the ‘oysters’ were actually heavy munitions whose explosion had doomed the ship. However there was no second explosion after the torpedo hit; there were no heavy munitions and rifle rounds burned harmlessly, like firecrackers, and did not explode.

Cunard had shut down the Lusitania’s fourth boiler room to save on coal but even at the reduced maximum speed of 21 knots it was reckoned she could outrun any German U-boat. Passengers ignored warnings from the German Embassy published in the New York Press not to cross the Atlantic under a belligerent flag, and the lifeboat drills on board were palpably inadequate. The Lusitania had plenty of lifeboats but most were unlaunchable because the ship listed heavily as water poured through lower deck portholes, opened for air despite orders to close them.  She sank within 18 minutes of being hit.

The sinking of the Lusitania deepened American hostility towards Germany but President Woodrow Wilson’s administration was split between the hawks and doves, and it was another 2 years before America entered the war.

18/2/1915. Shackleton’s ship Endurance became stuck in pack ice.

6/10/1914, Thor Heyerdahl, Norwegian adventurer, leader of the Kon Tiki expedition, was born in Larvik.

15/8/1914, The 40-mile long Panama Canal opened, 82 km; construction work had begun on 4/7/1914. The first ship to pass through the canal, this day, was the SS Ancon. Ships passed through three locks 30 metres wide and 300 metres long, rising to 85 feet above sea level at Lake Gatun, which had been created by damming a river, before descending through more locks. Since 1914 over one million ships have used the Canal, saving 3,000 miles and eight days of travel around Cape Horn. In 2013 12,036 vessels, carrying 319 million tonnes of cargo, transitted the Canal, paying US$ 1,800 million in tolls. 86.7 million tons of this cargo originated from the USA, and 49.8 million tons was destined for the USA. In 2013 some 3% of world maritime cargo, worth US$ 270 billion (UK£ 160 million at 2014 exchange rates). However many 21st century cargo ships are too big for the Canal, and in 2006 the Panama Canal Authority announced expansion plans, costed at US$ 3,200 million, due for completion in 2016.

29/5/1914, The Canadian Pacific liner Empress of Ireland was wrecked in the St Lawrence River, drowning over 1,000.

15/12/1913, The world’s biggest battlecruiser, HMS Tiger, was launched in Glasgow.

14/10/1913, The world’s first oil-powered battleship, HMS Queen Elizabeth, was launched.

1912, Immingham Docks, Lincolnshire, opened.

3/7/1912, The Board of Trade Inquiry into the Titanic disaster found Captain Smith (who went down with his ship) guilty of negligence.

28/5/1912, The Titanic enquiry in the US gave a verdict of negligence.

18/4/1912, The liner Carpathia arrived in New York, carrying survivors of the Titanic disaster.

15/4/1912. The Titanic, steaming too fast through a sea full of icebergs, sank on her maiden voyage. Of the 2,340 passengers and crew, 1,513 perished in the icy seas; only 732 survived. The first lifeboat to get away was almost empty, occupied only by the director of the line and their friends. Many first class passengers got priority over cheaper ‘steerage’ passengers. However there was also heroism; John Jacob Astor stayed behind after ensuring his bride was on a lifeboat, and the band, who played hymns as the ship sank beneath it.

With 16 watertight compartments the Titanic, 270 metres long, was considered ‘unsinkable’ and so only had enough lifeboat places for 1,178. Before she sailed from Southampton on 10/4/1912, an engineer stated ‘God himself could not sink this ship’. Off Newfoundland, a lookout reported an iceberg, the First Officer ordered a turn to port, and the Titanic missed the berg, but an underwater projection of ice struck her below the waterline, ripping open  five of the sixteen watertight compartments. With this many compartments flooded, the ship began to sink, flooding further compartments. Many passengers could not accept that the ship was sinking, and only 800 only got aboard the lifeboats, and one lifeboat was sucked under as the Titanic sank.

However later theories suggest that the real cause was poor rivets, that popped, causing a seam along the ship to split open.

13/12/1911, The P & O liner Delhi foundered with the Princess Royal on board, but she and most of the other passengers on board were rescued.

11/7/1911, Liverpool’s Gladstone Dock was opened by King George V.

31/5/1911. The Titanic was launched at the Harland and Wolff shipyard in Belfast.

1/2/1911, HMS Thunderer, the last battleship to be built on the Thames, was launched from the old Thames Ironworks at Silvertown.

20/10/1910, The Titanic’s sister ship, RMS Olympic, was launched from the Harland and Wolf shipyard in Belfast. She didn’t sink, earning the nickname ‘Old Reliable’.

5/12/1910, A convoy of barges on the River Volga sank, killing 350 workmen.

11/6/1910, Jacques Cousteau, French underwater explorer who invented the aqualung, was born in Saint Andre, Gironde, France.

11/8/1909, The first SOS signal was sent, by wireless.

1908, The gyroscope compass was invented by German scientist Herman Anschutz-Kaempfe. Once set to true north, it remained stable despite any ship’s movement in a storm.

10/7/1908, The British announced the deployment of a new torpedo, with a four mile range and a speed of four knots.

16/5/1908. The UK launched its first diesel submarine, called D-1, from Barrow in Furness.

2/4/1908, The destroyer HMS Tiger collided with the cruiser HMS Berwick near the Isle of Wight, killing 35 sailors.

7/3/1908, Germany launched its first Dreadnought battleship.

13/12/1907, The liner Mauretania ran aground at Liverpool.

11/10/1907. The British luxury liner Lusitania broke the record for crossing the Atlantic by 11 hours 46 minutes, making the crossing to New York in just 4 days, 19 hours, and 52 minutes. With 1,200 passengers and 650 crew, she averaged 24 knots.

13/9/1907, The British ocean liner Lusitania arrived in New York on her maiden voyage, having crossed the Atlantic in a record 5 days, at average speed 23 knots.

14/12/1906. The German navy acquired its first submarine, the U1.

3/10/1906. SOS was established as an international distress signal, at the Berlin Radio Conference, replacing the earlier CDQ call sign, sometimes wrongly explained as Come Damn Quick.

20/9/1906, The Mauretania, Atlantic passenger liner, was launched.

4/8/1906, The Italian liner Silvio was wrecked off Spain; 200 drowned.

10/6/1906, The SOS distress signal was used for the first time, when the Cunard liner Slavonia was wrecked off the Azores.

7/6/1906. The Lusitania, the world's biggest liner, was launched in Glasgow.

15/1/1906, Aristotle Onassis, Greek shipping tycoon, was born in Smyrna, Turkey.

19/11/1905, The British steamer Hilda was wrecked off St Malo killing 128.

14/11/1905, Robert Whitehead, who invented the naval torpedo in 1866, died in Berkshire.

17/11/1904, First UK underwater voyage of a submarine was made, under the Solent, Southampton to the Isle of Wight.

12/10/1903, The shipbuilders Cammel and Laird agreed to merge.

11/7/1903, The world’s first power boat race was staged by the Cork Yacht Club in Ireland.

2/10/1901. Vickers launched the British Navy’s first submarine. HMS Holland, 105 tons, was designed for coastal duties. The petrol engine was dangerous; later submarines used diesel engines. The crew breathed compressed air, and stayed under for 4 hours. The Royal Navy concentrated on using submarines for inshore patrols whereas other navies, especially Germany, developed longer-distance craft. This disparity was a severe handicap to Britain during the First World War; only the development of sophisticated counter measures saved Britain from starvation as German U-boats sunk supply ships.

16/6/1901, The liner Lucania was used for trials of wireless telegraphy at sea.

9/11/1900, The world’s biggest battleship to date, the 15,150 ton Mikasa, was launched from Barrow in Furness, for the Japanese Navy.

17/3/1899, A merchant ship ran aground in the English Channel and sent the first radio distress call.

1898, Joshua Slocum became the first man to sail solo around the world. He set out from Boston, USA, in his yacht Spray, in 1895, aged 51, and raised funds by giving lectures at the variuos ports he called at around the globe. He could not swim. In 1909, aged 65, he set out on a similar voyage from Rhode Island on the same boat, and was never heard of again.

3/6/1898, Samuel Plimsoll, who devised the Plimsoll Line for the safe loading of ships, died in Folkestone, Kent.

1896, The Suex Canal, Egypt, 172 km, opened. See Egypt for history and events of this Canal.

19/6/1895. The 61-mile Kiel Canal between the Baltic and North Sea, 98 km, was opened by German Emperor Wilhelm II.

4/11/1894. First turbine ship launched.

1893, The Corinth Canal, Greece, 6.3km, was completed.

28/10/1893, The British Royal Navy’s first destroyer, HMS Havoc, underwent sea trials.

1889, Barry Docks, S Wales, opened.

3/6/1887, The foundation stone of the opening lock of the Kiel Canal was laid.

1886, Extensive docks construction at Tilbury between 1882 and 1886 had been undertaken by the East India Docks Company.

11/3/1885, Sir Malcolm Campbell, British holder of the world land and sea speed records, was born.

1/11/1884. Lloyds Register of Shipping was first published.

28/7/1883, A water bicycle with paddlewheels was pedalled across the English Channel in less than eight hours

18/5/1882, The present Eddystone Lighthouse, the 4th on the site, built by Sir James Douglas, was opened.

1879, Portishead Docks, Bristol, opened.

1877, Avonmouth Docks, Bristol, opened.

1/1/1876, The Plimsoll Line became compulsory on all British-registered ships after this date. Its purpose was to prevent ships being dangerously overloaded. The modern Plimsoll Line was first proposed by James Hall of Tynemouth in a report of 7/12/.1869. However the Crusader ships employed a cross marked at the waterline for the same purpose, and the 12th century Republic of Venice also made it illegal to operate its ships without a form of the Plimsoll line. Hanseatic ships used the same load line but when the Hanseatic League ceased to exist in the 15th century this safety practice was lost.

19/8/1867, James Gordon became the first person to cross the English Channel by canoe, taking 11 hours to travel from Boulogne to Dover.

28/4/1865, Samuel Cunard, Canadian ship owner and founder of the British steamship company, Cunard Line, died.

See Egypt for events relating to Suez Canal

8/3/1865, Construction of the Amsterdam – North Sea Canal began.

2/12/1861, Danube Navigation Commission formed.

29/12/1860, Britain’s first seagoing iron-clad warship, the HMS Warrior, was launched. Built of iron throughout, her construction was a response to the launch of the French warship La Gloire, which had iron cladding from her top deck down to 6 feet below the waterline.

17/6/1860, The ocean liner Great Eastern, 692 feet long, designed by Brunel and Russell, began her first transatlantic voyage.

31/1/1858, The liner Great Eastern, 692 feet long, with five funnels, built by Isambard Kingdom Brunel and John Scott Russell, was launched at Millwall Docks, London, three months behind schedule.

1854, A steamboat commuter service began between Greenwich and the City of London.

14/5/1847, HMS Driver arrived at Spithead, England, having become the first steamship to complete a round the world voyage.

1845, The British Navy staged a tug of war between two 800-ton frigates, HMS Alecto, propelled by paddle wheels, and HMS Rattler, which had propellers. The two ships were secured stren to stern; Rattler won easily.

1845, The Miami and Erie Canal, 410 km from Cincinatti to Toledo, opened.

25/7/1845. Brunel’s 320 foot iron ship, the Great Britain, left Liverpool on her maiden voyage, to New York.

26/7/1844. The first ocean cruise left Southampton for a four month steamship tour of the Mediterranean.

19/7/1843, Brunel’s ship Great Britain, the first all-metal liner, was launched from London’s Wapping Dock, by Prince Albert. At 98 metres long, she was the world’s largest ship.

16/11/1841, Napoleon Guerin, of New York, patented the first life-jacket; it was filled with cork.

4/7/1840, The Cunard Line began operations, with services to Halifax and Boston; services to New York began in 1848.  Cunard’s reputation for safety and reliability helped it survive against strong competition, despite early complaints about Cunard’s food. Eventually the airlines were to take business from the ocean liners.

28/2/1840, John Philip Holland, American inventor who pioneered the modern submarine, was born in County Clare, Ireland.

4/5/1839. The Cunard shipping line was founded by the Canadian Sir Samuel Cunard. In 1934 it merged with the White Star Line.

22/4/1838. The British packet steamer Sirius became the first ship to cross the Atlantic on steam power only. She had left Queenstown (now Cobh) on 4/4/1838.

8/4/1838. Brunel’s 236 foot wooden steamship Great Western left Bristol for her maiden voyage to New York, under Captain James Hosken. The first ship to cross the Atlantic entirely under steam power was the Sirius, which left Queenstown, Ireland, on 4/4/1838 and arrived at Sandy Hook, New York on 22/4/1838.

19/7/1837, Brunel’s 236-foot Great Western was launched at Patterson’s Yard, Bristol.

1836, The screw propeller was invented independently by Francis Pettit Smith of England and John Ericsson, a Swded living in the USA.

16/2/1834, Lionel Lukin, British inventor of the lifeboat, died.

26/10/1825, The Erie Canal, linking New York with the Great Lakes via Niagara and the Hudson River, begun 4/7/1817, was completed. Influenced by Governor DeWitt Clinton the New York state legislature agreed to fund the US$ 7 million project. The canal, 363 miles long, 40 foot wide, 4 foot deep, with 82 locks, would make New York the principal port of America.

4/3/1824. In Britain, Sir William Hillary founded the Royal National Lifeboat Institution.

10/2/1824, Samuel Plimsoll, naval inventor, was born at Bristol.

3/1/1823, Robert Whitehead, English engineer and inventor of the naval torpedo, was born in Bolton Le Moors, Lancashire.

20/6/1819. The steamship Savannah arrived in Liverpool, under the command of Captain Moses Rogers, after crossing the Atlantic in just 27 days after leaving Savannah, Georgia on 24/5/1819. She was the first ship to cross the Atlantic by steam power.

5/1/1818. The first regular scheduled service across the Atlantic began, between New York and Liverpool.

7/12/1817, Captain Bligh, captain of The Bounty, died in London.

17/3/1816, The 38-ton Elise left Newhaven for a stormy 17-hour crossing to Le Havre, becoming the first steamboat to cross The Channel.

24/2/1815, Robert Fulton, American engineer and ship and submarine designer, died.

29/10/1814, The US navy launched the Demilogos at New York; the first steam powered warship, designed by Robert Fulton.

17/8/1807, Robert Fulton made the first practical steamboat trip, 150 miles in the Clermont from New York City to Albany.

20/1/1805, London docks opened.

3/3/1803, The Duke of Bridgewater, who pioneered Britain’s canal network, died.

4/11/1797, US Congress agreed to pay an annual ‘anti-piracy’ tribute to Tripoli.

28/10/1792, John Smeaton, English civil engineer who designed the third Eddystone Lighthouse, died.

21/11/1791. The French navigator, Eteinne Marchand, set a new record for crossing the Pacific Ocean, completing the voyage in 60 days.

30/1/1790. The world’s first purpose-built lifeboat was successfully tested at South Shields, Tyneside, England. The boat, ‘The Original’, went on to give 40 years service.

23/1/1790, Fletcher Christian and other mutineers burned The Bounty and settled on Pitcairn Island.

14/6/1789, Captain Bligh, cast adrift from The Bounty with 18 men, arrived at Timor, near Java, having sailed his small boat for 3,618 miles.

28/4/1789. The Mutiny on The Bounty. The ship’s captain, Captain Bligh, and 17 others were set adrift in an open boat near The Friendly Isles; they eventually reached Timor, Java, on 14/6/1789. Captain Bligh, born 1754, died on 7/12/1817 in London . His severe discipline on board had provoked the mutiny. The mutineers settled on Pitcairn Island.

17/12/1787, (-57,485) HMS Bounty, commended by William Bligh, set sail from for the South Seas.

21/11/1787. Sir Samuel Cunard, Canadian ship owner, was born in Nova Scotia. He came to Britain in 1838 and, with two partners, established what came to be known as the Cunard Line.

2/11/1785, The first unsinkable lifeboat was patented by Lionel Lukin, a London coachbuilder.

1783, The first paddle-driven steamboat was invented by Marquis Jouffroy D’Abbans of France.

29/8/1782, At Spithead, a prime ship of the British Navy, the Royal George, sank with the loss of 900 lives. Launched in 1756, she was one of only 3 100-gun ships in the navy. An enquiry began as to whether she sank due to rotten timbers or due to her being heeled over so far that water entered her lower gunports.

20/5/1777. The world’s first iron boat was launched into the River Foss near York. She was a 12’ long pleasure craft capable of carrying 15 persons.

6/9/1776, The US pioneered the use of the submarine for military purposes. David Bushnell’s Connecticut Turtle, a pear-shaped 2 metre long wooden vessel dived under British ships in New York Harbour in an attempt to bore holes with an augur and plant explosives, However the British ships had copper bottoms and the attempt was futile.

17/1/1773. Captain Cook’s ship Resolution became the first ship to cross the Antarctic Circle.

1772, Construction of the Bromberg Canal, linking the Oder and Vistula, began (completed 1775)..

30/9/1772, James Brindley, who built the Bridgewater, Grand Trunk (Grand Union), and Manchester Canals, died at Turnhurst in Staffordshire.

14/11/1765, Robert Fulton, US engineer who invented the first commercially successful steamboat, was born to Irish parents in Pennsylvania.

16/10/1759, The Eddystone Lighthouse, designed by Smeaton, was officially opened.

8/10/1759. The Eddystone Lighthouse was completed.

9/9/1754, William Bligh, captain of The Bounty, at the time of the mutiny, was born in Plymouth.

24/5/1744, The Baltic Exchange in London was founded, as the marketplace where marine cargo rates were fixed. On this day the Daily Post announced that a coffee house in Threadneedle Street was changing its name from the Maryland Coffee House to the Virginia and Baltick Coffee House, and would act as an exchange point for news and post for sea captains engaged in North Atlantic cargo.

1742, Construction of the Elbe – Havel canal began.

21/5/1736, The Duke of Bridgewater, canal pioneer, was born.

22/11/1718, Edward Teach, English pirate known as ‘blackbeard’, was killed off the coast of North Carolina.

1687, The British Royal Navy introduced the daily rum ration for sailors (see 31/7/1970).

1681, The Canal du Midi, France, was completed, 214 km long.

1668, Oder – Spree canal completed (begun 1661).

22/12/1662. The first catamaran was built at Dublin for Sir William Petty, a founder member of the Royal Society. The vessel weighed 30 tons and carried 5 guns; it had a crew of 30 men. In January 1663 it won the first open yacht race and in July 1663 beat the Dublin Packet in a sea going race. King Charles II, a keen yachtsman, considered the catamaran a joke but declined a racing challenge from Sir Petty.

1642, Loire – Seine canal completed (begun 1604).

24/2/1636, King Christian of Denmark ordered that all beggars able to work must be sent to Brinholmen Island, to work at building ships or work as galley rowers.

1620, The Dutch engineer Cornelius Drebbel invented a submarine.

6/9/1522, Ferdinand Magellan’s ship, the Vittoria, under the command of Juan Sebastian Del Cano, arrived in San Lucar, Spain, after completing the first circumnavigation of the world.  Magellan himself was killed on the Philippine island of Mactan.

27/4/1521. Natives on the island of Mactan, Philippines, killed the Portuguese navigator Ferdinand Magellan. He was on a voyage around the world.

7/4/1521, Ferdinand Magellan arrived at Cebu.

28/11/1520, After navigating through the South American strait, three ships under the command of Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan reached the Pacific Ocean, becoming the first Europeans to sail from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific (the strait was later named the Strait of Magellan).

20/9/1519. The Portuguese-born navigator Ferdinand Magellan started on a voyage to cross the Pacific Ocean and circumnavigate the world. He had a fleet of five small ships; Trinidad, San Antonio, Concepcion, Vittoria, and Santiago. On 28/11/1520 Magellan discovered a strait at the southern tip of South America and entered the Pacific. Magellan was killed on 27/4/1521 by natives of the Philippines. Magellan’s ship, the Vittoria, arrived alone in San Lucar, Spain, on 6/9/1522 under the command of Del Cano, to become the first ship to circumnavigate the world.

1504, The Republic of Venice approached the Sultan of Turkey, proposing the construction of a canal at Suez.

620, The Grand Canal, China, over 1,900 km, was completed.

275 BCE, The lighthouse at Pharos, Alexandria, was completed.


Appendix One – UK Canals

1944, The Hincaster Tunnel, at the northern end of the Lancaster Canal in Cumbria, closed to goods traffic.

21/5/1894. The Manchester Ship Canal, which had taken 25 years to build, was officially opened by Queen Victoria (see 1/1/1894). The Queen travelled by rain from Windsor, leaving at 11.10 a.m. and travelling on the Great Western Railway via Reading, Oxford, and Wolverhampton, which she made by 2pm.Continuing via Stafford and Crewe, Queen Victoria arrived at London Road Station, Manchester, at about 4 p.m. The Queen then travelled along the canal by boat.

1/1/1894. The 35 mile Manchester Ship Canal opened, 56 km.  Its official opening by Queen Victoria was on 21 May 1894.

1893, The Thames and Severn Canal closed east of Stroud, made uneconomic by railway competition. A Trust was formed to rescue the Canal, and ssucceeded in reopening it in March 1899; after necessary repairs, the Canal was used to deliver coal to Cirencester in 1904. However the Canal remained uneconomic, most of its employees were laid off in 1912, and the waterway gradually decayed.

11/11/1887, The first sod of the Manchester Ship Canal was cut.

1855, The Hertford Union Canal (or Ducketts Cut), 1 ¾ miles long, was opened to provide a link between the Regents Canal and the River Lea.

1853, The Droitwich Junction Canal opened.

1847, The Par Canal opened.

1842, The Chard Canal opened.

1839, The Manchester and Salford Canal was opened.

1835, The Birmingham and Liverpool Canal was completed.

1833, The Glastonbury Canal opened.

1831, The Liskeard and Looe Canal, the Portsmouth and Arundel Canal, and the Macclesfield Canals opened.

1830, The Hereford Canal opened.

1827, The Gloucester and Berkeley Canal opened.

1826, The Peckham arm of the Grand Surrey Canal opened, The Lancaster Canal was completed. The Knottingley to Goole Canal opened.

14/10/1824, The Higham and Strood Canal Tunnels opened, completing the Thames and Medway Canal.

1822, The Caledonian Canal, Scotland, opened (construction began 1803). The Edinburgh and Glasgow Union Canal opened.

1820, The Regents Canal, north London, opened. Construction began in 1812; the canal ran from Paddington to join the Thames at Limehouse.

1819, The North Wiltshire and Sheffield Canals were completed.

25/12/1817, The Hincaster Tunnel, at the northern end of the Lancaster Canal in Cumbria, opened.

1816, The Leeds to Liverpool canal opened.

1815, The Northampton branch canal (off Grand Union) opened.

1814, The Grand Union Canal opened in full. The Grand Western Canal (Loudwell to Tiverton) opened.

1813, The Aylesbury Branch Canal (off Grand Union) was completed.

1811, The Standedge Canal Tunnel, Pennines, opened to traffic. The Glamorganshore Canal, S Wales, opened.

1810, The Kennet and Avon Canal opened.

1809, The Croydon Canal opened.

1805, The Shropshire Union Canal opened. The Llangollen Canal opened. The Royal Military Canal, 39 km long, opened.

1804, The Rochdale Canal was completed.

1802, The Nottingham Canal was opened.

1801, The Crinan Canal was completed; construction had begun in 1793.

1801, The Grand Union (Grand Junction) Canal was opened through west London, from Paddington to Uxbridge and on to Buckingham. This was joined to the main Birmingham Canal in 1805 and to London’s Regents Canal in 1820.

1800, The Peak Forest Canal opened.

1799, The Lancaster Canal opened. The Barnsley Canal opened.

1798, The Huddersfield, Ashton to Stalybridge, and Gloucester Canals were completed.

1797, The Ashton and Shrewsbury Canals opened.

1796, The LuneAqueduct opened.

1794, The Glamorgan Canal opened from Merthyr Tydfil to Cardiff. The Charnwood Canal, north Leictesrershire, opened.

1793, The Grantham Canal, Grantham to Nottingham, opened.

1790, The Oxford Canal opened in full, down to Oxford (see 1778).

28/7/1790, The Forth and Clyde Canal opened (construction began 1768).

4/1789, The Sapperton Canal Tunnel  linking Stroud to the Thames, opened; construction had begun in 1784. The Thames and Severn Canal was now fully open.

1779, The Stroudwater Canal, linking Stroud, Gloucestershire, to the River Severn, opened.

1778, The Oxford Canal opened from Banbury to Coventry.

1777, The Trent and Mersey Canal opened.

1777, The Chesterfield Canal opened.

1774, The Bradford Canal completed.

1772, The Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal opened. The Bridgewater Canal extended to the Mersey at Runcorn.

1769, The Birmingham Canal completed, from Wednesbury to Birmingham.

17/7/1761, The Bridgewater Canal, from Worsley to Manchester, built by James Brindley, was opened (construction began 1758).

1757, The Sankey Canal completed, from St Helens to the Mersey.

1725, The Grosvenor Canal, a short canal in London, was opened. Most of it is now buried beneath Victoria railway station.


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