Ever since people realized that they could float around on things, boats have played a major role in the development of societies. For this reason most people live near the coast or near rivers. Whether it was fishing, transport, or trade, water and waterways facilitated the development of society in ways that few other things have (except for maybe the wheel). So while human history is full of boating, sailing, and seafaring, what about today? It’s still there but these days the open oceans are mostly used by militaries, cargo ships, and cruise lines. Piracy and transportation have shifted to other domains (the internet and the sky, respectively). But in spite of the fact that your average Joe no longer owns a fishing boat, the water still plays a critical role in how our society functions. Without shipping lanes there would be no way for you to get those Nike shoes that you bought at the mall over the weekend. While air cargo is possible, it is still far more expensive than just floating things across the ocean on barges. So get ready because today we are about to discover 25 incredible stories from the world of ships, boats, and sailors!
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Robert Smalls was a slave that seized a ship during the Civil War and delivered it to the North. He was later put in charge of the ship. After the war he bought the house he was a slave in and became a congressman.
Quarantine is derived from the Latin word for "forty". This is the number of days a ship typically had to wait to dock because of the plague.
In the Royal Navy there is a superstition that whistling on-board can cause bad weather. The only person typically allowed to whistle is the cook (because it means he's not eating the food!)
During the Battle of Samar in World War II, the USS Johnston charged a much bigger force of Japanese ships. It did so much damage that while it was sinking, some of the Japanese ships saluted it.
In 1784, a Japanese sailor named Chunosuke Matsuyama sent out a message in a bottle from his sinking ship. It washed ashore in 1935 near the very village where he had been born.
In 2013, chef Harrison Okene survived underwater for 3 days when his ship sank. Apparently he took refuge in an air pocket where rescuers eventually found him.
Jeanne de Clisson was a Frenchwoman who became a pirate in the 1300s to avenge the death of her husband. She sold her land to buy 3 ships and then proceeded to terrorize French nobility along the coast.
Whenever merchant ships were stopped by pirates, quite often a number of the merchant sailors would join the pirate crew
In 1628, the Swedish warship Vasa sank. It was recovered in 1961 nearly 100% intact. It is the only such ship we have from the 1600s.
Ramon Artagaveytia survived the sinking of a ship in 1871. It wasn't until 41 years later that he mustered up the courage to get back on a boat. Unfortunately for him that boat's name was the Titanic.
In spite of never having had any training, Admiral Yi Sun Shin defeated 333 Japanese ships with a fleet of only 13 Korean ships
When researchers from Texas State University ran out of money while studying the pirate Captain Morgan, it was the Captain Morgan Rum Company that gave them money to continue!
One of the most powerful pirates to ever set sail was Ching Shih. She was a Chinese prostitute who ended up commanding nearly 2,000 ships.
The MS Estonia sank in the Baltic Sea in 1994 and all 852 passengers are still at the bottom. It is illegal to dive to the wreck.
The Claw of Archimedes was an anti-ship weapon designed to basically lift ships and then drop them into the ocean. It was used by the Greeks against the Romans.
Tommy Thompson was a treasure hunter that found the shipwreck of the SS Central America. In 1987 he recovered nearly $1 billion from the wreck and disappeared.
In 1969, the ship named Baychimo was spotted drifting in the Arctic. It was abandoned nearly 40 years earlier in 1931 near Alaska.
During World War II the Dutch disguised the HNLMS Abraham Crijnssen to look like a tropical island (to trick the Japanese).
In 2012, an Air Canada flight was about to land in Australia when it got involved in a search and rescue mission for a lost yacht. After about 30 minutes the passengers spotted Glenn Ey of Queensland adrift.
The actual crew of Captain Philip's ship claim he is a fraud who endangered their lives and that the film is inaccurate.
In 1969, France canceled a delivery of 5 missile boats that Israel had bought. So Israel stole them in something that came to be known as the Cherbourg Project.
In 1988 a steamboat named Arabia was excavated. It was beneath nearly 50 feet of dirt in rural Kansas. But guess what? Some of the food was still edible!
According to studies performed by the National Institute of Health, retiring to a cruise ship was often cheaper and provided a higher quality of life than in a retirement home.
In 2005, the driver for Dave Matthew's Band opened the tour bus's septic tank above a grate over the Chicago River. Unfortunately, there was a boat full of sightseers down below.
An abandoned Russian cruise ship has been adrift in the North Atlantic since 2013 (Lyubov Orlova)
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