Friday, 9 December 2016

From dug out canoe to nuclear merchant ship ..... the history of sea travel from 1961

I don’t remember coming across Travel by Sea as a child, which is a shame because it would have certainly powered my imagination.

It is as the title implies the story of ships from early times to the mid 20th century and like so many of the books produced in the 1950s and 60s by A. & C. Black it is a fine mix of illustrations and text.

And like so many of these books what adds an extra element of interest is the final section which focuses on the ships which were plying the oceans in the middle decades of the last century.

Along with the changing design and technologies there are descriptions of how sea travel was moving from the preserve of the very rich and steerage class into the tourist trade.

So “travelling by sea today is like spending a holiday in a floating hotel” and the development of the cruise liner continues to be an important aspect of modern tourism

And nowhere is this more evident than in Naples where the tall ships given over to cruising the Mediterranean dominate the sea port.

I lost count of the number of these giants of the sea, patiently waiting for the hundreds of passengers who would soon be boarding for that potent mix of sun, foreign sites and a bit of history.

But what really fascinated me was the description of “the first nuclear-powered merchant ship to go into service.”

This was "the Savanah which in 1959 was being built in the U.S.A ...... [and which will be] fuelled with uranium oxide, [which] will enable it to operate for three and half years, covering 300,000 miles before refuelling.”

Now given the number of nuclear powered warships I don’t know why I was surprised but I was.

And she was one of only four such ships built and in her case remained in service for just ten years and today remains quietly moored in Maryland awaiting a developer with an idea of what to do with her.

All of which just shows what you can learn from a children’s history book published in 1961.

Picture; from Travel by Sea, 1961

*Travel by Sea through the ages, Robert J Hoare, 1961

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