Sea, Canal, and Maritime Transport

Page last modified 23/12/2019


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See Egypt for events relating to Suez Canal


Real time, marine traffic, also


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Oil accidents





Speed records – See Appendix 1 below

GB Canals  - See Appendix 2 below

Non-GB Canals  - See Appendix 3 below

Docks – See Appendix 4 below

Lighthouses  - See Appendix 5 below


Titanic – see section A below


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 after losing power in a storm, and began leaking all her cargo of 84,700 tons of crude oil. However fears that the Shetland Islands would be polluted for years to come were allayed as the storm waves dispersed the 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.

1983, German engineer Ortwin Fries developed a hinged ship that could bend into a V shape, to clean up oil spills into ints twin hulls.

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

17/9/1981, 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.

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). After the British capture of Jamaica in 1655, rum had replaced beer because it remained sweeter for longer in hot climates. From the late 1700s it was mixed with lemon juice, to ward off scurvy. Later, lime juice (which contained less vitamin C) was substituted for the lemon, earning the British sailors the nickname ‘limeys’.

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.

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.

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.

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, 300 km, 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

12/12/1955, Christopher Cockerell patented his prototype of the hovercraft.

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.

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.

3/6/1935, The new French Line passenger liner Normandie arrived in New York, having crossed the Atlantic oin her maiden voyage in four days 11 hours. She was 340 metres long, and weighed 79,000 tons.

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

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.

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

30/5/1922, The P&O liner Egypt sank off Ushant after a collision.

10/11/1918, The Cunard liner Campania sank in the Firth of Forth during a gale.

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.

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.

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.

21/6/1911, The ship RMS Olympic completed its first transatlantic trip, arriving in New York after a voyage of 5 days, 16 hours and 42 minutes.

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

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

17/6/1910, The United States Lighthouse Service was created as federal agency to regulate lighthouses throughout the nation. The office of the Commissioner was transferred to the United States Coast Guard in 1935.

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.

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.

24/12/1906, The first radio programme aimed at seamen was broadcast from the US coast.

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.

1904, Ships began to use radio signals to navigate.

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.

1902, The cost of shipping a quarter (ton) of wheat from Chicago to Liverpool stood at 2s 10 ½ d, This rate had fallen from 11 shillings in the 1870s and 4s 4d in 1892. Every rail line completed in the USA increased the competition facing UK farmers.

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.

11/4/1900, The US Navy purchased its first submarine. The USS Holland, built by John Holland for US$ 150,000, was 54 feet long and carried three torpedoes.

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.

4/11/1894. First turbine ship launched.

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

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.

29/7/1877, William Beebe, marine engineer, was born

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

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.

3/5/1860, John Scott Haldane was born in England. In 1907 he developed a method for deep sea divers to return to the surface safely.

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.

4/8/1852, The first steamship arrived in Australia, from England.

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.

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.

20/10/1842, Grace Darling died today, aged 27. The daughter of a lighthouse keeper, four years earlier she had made a heroic rescue of the victims of a shipwreck.

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.

9/5/1828, Charles Cramp, US shipbuilder, was born.

1827, The Cape Wrath Lighthouse, northern Scotland, began operating.

1827, A ship sailed from New Orleans, USA, to Liverpool, UK, in the record time of 26 days.

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.

30/4/1822, At Rotherhithe, London, the world’s first iron steamship, the Aaron Manby, was launched. It became a cross-Channel cargo ship.

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.

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.

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.

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

1761, The British naval frigate Alarm became the fist ship to have a copper coat on its hull, to prevent marine growth.

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.

1736, The Longitude Prize (see 1714) was won by John Harrison. His device, accurate to 0.1 seconds a day, or 1.3 miles of longitude,  was an accurate clock which sailors could use to compare time of local sunrise or sunset with Greenwich times. His device was delicate and weighed 60 pounds (26 kg), and was vulnerable to heavy weather; improved versions were soon made.

17/2/1723, Johann Tobias Mayer was born in Marbach, Germany. In 1752 he published tables of the Moon’s motion relative to the stars, which was accurate enough to enable ships at sea to determine their longitude.

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

1714, The British Government established a Board of Longitude, and offered a £20,000 prize to anyone who could devise a means of determining a ship’s longitude to within 30 miles after a 6 weeks voyage. A ship’s latitude could easily be established by determining the elevation of the Sun, but longitude was far harder. See 1736.

1687, The British Royal Navy introduced the daily rum ration for sailors (see 31/7/1970). Rum was longer-lasting than beer, which tended to go stale after a few weeks.

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.

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 tested a submarine in the Thames, London. However the water pressure caused the hull, made of wood covered in greased leather, to leak badly.

1573, Humphry Cole had invented the ships log, for keeping track of a ship’s movement with respect to the water.

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.

1481, The Portuguese had adapted the astrolabe (see Islam, 800 AD) for use in maritime navigation.

5, Earliest depiction of a ship#s rudder, in use in China.

595 BCE, Anarchis of Scythia is believed to have invented the anchor.

2500 BCE, Use of sails in the Aegean.

3250 BCE, Sails in use in Egypt.

4500 BCE, First use of sails, in Mesopotamia.


Appendix One –Speed records

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

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

1900, The voyage from Britain to Australia now averaged 42 days, down from 83 in 1850.

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

1860, The steamship route from Britain to India via the Cape of Good Hope took 94 days. A quicker, but considerably more expensive, option was the ‘overland’ route; London, Dover, Calais, Paris, Turin, Venice; then ship to Alexandria (Egypt), a total of 12 days travel, only 5 days sailing. From Alexandria, rail overland to Suez, from whence, steamship via the Red Sea to India, total travel time from London, to Mumbai 25 days, Madras 36 days, Kolkata 41 days.

1854, The US clipper James Baines sailed from London to Melbourne, Australia, in a record 63 days.

1853, The clipper ship Northern Light made a voyage from San Francisco via Cape Horn to Boston in the record time of 67 days 6 hours.

1852, The 2,856 ton SS Pacific became the first ship to cross the Atlantic, from New York to Liverpool, in less than 10 days.

1640, The average crossing time over the Atlantic Ocean from Britain to North America was 3 months.


Appendix Two – GB Canals (See also road traffic for loads feasible on a horse by road and water)

British Isles canal maps

1)      Scotland and Ireland

2)      Lancashire, Yorkshire and North Midlands

3)      South Midlands, Severn Valley and South Wales

4)      The Fens and East Anglia

5)      Southern England and South West

6)      Proposed Canals, 1795

1948, Britain’s canals were nationalised. Administration passed to the British Waterways Board.

1945, The Ulverston Canal closed.

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

1944, The Newport to Shrewsbury Canal closed.

1929, The Grantham Canal closed.

1921, The last commercial boat used the Huddersfield Narrow Canal Tunnel. Maintenance was suspended in 1944, and thereafter the roof tunnel became prone to rock falls. Restoration plans were made in the 1990s and the Tunnel reopened in 2001.

1914, The Wiltshire Canal closed.

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 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.

1891, Most of the Bude Canal closed, except for a short stretch near Bude itself.

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.

1850, The River Tyne Improvement Act was passed. The river was widened and deepened by dredging, which facilitated a rise in coal exports from the Tyne docks from 496,402 tons in 1859 to  5,273,588 tons in 1869.

1847, The Par Canal opened.

1842, The Chard Canal opened.

1845, The Gloucester and Hereford Canal reached Hereford; construction had begun from Gloucester in 1791.

1839, The Manchester and Salford Canal was opened.

1835, The Birmingham and Liverpool Canal was completed. Authorised in 1826, it is now known as the Shropshire Union Canal. This was the end of major canal development in Britain.

1834, Straightening work was completed on the Oxfordshire Canal (work began 1829), shortening it from 91 to 77.5 miles.

1833, The Glastonbury Canal opened. The link canal (Middlewich Branch) between Hurleston Junction (Chester Canal) and the Trent and Mersey Canal at Middlewich, authorised 1827, finally opened (see 1779). This link was made possible by an amalgamation of the Chester Canal company and the Trent and Mersey canal company  in 1813.

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

1830, The Hereford Canal opened.

12/8/1828, The Kensington Canal opened, from the Thames up to Earls Court where it connected with a railway to the north-west. It closed in 1860 and was converted to a railway which used its former course, then crossed the Thames to link to Clapham Junction.

1827, The Gloucester and Berkeley Canal opened. By 1827 the Birmingham Canal had been improved by levelling down to remove an old summit at Smethwick, eliminating locks and resulting in a cutting up to 71 feet deep. The Harecastle Tunnel on the Trent and Mersey Canal was doubled. The improvement of the River Yare Navigation to Norwich was authorised. It opened 1833 but was a financial failure.

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

1825, The Bude Canal opened.

14/10/1824, The Higham and Strood Canal Tunnels opened, completing the Thames and Medway Canal. From 1845 this canal tunnel was used for rail traffic.

5/1823, The Portsmouth and Arundel Canal opened in full (the Portsmouth secion had opened 9/1822). By 1824 local people were complaining that the canal had caused contamination of their wells with seawater.

1822, The Edinburgh and Glasgow Union Canal opened.

29/10/1822, The Caledonian Canal, Scotland, opened (construction began 1803).

1820, The Regents Canal, north London, opened. Construction began in 1812; the canal ran from Paddington to join the Thames at Limehouse. The Leigh Branch Canal opened, linking the Leeds and Liverpool canal to the Bridgewater Canal.

1819, The North Wiltshire and Sheffield Canals were completed. The Bude Canal was authorised, from Bude to Thornton and Launceston, It was intended for carrying sea sand inland for use as fertiliser.

1817, The Edinbiurgh and Glasgow Union Canal was authorised, 30 miles long, to connect Edinburgh with the Forth and Clyde Canal at Falkirk.

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

24/6/1817, The Tavistock Canal, linking Tavistock to the port at Morwelham, opened; construction had begun in 1803. However the boom in copper prices caused by the Napoleonic Wars had given way to a slump in prices, so the Devon copper mines this canal served were now less economic.

1816, The Leeds to Liverpool canal opened.

1815, The Northampton branch canal (off Grand Union) opened. It replaced a plateway that had opened in 1805.

1814, The Grand Union Canal opened in full. The Grand Western Canal (Loudwell to Tiverton) opened. Plans for extending it down to Exeter (see 1796) had been abandoned.

1813, The Aylesbury Branch Canal (off Grand Union) was completed. The Wey and Arun Canal was authorised.

1812, The Aberdare Canal opened, from Aberdare to Glamorgan.

4/4/1811, The Huddersfield Narrow Canal Pennines (authorised by Act of Parliament April 1794), opened to traffic (construction began 1794). The Glamorganshire Canal, S Wales, (authorised 1790) opened, also the branch from Abercynon to Aberdare.

1810, The Kennet and Avon Canal opened (authorised 1794). The stretch from Newbury to Hungerford opened in 1798. It could take half a day to traverse the lock ladder, 2 miles, near Devizes, and it took 36 hours to transport cotton by canal from Liverpool to Manchester. When the Liverpool to Manchester railway opened in 1830, canal transport rates were reduced from 15 to 10 shillings per ton. This canal closed in the 1950s but was reopened in 1990.

1809, The Croydon Canal opened. A branch canal opened to Market Harborough. Work began on the Grand Western Canal (authorised 1796). Work began on the Tiverton Branch first, to tap into an expected £10,000 per annum stone traffic from the Burlescombe quarries – in fact traffic here never exceeded £1,000 oer year. It would have been better to start at the Topsham or Taunton end, whoch would have generated a coal traffic as soon as a few miles were operational. Attempts to lower the Holcombe Rogus summit by 16 feet to save on loclss also resulted in much extra expenditure.

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

1804, The Rochdale Canal (authorised 1794) was completed. The Barnsley Canal opened. The Dearne and Dove Canal opened.

1802, The Nottingham Canal was opened.

1802, The Stratfotd on Avon Canal opened. This took further London-bound coal trade from the Netherton mines and nearby ironworks away from the Birmingham Canal, see Dudley Canal Tunnel 1785.

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

1801, The Grand Surrey Canal was authorised; intended to run from the Thames at Rotherhithe to Mitcham via Peckham, Camberwell and Kennington. Branches to Epsom and Croydon were also proposed. In fact it never opened further than Camberwell, which was reached in 1809. A later branch to Peckham was also built.

1800, The Grand Union (Grand Junction) Canal was opened through west London, to Uxbridge and on to Buckingham, except for a tunnel at Blisworth which had failed during construction. This tunnel was finally completed in 1805; until then a tramway connected the two parts of the canal. This was joined to the main Birmingham Canal in 1805. On 10//7/1801 a branch from Bulls Bridge was made into Paddington. In 1820 this branch was connected by the Regents Canal (authorised 1812) through to Limehouse. It facilitated good shipments from the industrial north and midlands to London just at a time when French pirates were making insurance rates heavy for coastal shipping along the south coast.

1800, The Peak Forest Canal opened.

1799, The Lancaster Canal (authorised 1792) opened. The Barnsley Canal opened.

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

1797, The Ashton and Shrewsbury Canals opened. The Leicestershire and Northamptonshore Union Canal, proposed to link Leicester with the River Nene at Northampton, 44 miles, was completed from Leicester to Dendale Wharf, 17 miles.

1796, The LuneAqueduct opened. The Grand Western Canal, intended to run through from Topsham near Exeter to Taunton in Somerset, was authorised. However work was delayed until 1809 because of uncertainties arising from the Napoleonic Wars. The Dorset and Domerset Canal was authorised, which would have run from Bath to the River Stour in Dorset. However the owners started work on the middle of the canal, building a section from Frome to the collieries at Nettlebridge. A start at either end would have been better. By 1803 money had been exhausted and 1.75 miles remained to be built; the canal could not raise any more funds, and it was abandoned. Further proposals for a canal across the south-west peninsula of England also failed, and the railways were soon to come.

1796, A canal branch from Pontcysyllte to Chester was authorised, but just 2.3 miles of branch canal near Wrexham was all that was ever built. By 1800 collieries had opened near Chester which obviated any nead to bring coal from the Pontcysyllte area. Instead the Ellesmere Canal was opened in 1805 from Framkton to Hurleston Junction on the Chester Canal.

11/1796, The Ulverston Canal opened.

1795, Cabins began to appear on British canal boats as journeys lengthened. Previously, crews had slept ashore at inns, with the horses stabled also at the inn or at local houses.

1795, The Wiltshire Canal, from Semingtoin on the River Kennet toAbingdon on the River Thames by way if Swindon (s small town , pre-railways) was authorised.

1794, The Basingstoke Canal opened (authorised 1778). It was useful for exporting the agricultiural produce of the area but the canal was never a success financially. The company had paid interest on loans out of capital before the canal opened, so it was always trying to catch up with debt and never issued a dividend on its shares. Hopes of extending the canal westwards were thwarted by the opening of the Kennet and Svon Canal; the proposed canal link from Basingstoke to the Kennet never materialised; and the end of the Napoleonic Wars meant goods from Portsmouth for London could safely use the coastal route round by Kent. The advent of the railways finally precipitated its closure.

1794, The Glamorgan Canal opened from Merthyr Tydfil to Cardiff. The Charnwood Canal, north Leictesrershire, opened. The Ashby de la Zouch Canal was authorised; it was intended as a 43 mile canal, with branches to the limeworks at Tickhill and Cloudhill. In the end, it ran for just 30 miles toMoira. The Swansea Canal and the Rochdale Canal were authorised.

1794, Work began on the Gloucester and Berkeley Ship Canal, starting from Gloucester. However by 1799 only some 5.5 miles had been cut as far as Hardwicke,and money had run out. The project was revived with the start of construction of Berkeley Docks on 15/7/1818. This was one canal that benefitted from the advent of the railways, as that meant more traffic coming toi Gloucester, and more international goods traffic from Berkeley.

1793, The Grantham Canal, Grantham to Nottingham, opened. Proposed canals from Brecon to Hay on Wye and Whitney, and from Abergevenny to Hereford, were dropped. A plan for a canal from the Leominster Canal via Ludlow and Bishops Castle to the Montgomeryshire Canal near Welshpool was also cancelled, due to cost of construction. The Dearne and Dove Canal was authorised. The Barnsley Canal was authorised.

1793, The Ellesmere Canal was authorised. The idea was to link the rivers Severn, Dee and Mersey. There was a branch to Weston, to which lime would be carried from the quarries at Llanymynech; from here the lime, as fertiliser, couold be carried by road to Shrewsbury, and a canal branch extension from Weston to Shrewsbury was eventually planned. The Grand Junction Canal was authorised, running from the Oxford canal at Braunston to thre River Thames at Brentford, 93.5 miles.

23/8/1793, Construction work began on the Ulverston Canal, Lancashire, a short 1.25 mile canal to link the town to the sea, which had receded from the town.

1792, The Ashton under Lyne Canal was authorised. The Wyrley and Essington Canal was authorised.

1791, The Gloucester to Hereford Canal and the Kington and Leominster to Stourport Canal were authorised. The Neath Canal and the Manchesterk, Bolton and Bury Canal were authorised. The Worcester and Birmingham Canal was authorised

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

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

1789, The Cromford Canal was authorised.

4/1789, The Sapperton Canal Tunnel  linking Stroud to the Thames, opened; construction had begun in 1784 (authorised 1783). The Thames and Severn Canal was now fully open. It had the major disadvantage of significant water losses through the oolite limestone country, in an area short of water supplies anyway.

1785, The Dudley canal tunnel was authorised, to connect the Dudley Canal with the Birmingam Canal at Tipton. However the owners of the Birmingham Canal saw this connection as a means of divertuing Severn-bound traffic from their route, which went up to Autherley (Aldersley) Junction at Wolverhampton, and managed to get a clause in the Worcester and Birmingham Canal Act that (ostensibly to conserve water) no connection was to be made; the ‘Worcester Bar’ was not pierced until 1815. The proprietors of the Dudley Canal now applied for authorisation to connect with the Worcester and Birmingham Canal at Selly Oak, by-passing Birmingham altogether via the Lappal Tunnel. Coal from the Netehrton mines would be able to reach points south east and north east of Birmingham without using the Birmingham Canal at all. The Lappal Tunnel opened in 1798. See also Stratford on Avon Canal, 1802.

1779, The Stroudwater Canal, linking Stroud, Gloucestershire, to the River Severn, opened, see 1730.

1779, The Chester Canal (authorised 1772) reached Nantwich. However the connection to Middlewich was not made for another fifty years (see 1833) because the Trent and Mersey Canal did not want an alternative route to the sea via the Rivers Dee or Weaver.

1778, The Oxford Canal opened from Banbury to Coventry. The Basingstoke Canal was authorised, although work was delayed by economic problems in the UK resulting from the American War of Independence.

1777, The Trent and Mersey Canal opened. Construction had begun near Burslem on 26/7/1766.

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. The Bridgewater Canal halved the price of coal in Manchester, from 7d per hundredweight to 3 ½ d, and also made uneconomic pits worthwhile. The Chester Canal was authorised.

30/9/1772, James Brindley, who built the Bridgewater, Grand Trunk (Grand Union), and Manchester Canals, died at Turnhurst in Staffordshire. The Grand Trunk Canal reduced freight rates between Manchester and Lichfield from £4 per ton to £1 per ton; canal toll and carrier’s charges amounted to around 2.5 d per ton-mile (£1.25 per ton-mile in 2015 prices)..

1769, The Birmingham Canal (authorised 1768) was completed, from Wednesbury to Birmingham. This caused the price of coal in Wednesbury to drop from 13 shillings a ton to 7 shillings a ton.

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 (see 1694).

1734, The River Irwell was made navigable up as far as Manchester, with 8 locks between Manchester and Warrington.

1733, The River Weaver was made navigable up to the Northwich salt fields.

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

1730, The Stroudwater Canal, from the River Severn to Stroud, was authorised. This was the first stage in connecting the Thames with the Severn. However it met strong opposition from the miilowners (who feared that water lost as noats passed through locks would take away theor source of power) that a stipulation was made that no boats were to pass between 14 August and 15 October without the mill owners’ consent. In fact no construction began and a second Act for this canal was passed in 1759. To placate the millowners, no locks were to be used; rather a crane would be employed at eac change of water level to transfer cargo between boats. The canal work began but an injunction stopped work and a third SAct had to be obtained in 1776. The Stroudwater Canal finally opened in 1779.

1726, The River Don was made navigable as far up as Tinsley (3 miles below Sheffield). The project to make the Don navigable had been proposed by Sheffield cutlery firms back in 1697, but was opposed and delayed for a while by Bawtry merchants who would lose if trade was diverted away from the River Idle / River Trent route.

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

1705, The improvement of the River Stour Navigation up to Sudbiury was autrhorised.

1698, An Act of Parliament sanctioned the improvement for navigation of the River Aire and River Calder. York traders feared a diversion of trade from their own river, the River Ouse.

1694, An Act of Parliament authorised the making of the River Mersey navigable as far up as Sankey (see 1734, 1757).

1571, An Act of Parliament sanctioned the City of London to finance the improvement of the River Lea. This enabled more and cheaper food to reach London.

1564, The Exeter Canal, 4 miles, opened; the frst in Britain to use double locks.


Appendix Three – Non-GB Canals (see below for specific countries)

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.

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.

6/8/1912, U.S. President Taft asked Congress to fix maximum tolls for the Panama Canal.

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

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

19/4/1850, The Clayton-Bulwer Treaty between the USA and UK was signed. It was an agreement on the terms for building a canal across central America; under this treaty, neither party would exercise exclusive control over such a canal or fortify it.

1832, The Gota Canal, Sweden, 400 km, opened.

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.

520 BCE, The Persian Emperor Darius I dug a canal between the Nile and the Red Sea.

609 BCE, Construction began on a new canal from the Nile to the Red Sea. Begun by Pharaoh Necho, it was never completed, but cost the lives of more than 120,000 men.

1380 BCE, A canal was constructed by Pharaoh Amenhotep III from the Nile to the Red Sea using slave labour (see 609 BCE).


1939, The Albert Canal, Belgium, was completed (construction began 1930), It was built to link industrial Liege with the port of Antwerp; also as part of Belgium’s defences.

1832, The Charleroi to Brussels Canal was completed.

1827, The Terneuzen to Ghent Canal, 18km, opened, linking the city of Ghent to Terneuzen on the Scheldt Estuary.


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

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

1856, The Wabash and Erie Canal opened after 24 years of construction. Cholera, and money losses to embezzlers, had plagued the project. However after 4 years the section below Terre Haute closed, and the rest was shut down in 1874, was railways made the canals obsolete.


65, The Grand Canal of China, which eventually grew to a length of 1,770 km, was started. It was completed in 1327, and connected Beijing to the Yangtze River.

In 983, the provincial transportation commissioner Chaio Wei-Yo built the first recorded chamber or pound lock in the world, on the Grand Canal. This was a chamber where the water level can be gradually raised or lowered; so-called flash locks had been in use for centuries. One side-benefoit of the piund lock was that boats goinf upstream need no longer be dragged up an incline; many boats broke up during this process, and corwds would gather, hopignfor this so they could rush in and stealk the cargo. Poind locks did not appear in the West until the 14th century.


1933, The canal between Marseilles and Arles opened.

1836, The Oise Canal was completed.

1832, The Canal Monsieur, linking the Rhone and the Rhine, was completed.

1810, The St Quentin Canal, between the Somme and the Scheldt, was completed (work had begun in 1803).

1681, The Canal du Midi, France, was completed, 214 km long, linking the Bay of Biscay with the Mediterranean. The project was authorised 10/1666.

1642, Loire – Seine Briare Canal completed (begun 1604).


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

1916, The Weser-Elbe Canal opened.

1915, The Ems-Weser Canal opened.

1914, The Rhine-Herne Canal opened.

1900, The Elbe and Trave Canal, Germany, 70 km, opened.

1899, The Dortmund-Ems Canal was completed.

19/6/1895. The 61-mile Kiel Canal between the Baltic and North Sea, 98 km, was opened by German Emperor Wilhelm II. Construction began in 6/1887.

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

1858, The Berlin-Spandau Ship Canal opened (work began 1849).

1850, The Landwehr and Louisenstadt Canal opened (work began 1845).

1838, The Oranienburg Canal was opened (work began 1831).

1806, The Klodnitz Canal, linking the Upper Silesian coalfields with the Oder, was completed,

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

1766, The Fehrbellin Canal was completed,

1742, Construction of the Elbe – Havel canal began.

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


1939, The Newry Canal closed.

1931, The Strabane Canal closed.

1929, The Ulster Canal closed.

1858, The Ballinamore and Ballyconnel Canal opened (construction began 1846).

1805, The Grand Canal finally opened. It had initially been authorised in 1715.

1796, The Strabane Canal, from Strabane to the River Foyle, 4 miles,opened.

1795, work began on the Lower Boyne Canal, from Drogheda to Slane. By 1800 this canal had reached Navan. One mile of a proposed extension up to Trim was also cut before being abandoned.

1/1/1794, The Laggan Navigation opened; it was authorised under an Act of 1753; construction began in 1756. The lower section up to Lisburn opened in 1765 but work halted, due to flooding risks and lack of funds. Work recommenced in 1782 and the link up to Lough Neagh was completed on 1/1/1794.

1759, The Barrow Canal, partly river navigation, was commenced.

1742, The Newry Canal, from Lough Neagh southwards to Newry, 35 miles, opened, facilitating coal shipments to Dublin,, Construction had begun in 1731.


1935, The Princess Juliana Canal, Netherlands, 33 km, opened.

8/3/1865, Construction of the Amsterdam – North Sea Canal began (30 km). It opened in 1876.

1825, The North Holland Canal, Amsterdam to Helder, opened.


1855, The Sault-Saint-Marie (Soo) Ship Canal opened, linking Chicago to the large iron ore deposits of northern Michigan.

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

1834, The Delaware and Raritan Canal opened, 72 km from New Brunswick, New Jersey, to Bordentown, Pennsylvania.

1831, The Morris Canal, 163 km, opened between Newark, New Jersey, and Easton, Pennsylvania; it mainly carried coal.

1828, The Delaware and Hudson Canal, 98km, opened between Kingston (New York) and Port Jervis on the Delaware River, where it connected to the 81 km Lackwanna Canal to Honesdale, Pennsylvania.

1828, The Welland Sea Canal opened, connecting Lake Erie with Lake Ontario and enabling shipping to avoid the Niagara Falls.

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.

4/7/1817, Construction work began on the Erie Canal; actually called the New York State Barge Canal.  The canal opened on 26/10/1825.


1964, The Volga-Baltic Ship Canal opened, 850 km, to link Leningrad to the Caspian Sea,

31/5/1952, The Volga – Don Canal was opened (105 km).

1937, In the USSR, the Moscow-Volga Ship Canal, 130km,opened, linking Moscow to the River Volga.

21/8/1933, In the USSR, the White Sea Canal opened. It was built mostly with forced labour.


Appendix Four – Docks (London Docks) (South Wales Docks)

1993, The last Cammell-Laird shipbuilding yard at Liverpool closed.

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

1978, Plans for a container dock at Portbury were rejected by the UK Government. However a smaller scale dock was completed this year by the Port Authority.

1933, King George V opened, in Southampton, what was then the world’s largest dry dock.

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

1929, New Tilbury Dock, London, opened.

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

11/7/1913, Liverpool’s Gladstone Dock was opened by King George V.

11/7/1912, Immingham Docks, Lincolnshire, were opened by King George V. Construction,  by the Great Central Railway Company, had begun in 1906.

23/11/1909, The New Kings Dock at Swansea opened.

9/7/1908, The Royal Edward Dock, Avonmouth, Bristol opened.

1907, Cardiff’s South Bute Dock, 50.5 acres, opened; it was capable of handling the largest vessels then built.

20/7/1904, The new Kings Dock at Swansea was inaugurated.

1892, The Albert Edward Dock, Preston, Lancashire, 40 acres, opened.

18/7/1889, Barry Docks, S Wales, opened. Construction had begun in 11/1884, as colliery owners in the South Wales Vallesy sought an alternative export route for their coal to Cardiff Docks.

1887, Roath Dock, Cardiff, 33 acres, opened. Felixtowe tidal dock opened.

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

1883, Dock facilities at Parkeston Quay, Harwich, were expanded as trade with Holland grew.

1882, The East and West India Docks Company (London) secured permission to purchase 450 acres of Thames marshland a Tilbury and build a 75 acre dock there. They were secretly in co-operation with the London Tilbury and Southend Railway, which was to build a line to serve these docks. The Tilbury Docks opened in 1886.

1880, London’s Royal Albert Dock opened.

1879, Portishead Docks, Bristol, opened.

1877, Fleetwood Docks (Lancashire) opened in 1877, with capital provided by the railways. The fish trade was significant from here, and the railways were credited with reducing the price of fish in Manchester by almost 90%.

24/2/1877, Avonmouth Docks, Bristol, opened.

1874, Roath Basin Docks, Cardiff, opened, 12 acres.

14/3/1868, London’s Milwall Docks opened.

1867, The Devonshire Dock at Barrow in Furness opened. This was the first of four docks there. The second was the Buccleuch Dock, opened 1873.

1855, London’s Royal Victoria Docks opened, on the Plaistow marshes. It was specifically designed to cope with the new generation of steamships.

1852, Swansea Docks opened. Victoria Dock, Leith, opened.

1850, Victoria Docks, Hull, opened.

1847, Wallasey Pool Docks, Birkenhead,opened.

1844, Newport, Wales, Docks opened.

1842, Ipswich wet dock opened.

1839, Cardiff West Bute Dock opened (19.5 acres, constructed by the 2nd Marquess of Bute). East Bute Dock, 46.25 acres, opened in 1855. Increasing coal traffic from the Valleys was necessitating rapid expansion of the port facilities.

1829, West India South Docks, London, opened.

1828, Llanelli Docks opened.

25/10/1828, London’s St Katharine Docks opened. 1,250 houses, 11,300 people,and the old St Katharine Hospital had been cleared (foundation stone laid on 3/5/1827) to make way for the Docks.

3/5/1827, The foundation stone for St Katharine Dock, London, was laid, see 25/10.1828.

15/7/1818, Work began on the construction of Berkeley Docks, Gloucestershire.

1809, Bristol Docks opened.

1807, Surrey Docks, London, opened.

4/8/1806, London’s East India Docks opened.

4/3/1805, The foundation stone of London’s East India Docks was laid.

20/1/1805, London docks opened.

1802, London’s West India Docks opened.

1798, Cardiff’s first dock was constructed (12 acres) at the terminus of the Glamorgan Canal.

1778, In Hull the Queens Dock, or Old Dock, opened. The site is now occupied by Queens Gardens.

1160, The estuary of the River Hull, where it enters the Humber, was being used as a port.


Appendix Five – Lighthouses

1902, The Bass Rock lighthouse began operating.

1886, The Ailsa Craig lighthouse, near Girvan, Scotland, began operating.

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

1/2/1811, The Inchcape Lighthouse was first lit.

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

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

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

1514, Trinity House, the principal lighthouse and pilotage authority on Britain, was granted a Charter by King Henry VIII; Trinity House was already an important body by then.

283 BCE, The Pharos (lighthouse) at Alexandria was built. Its fire at the top of a 600-foot tower burned for 1,500 years, and could be seen over thirty miles out at sea.


Section A – Titanic

11/6/1992, The last survivor of the Titanic disaster, Marjorie Robb, died in Boston, USA, aged 103.

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.

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.

19/4/1912, The U.S. Hydrographic Office and representatives of the steamship lines agreed that the winter time course of ships would be 270 miles south of the course taken by the Titanic, adding between 9 and 14 hours to the trip. The new route would be 3,080 miles rather than 2,858 miles.

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.

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

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’.


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