Chronography of Sea Transport, Docks and Lighthouses

Page last modified 26 September 2023


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For inland river and canal transport click here


See Egypt for events relating to Suez Canal


Real time, marine traffic, also


Speed records � See Appendix 1 below

Docks � See Appendix 4 below

Lighthouses- See Appendix 5 below


Titanic � see section A below


British dockworkers


Workers, 000s








17 March 2022, The ferry company P&O sacked 800 staff by video call and replaced them with staff paid just �1.80 an hour.Few days later after widespread outrage, P&O offered a compensation package to sacked workers.

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

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

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

2 February 2006, The oil tanker Seabulk Pride, carrying 100,000 barrels of oil, ran aground in the port of Nikiski, Alaska.

21 August 2005, Kenneth Swan, founder of the Swan Hellenic sea cruise company, died (born 3 April 1919)

19 November 2002, Prestige, a tanker carrying 70,000 tons of fuel, broke up and sank NW of Spain, causing major environmental damage.

25 June 1997, Jacques Cousteau, French underwater explorer, died.

28 September 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 April 1987. Ferry operators had been slow to follow recommendations for watertight bulkhead doors on the car deck.

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

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

4 August 1991, The Greek luxury liner Oceanos sank off the coast of South Africa. The crew abandoned the passengers, however all 571people on board were still rescued.

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

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

27 February 1990, Exxon was indicted on 5 criminal counts following the Exxon Valdez oil spill disaster.

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

6 April 1989, The UK Government announced it was to abolish the �job for life� guarantee to all dockworkers.

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

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

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

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

6 March 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.

1983, In the UK, Associated British Ports was privatised.

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

17 September 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 July 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 January 1979, The French oil tanker Betelgeuse exploded in Bantry Bay, west Ireland, killing 49 people.

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

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

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

15 March 1975, Aristotle Onassis, Greek shipping magnate and Olympic Airways operator, second husband of Jacqueline Kennedy, died.

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

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

9 January 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 August 1971, British sailor Chay Blyth became the first person to sail single-handed east to west around the world.

14 June 1971, The UK Government said no public money would be provided to save Upper Clyde shipbuilders from liquidation. 4,000 jobs were at risk, and employees planned a �work-in�.

11 February 1971, The UK, USA, USSR and other nations signed the Seabed Treaty, outlawing the use of nuclear weapons in international waters.

31 July 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�.


Thor Heyerdahl�s voyages

18 April 2002, Thor Heyerdahl died.

12 July 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.

25 May 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.

7 August 1947, After a voyage of 101 days and 7,000km, Thor Heyerdahl smashed his balsawood raft Kon Tiki onto a reef at Raroia, provoing that the peoples of South America could have settled the Polynesian Islands.

27 April 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.

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


23 June 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 February 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 November 1969, The owners of the Torrey Canyon agreed to pay �1.5 million compensation to Britain and France.

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

15 November 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 August 1968. The Princess Margaret inaugurated the hovercraft service between Dover and Boulogne.

4 February 1968. The world�s largest hovercraft, 165 tonnes, was launched at Cowes.

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

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

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

16 September 1966, Britain�s first Polaris nuclear submarine, the Resolution, was launched by the Queen Mother.

3 September 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 August 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 May 1967.

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

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

23 December 1964, The Greek liner Lakonia caught fire whilst cruising 300 miles off Madeira with 1,020 people on board. She was taken in tow by two tugs, but then keeled over and sank. 132 lives were lost.

17 April 1963, The Royal Navy�s first nuclear powered submarine, Dreadnought, was commissioned.

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

21 August 1962, Savannah, the world�s first nuclear-powered merchant ship, began her maiden voyage.

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

20 September 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 October 1960. Britain�s first nuclear-powered submarine, Dreadnought, was launched at Barrow in Furness.

24 September 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 February 1960, USS Triton nuclear submarine began her round the world voyage, the first such vessel to undertake this journey.

23 January 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 December 1959, The first atomic ice-breaker, The Lenin, started operating.

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

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

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

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

1958, The term containerised, for cargo packed in containers that could be transferred directly between ships and lorries without handling the cargo, came into use.

5 August 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 July 1958 and sailed through the Bering Strait, passing the North Pole on 3 August 1958, emerging near Greenland on 5 August 1958. The Nautilus was decommissioned in 1980 to become a floating museum.

23 May 1958, Christopher Cockerell patented the hovercraft.

25 July 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 December 1955, Christopher Cockerell patented his prototype of the hovercraft.

30 July 1948, The world�s first radar station designed to assist shipping was opened at Liverpool, UK.

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

21 October 1941, The hull of Britain�s last, and largest ever, battleship HMS Vanguard, was laid at Clydebank.She was launched on 30 November 1944.

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

27 September 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 June 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.

29 May 1935, The luxury ocean liner Normandie began her maiden voyage.

26 September 1934. The liner Queen Mary was launched at John Brown�s yard in Clydebank, Glasgow.

15 August 1934, US diver Otis Barton and naturalist Charles Beebe achieved a record dive depth of 923 metres in a bathysphere.

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

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

28 July 1922, Jacques Picard, undersea explorer, was born.

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

1921, First use of the term supertanker, referring to the 18,000 ton San Florentino. In 2000, a �supertanker� denoted a vessel of 275,000 tonne capacity.

3 April 1919, Kenneth Swan, founder of the Swan Hellenic sea cruise company, was born (died 21 August 2005)

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

7 May 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 May 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 February 1915. Shackleton�s ship Endurance became stuck in pack ice.

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

15 December 1913, The world�s biggest battlecruiser, HMS Tiger, was launched in Glasgow.

14 October 1913, The world�s first oil-powered battleship, HMS Queen Elizabeth, was launched.

4 October 1912, 14 died on board the British submarine B2, after it collided with the German liner Amerika.

13 December 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 June 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 February 1911, HMS Thunderer, the last battleship to be built on the Thames, was launched from the old Thames Ironworks at Silvertown.

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

17 June 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 June 1910, Jacques Cousteau, French underwater explorer who invented the aqualung, was born in Saint Andre, Gironde, France.

1909, The term �bulk carrier� was first used for a ship carrying large amounts of cargo. In 1900 the term �tanker� was in use for ships carrying large amounts of liquid cargo, and the term �oil tanker� appeared by 1920.

13 December 1909, Sir Alfred Jones, British ship owner, died (born 1845).

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.

4 December 1908, The world�s leading ten maritime nations metfor a Naval Conference in London (until 26 February 1909). They agreed on rules for blockade, convoys and seizure of contraband; however not all nations ratified the agreement.

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

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

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

7 March 1908, Germany launched its first Dreadnought battleship.

13 December 1907, The liner Mauretania ran aground at Liverpool.

13 September 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 December 1906, The first radio programme aimed at seamen was broadcast from the US coast.

14 December 1906. The German Navy acquired its first submarine, the U1.


SOS established as distress call

10 June 1909, The SOS distress signal was used for the first time, when the Cunard liner Slavonia was wrecked off the Azores.

3 October 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. See 7 January 1904.

7 January 1904, Marconi International Marine Communications Company introduced a distress signal, CDQ, based on the general call code CQ. See 3 October 1906.


20 September 1906, The Mauretania, Atlantic passenger liner, was launched.

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

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

20 January 1906, Aristotle Onassis, Greek shipping tycoon, was born in Smyrna, Turkey.

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

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

1904, Ships began to use radio signals to navigate.

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

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

11 July 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 � 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 October 1901. Vickers launched the British Navy�s first submarine. HMS Holland I, 105 tons, was designed for coastal duties. Earlier submarine designs had been tried, but the idea did not work until metal could be used for ships hulls, Now all major world powers had submarines, setting the scene for future underwater warfare. The idea was dismissed as �underhand, underwater, and damned un-English� by Admiral Sir Arthur Wilson. The petrol engine was dangerous; later submarines used diesel engines. Mice were kept on board, to give warning of dangerous levels of petrol fumes. 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 June 1901, The liner Lucania was used for trials of wireless telegraphy at sea.

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

11 April 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.

3 January 1900, The new British Royal Yacht, Victoria and Albert, keeled over whilst leaving Pembroke Dock, blocking the entrance.

27 October 1899, Edward Berthon, English naval inventor, died (born in London 20 February 1813).

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

27 June 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 various 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 June 1898, Samuel Plimsoll, who devised the Plimsoll Line for the safe loading of ships, died in Folkestone, Kent.

4 November 1894. First turbine ship launched.

28 October 1893, The British Royal Navy�s first destroyer, HMS Havoc, underwent sea trials.

17 March 1891, The British battleship Amson collided with the passenger ship Utopia in the Bay of Gibraltar during a storm. The Utopia was taking Italian migrants to the USA, and 576 of her passengers and crew drowned.

2 June 1890, Sir George Burns, operator of the Cunard Line from 1838, died (born 10 December 1795).

1 November 1884. Lloyds Register of Shipping was first published.

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

8 June 1882, John Scott Russell, marine engineer, died in Ventnor, Isle of Wight (born 1808 near Glasgow).

29 July 1877, William Beebe, marine engineer, was born

1 January 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 December .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 August 1867, James Gordon became the first person to cross the English Channel by canoe, taking 11 hours to travel from Boulogne to Dover.

28 April 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 December 1861, Danube Navigation Commission formed.

29 December 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 June 1860, The ocean liner Great Eastern, 692 feet long, designed by Brunel and Russell, began her first transatlantic voyage.

3 May 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 January 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 August 1852, The first steamship arrived in Australia, from England.

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

17 February 1846, The coal ship Rocket was wrecked off St Helena.

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 July 1845. Brunel�s 320 foot iron ship, the Great Britain, left Liverpool on her maiden voyage, to New York.

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

19 July 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 October 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 November 1841, Napoleon Guerin, of New York, patented the first life-jacket; it was filled with cork.

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

7 September 1838, The celebrated rescue by William and Grace Darling, lighthouse keepers of the Farne islands Lighthouse, of the crew of the Forfarshire.

22 April 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 April 1838.

19 July 1837, Brunel�s 236-foot Great Western was launched at Patterson�s Yard, Bristol.

7 January 1837, Thomas Ismay, British shipowner, was born (died 23 November 1899).

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

26 February 1836, The ship Thetis was driven ashore and wrecked in Pemssylvania.

20 February 1836, The ship Nimble was driven ashore at Grimsby, Lincolnshire.


Lifeboat invented

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

30 January 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.

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


9 May 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.

17 September 1825, Sir Donald Currie, English shipowner, was born (died 13 April 1909).

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

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

3 November 1822, Sir Charles Mark Palmer, English shipbuilder, was born in South Shields (died 4 June 1907 in London)


Development of steampower

8 April 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 April 1838 and arrived at Sandy Hook, New York on 22 April 1838.

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

20 June 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 May 1819. She was the first ship to cross the Atlantic by steam power.

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

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

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

1 February 1788, Isaac Briggs and William Longstreet patented the steamboat.

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


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

24 November 1815, Grace Darling, heroine of the shipwreck rescue of the crew of the Forfarshire on 7 September 1838, was born (died 20 October 1842).

24 February 1815, Robert Fulton, American engineer and ship and submarine designer, died

20 February 1813, Edward Berthon, English naval inventor, was born in London (died 27 October 1899).

14 January 1806, Matthew Fontaine Maury, US naval officer and a founder of oceanography, was born in Spottsylvania County, Virginia (died 1873)

31 July 1803, John Ericsson, Swedish naval engineer, was born (died 8 March 1889).

4 November 1797, US Congress agreed to pay an annual �anti-piracy� tribute to Tripoli.


Cunard Line

1849, Cunard ships could cross the Atlantic in 9 � to 10 days, averaging some 13 knots, using steam but also sail when the wind was right.

4 July 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. Scheduled Atlantic crossing times were 11 days 4 hours Liverpool to Halifax Nova Sscotia, and 14 days 8 hours to Boston Massachusetts.

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

10 December 1795, Sir George Burns, operator of the Cunard Line from 1838, was born (died 2 June 1890).

21 November 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.


Mutiny on the Bounty

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

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

14 June 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 April 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 June 1789. Captain Bligh, born 1754, died on 7 December 1817 in London . His severe discipline on board had provoked the mutiny. The mutineers settled on Pitcairn Island.

17 December 1787, HMS Bounty, commended by William Bligh, set sail from for the South Seas.


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

29 August 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 May 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 September 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 November 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.

1760, Lloyds Register of Shipping was started.

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

24 May 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.

21 January 1743, John Fitch, US pioneer of steam navigation, was born (died 2 July 1798).

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 February 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 November 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.

1702, The three-mile territorial offshore rule was esatablished by Dutch jurist Cornelius van Bynkershoek.

9 July 1701, William Kidd, pirate, was hangedhe had been seized at Boston, USA, in 1699.

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

22 December 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 February 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 September 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 April 1521. Indigenous inhabitants on the island of Mactan, Philippines, killed the Portuguese navigator Ferdinand Magellan. He was on a voyage around the world.

7 April 1521, Ferdinand Magellan arrived at Cebu.

28 November 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 September 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 November 1520 Magellan discovered a strait at the southern tip of South America and entered the Pacific. Magellan was killed on 27 April 1521 by natives of the Philippines. Magellan�s ship, the Vittoria, arrived alone in San Lucar, Spain, on 6 September 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.


1514, Trinity House was founded, when King Henry VIII of England granted a Royal Charter to a fraternity of mariners called The Guild of the Holy Trinity, to �regulate the pilotage of ships in the King�s streams�. At thois time the Guild owned a Great Hall, and almhsouses, at Deptford, just downstream on the Thames from London.

1241, Hanseatic League ships now employed rudders, an improvement on using oars for steering.

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

8 October 1978, Australia�s Ken Warby set a new world water speed record of 317.627 mph in The Spirit of Australia at BloweringDam, Australia.

4 January 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.

31 December 1964, Donald Campbell set a new water speed record of 276.33 mph (444.71 kph) in his speedboat Bluebird in Perth, Western Australia.

21 July 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 July 1959. Donald Campbell broke the world water speed record on Ullswater when hereached 202.32mph in Bluebird.

7 July 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 July 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 June 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 October 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 March 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 Four � Docks (London Docks) (South Wales Docks)

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

17 September 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 July 1931, The King George V Dock, Glasgow, opened.

1929, New Tilbury Dock, London, opened.

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

11 July 1913, Liverpool�s Gladstone Dock was opened by King George V.

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

23 November 1909, The New Kings Dock at Swansea opened.

9 July 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.

1904, Heysham Docks Lancashire were opened by the Midland Railway Company, offering a daily ferry service to Ireland. There was also a major agricultural trade from Ireland.

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

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

18 July 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 February 1877, Avonmouth Docks, Bristol, opened.

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

9/1873, Holyhead Harbour of Refuge, Anglesey, Wales, opened (construction began 1847).

14 March 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.

1854, The Great Central Railway completed its land relamation and docks construction at Grimsby (works began 1849).

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

1850, Victoria Docks, Hull, opened.

1846, Albert Docks, Liverpool 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 October 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 May 1827) to make way for the Docks. Designed by Thomas Telford, it made the best use of limited space by having warehouses close to the water for cargo transfer.

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

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

1809, Bristol Docks opened.

1807, Surrey Docks, London, opened.

4 August 1806, London�s East India Docks opened.

4 March 1805, The foundation stone of London�s East India Docks was laid.

20 January 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.

7 April 1496, The first dry dock opened at Portsmouth.

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


Appendix Five � Lighthouses

27 June 1904, The second Fastnet Lighthouse came into service in SW Ireland.

1902, The Bass Rock lighthouse began operating.

1900, The British Admiralty now listed some 9,424 lighthouses worldwide, up from 1,570 in 1850. By 1960 there were around 30,000 lighthouses worldwide.

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

18 May 1882, The present Eddystone Lighthouse, the 4th on the site, built by Sir James Douglas (1826-98) was opened.

1821, Sumburgh Lighthouse, Shetlands, was built.

1 February 1811, The Inchcape Lighthouse was first lit.

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

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

8 October 1759. The third Eddystone Lighthouse was completed (see 1708). This was made of dovetailed stone blocks, and became the bstandard of construction. It lasted for over a centiury, until the rocks below it began to crumble.

8 June 1724, John Smeaton, who designed the Eddystone Lighthouse, was born near Leeds (died 28 October 1792 in Austhorpe near Leeds)

1708, The second Eddystone Lighthouse, made of wood and iron, was completed (see 1699). This burnt down in 1755. See 8 October 1759.

1699, The first Eddystone Lighthouse, made of wood, was completed (begun 1696). It was destroyed in a storm in 1703 and its crew drowned., see 1708.

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.

250, The Chinese developed fore and aft sails, enabling ships to sell far into windward. This was then impossible for the square-sailed Europesn ships.

50 BCE, The Chinese developed the stern post rudder, which was not used in Europe until 1180.

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

18 June 2023, A small deep sea submarine taking 5 tourists to the sea floor 12,000 feet down to see the wreck of the Titanic imploded under pressure, instantly killing all aboard.

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

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

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

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

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

2 May 1912, The inquiry into the sinking of the Titanic opened in London.

24 April 1912, A shortage of lifeboats was blamed for the high casualty rate when the Titanic sank.

19 April 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 April 1912, The liner Carpathia arrived in New York, carrying survivors of the Titanic disaster.

15 April 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 April 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 openfive 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 May 1911. The Titanic was launched at the Harland and Wolff shipyard in Belfast.

20 October 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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