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Four Interesting Facts About the History of Boats

The oldest known watercraft in the world is the Pesse canoe, believed to be constructed by an ancient Norse society during the Mesolithic period between 8040 and 7510 BCE! Despite its basic design, the Pesse canoe passed various tests proving its functional abilities and flotation capabilities. Read on to learn four more interesting facts about the history of boats.

“Knots” Is Literal

Any boating enthusiast knows that a ship’s speed is measured in knots or nautical miles rather than miles per hour. However, many of the same individuals don’t understand that the word knots refers to a literal measurement technique from the 17th century. Ships of this era would tow knotted ropes from their moving boats, along with a floating object (typically a common log), and calculate how much time it took for the thing to travel between the equally-spaced knots. From there, seamen could semi-accurately determine their speed. Luckily, modern boats boast superior features and technologies that provide precise speed and navigation data for operators.

Marine Travel Created Quarantine

The word quarantine originates from the Italian words quaranta giorni, which translates to 40 days. Dating back to the 14th century, Italian ports would force foreign seamen to remain aboard their boats for 40 full days before granting them access to the mainland. Similar to our modern-day quarantines, this protocol reduced the introduction and spread of disease throughout the Italian population. In-home quarantines as a response to community illness outbreaks became more popular around the late 1800s. Before then, quarantine was almost exclusive to marine travel!

The Story of Chunosuke Matsuyama

The story of Japanese seaman Chunosuke Matsuyama highlights humanity’s indescribable yet ultra-romantic interest in exploring vast bodies of water. Matsuyama set sail for buried treasure in 1784, with his eyes set on an unnamed Pacific landform. Unfortunately, Matsuyama and his crew of 43 others were blown off-course and into a reef.

He and his remaining crew took refuge on a nearby island but quickly ran out of food and water. Matsuyama recorded his experience on coconut tree wood planks and placed his story into a bottle before perishing alongside his crew. A Japanese collector claimed he found Matsuyama’s bottle 151 years later, in 1935. Most interesting of all, the bottle washed up near Hiraturemura, Matsuyama’s place of birth!

Dutch Detection Avoidance

The HNLMS Abraham Crijnssen is a Jan van Amestel-class minesweeper that fought in WWII for the Netherlands and the Allies. It’s most known for being the only ship of its class to evade detection by Japanese ships or aircraft and successfully escape Japanese-monitored Australian waters. How did this significantly underdefended, vulnerable minesweeper survive almost certain annihilation in the Java region?

The crew collected jungle foliage from nearby islands and created a vegetation canopy over their ship, creating the illusion of a tiny, tropical island. The hull was even painted to resemble coastlines, rocks, and natural cliffs. Ultimately, this make-shift camouflage technique proved successful. The Abraham Crijnssen is currently cared for by the Dutch Navy Museum in Den Helder, where it boasts its retrofitted wartime configuration.

Learning certain interesting facts about the history of boats reinforces their importance to humanity’s survival (and enjoyment). Thankfully, advanced technologies and construction practices make water travel safer today than ever in human history!

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Written by Logan Voss

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