For thousands of years men have been exploring the world through sea voyages, and a lot of them have done it in the most crazy way! Check out some of the historic sea voyage.
British polar explorer Ernest Shackleton had some of the most incredible sea journeys under extreme circumstances.
In December 1914, Shackleton and his 27-man crew boarded the ship Endurance for a South Pole expedition. The ship however, was trapped in pack ice during their journey and the crew escaped before the ship was totally crushed by ice. In November 1915 Endurance began to sink and thus the crew had to abandon it. They took one of the ship’s lifeboats with them and set off for a gruelling and nerve-wracking voyage where they faced storms, seasickness and passed killer whales. They reached Elephant Island and then landed on the more inhabited South Georgia to wait for a rescue ship.
Twenty-two months after the Endurance embarked, Shackleton returned to Elephant Island to rescue his men. Miraculously, all of them were surviving.
In 1776, British explorer James Cook and his crew had a mission to navigate towards the fabled Northern Passage. They headed to the western coast of what is now Canada, but sea ice blocked their way and attempts to sail the Arctic now rendered impossible.
In 1779 they sailed down south, landing in Hawaii. Their arrival coincided with the Islanders’ ongoing religious ritual, so the islanders who saw the ships coming considered Cook and his men as Gods. At first, the natives were welcoming. But that soon soured when his ship’s mast broke and Cook sailed back to Hawaii for repairs. An intense clash over a missing boat arose, and the natives stabbed Cook to death on the beach.
No, it wasn’t Christopher Columbus who “first discovered” North America, but Icelandic explorer Leif Ericson did it many centuries back. Ericson is credited for being the first known European to have discovered North America. He and his 35-man crew set off for an extensive sail west of his homeland Greenland.
After venturing further on the sea, the Vikings landed on what is thought to be Labrador, Newfoundland, and then Vinland, where there were plentiful salmon and wild grapes. After staying in Vinland one winter, Ericson sailed back to Greenland, bringing home a great bounty. They made return voyages there, but they were driven by the Vinland natives, thus preventing permanent settlement.
This was the time when spices were regarded as a prestigious commodity as they used to be so hard to get. By the time the Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan left Spain in 1519 with his fleet of five ships and 277 men, he hoped to make his route to India for the trade of spices.
Like all voyages, here too storms and mutinies downed a couple of ships, and in November the three remaining vessels sailed in the Pacific Ocean, where they would be stranded for weeks. Provisions ran out and the crew members were suffering scurvy.
Eventually, in 1521 Magellan and his men reached the Philippines, which they thought was the Spice Islands. Magellan didn’t find any spice there, but soon he was trying to convert the natives to Christianity. When the chief of the islands resisted, Magellan chose to convert them by force. A battle followed, where the Spaniards were easily defeated and Magellan was speared to death.
The crew members sailed back to Spain, although only 18 men and one boat safely returned.
English rower Roz Savage became the first woman to row solo across the Atlantic Ocean, in 2005. In 2007 she also became the first woman to sail solo across the Pacific Ocean and in the Indian Ocean in 2011. Her feats, not surprisingly, have landed on the Guinness World Records for ocean rowing. Up till now, she has lived more than 500 days at the sea and rowed over 15,000 miles. She is also the author of Three Peaks in Peru and shot a documentary television series by the name A Little Silver Boat in a Big Silver Sea.
The Pacific Migration
Some tens of thousands of years ago, our ancestors had sailed to Australia and were starting to colonize the rest of the Pacific. They did these risky oceanic journeys using the most primitive vessels such as wooden rafts and dugout canoes.
On the other hand, fossils have suggested that the Polynesian sailors reached the part of South America, some 1,300 years before the Europeans “discovered” it.
The voyage of the Hunley
The Confederate submarine CSS Hunley‘s short life and active service was both success in a way and obviously a tragedy. On February 17, 1864, she attacked the Union sloop USS Housatonic, thus becoming the first war submarine to sink an enemy warship.
Before this though, Hunley was released for her first and only combat test. The preliminary testing led to a tragic sinking which left all 13 crew members, including its inventor H.L. Hunley, dead.
Hunley, after downing the Housatonic, sank for the third and final time that evening, killing all eight crew members on board.
Zheng’s South Asia expeditions
Chinese eunuch and explorer Zheng He made remarkable expeditions, and one of them is his voyage to Southeast Asia. He and his fleet of ships arrived in the region in 1405 where they traded and demanded tributes or gifts for the Chinese court. Zheng also launched other expeditions such as his voyage to East Africa, where he collected and brought home a great bounty, from ivories to spices and even giraffes!
Zheng’s ships were immense; they were as big as 120 meters long which make Columbus’ ships (the Santa Maria, for example, was only 26 meters long) look like bath toys.
Columbus’s fourth New World Voyage
Instead of Japan like intended, Columbus landed in the New World in 1492. He found a region there that none of this peers knew had ever existed.
In the early 1500’s Columbus sailed to the Caribbean island of Hispaniola, whose governor denied Columbus port. He did not also listen to the explorer’s storm warnings.
All four of his ships survived, but Columbus and his men’s trials were far from over. Rotting wood caused by shipworms created problems in their fleet. One ship had to be abandoned and another even sunk. Columbus and his crew sailed on the two remaining ships and ran aground on Jamaica. There, they encountered hostile natives for over a year before they managed to be rescued.
If you find sea stories mesmerizing, here’s one that will keep you hooked from the beginning till the end. A tale of invention and discovery, this book shares the courage and efforts of sailors such as Vancouver, Cook, Magellan, Shackleton and many others from around the world. In a very dramatic way, the book highlights the role of the sextant in sea voyages which has been neglected by sea surfers for quite a long time. Whether you are a sailor, sea lover and maritime professional, you will find this book a balanced blend of technical knowledge and drama.