Portcities Southampton
UK * Bristol * Hartlepool * Liverpool * London * Southampton
*
You are here: PortCities Southampton > Diversity of Ships > What drives the ship? > Muscle power > Muscle power
* Text only * About this site * Site Map * Feedback
*
*
*
Explore this site
Start Here
About Us
Partners And Collections
Timeline
Get Interactive!
Help
Galleries
Image galleries
Biographies
Southampton
The Docks
River Itchen
Southampton at war
Flying Boats
Titanic
Finding Out More
Southampton speaks
Street Directories
Historic Buildings Survey
Registers and Records
Lloyd's Register
Official Sources
Other Records
Finding Out More
Wrecks and Accidents
Why accidents happen
Investigations
Improving Safety at Sea
Finding Out More
Wreck Reports
Life of a Port
How a port comes to life
At work in a port
Ports at play
Trade - lifeblood of a port
Finding Out More
On the Line
Company growth and development
Shipping lines
Transatlantic travel
Preparing a liner
Finding Out More
Sea People
Life at sea
Jobs at sea
Travelling by sea
Starting a new life by sea
Women and the sea
Finding Out More
Diversity of Ships
The variety of ships
What drives the ship?
Ships of ancient times
Ships in the age of sail
Ships of the steam age
Ships of today

Muscle power


Muscles, poles, paddles and oars

The first form of propulsion?

The first boats were propelled by muscle power.  This may have been a long branch used to push against the bottom, as a punt or quant pole is used today.  Equally, in deeper water, a branch may have been used as a paddle.  It would soon become apparent that making it broader at the end improved its efficiency.  It is known that paddles were in use for propelling boats the stone age, about 8000 BC.

It was a small but very important step for the paddle to evolve into the oar.  A paddler faces forwards, and has only the power of his or her arms.  In contrast, a rower who faces astern uses his arms and his legs (braced against part of the boat) and can thus bring more power to bear on the oar.  In addition, it proved possible to make oars longer so that two or more oarsmen could operate an oar, again adding to the power available.  The oarsmen could also be further inside the ship, and if the oar worked through a port, or hole, in the ship’s side, they could have some protection from the weather – important if the vessel was used at sea.

Another form of muscle power must not be ignored: bow hauling (pulling) with a length of rope.  This was possible only on rivers or lakes, which the men, horses or oxen could walk alongside reasonably easily.  In all probability it was used to move vessels against the river’s flow: the crew or the horse would get on board for the downstream voyage.  This sort of propulsion survived until very recently: horses hauled narrow boats on inland waterways in the UK well into the 20th century.

*
Search

Advanced Search
*
*
*
Southampton City Council New Opportunities Fund Lloyd's Register London Metropolitan Archives National Maritime Museum World Ship Society  
Legal & Copyright * Partner sites: Bristol * Hartlepool * Liverpool * London * Southampton * Text only * About this site * Feedback