Despite being one of humanity’s first great inventions, boats remained remarkably similar until very recently in our history.
According to the Encyclopaedia Britannica, there is evidence that we used seagoing vessels as early as 4,000BC and over the past 6,000 years, we have largely used them in the same way, to ship and move goods around.
Now, the early shipping agent did not have the same navigation tools and logistical planning apparatus the modern freight industry has now, especially before the invention of the compass in the 14th Century.
For the most part, sailors navigated via landmarks and were exceptionally superstitious to the whims of the sea.
Even with the development of the age of sail and merchants travelling around the world, sailing was fundamentally the same. It relied on sails and navigating via the wind, which even with increased skills and efficiently designed sails were limited in a way that engine powered ships would not be.
Quite possibly the key to modern freight, at sea, on land and in the sky is the development of the steam engine, which began with the completion of the Charlotte Dundas in 1803.
Whilst it was not the first successful steamship to ever be made, it was the first that was able to tow a significant weight, but most importantly was also the first ship that could travel despite strong winds, highlighting its practicality.
No longer were arrival times as affected by the weather, and with rapid advances in the technology allowed for faster and larger freight ships, and would be the prominent locomotion type at sea until the rise of marine diesel engines in the mid 20th century.