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National Geographic

Songs & Sounds of the Sea: Anatomy of a Sailing Ship

William H. Webb's Clipper: Young America

Built New York City 1853; Missing 1886; Length 243'

Images from the LP

For thousands of years after the first inventive man fashioned a sail of reeds for his long raft, marine designers strove through rule of thumb and trial and error to find the ideal combination of hull shape, length to width ratio, height and placement of masts, size and pattern of sails -- all the multitude of details that would combine to bring forth the ultimate sailing vessel. In the mid-1800's, the centuries of ceaseless effort finally culminated in the clipper ship, as close to a perfect wind-driven vessel as man has ever come. It was a short flowering for so long a period of gestation, for the iron steamer was even then chuffing up over the horizon. But in those last shining days before the sun set on the billowing sails, there was nothing on the surface of the seven seas that could touch the towering clipper ship for speed, grace, beauty, and refinement of design.

Designed by Charles C. Uhl; drawn by Oswald Brett


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