Year Keyword Event  and Description
1086 tw tw Navigation T The magnetic compass is pioneered by Chinese waterworks director Shen Kua, who writes that magicians can find directions by rubbing a needle on a lodestone and hanging the magnetized needle by a thread. The needle, he says, will usually point south but sometimes will point north (see 1150). 
1421 tw tw Discovery D The Portuguese prince Henry the Navigator, 27, assembles Europe’s leading pilots, mapmakers, astronomers, scholars, and instrument makers at Sagres on the Cape St. Vincent, where they will pioneer a new science of navigation. Son of João I and grandson of John of Gaunt, Henry has his shipwrights develop a lateen-rigged caravel with three masts—a highly maneuverable vessel able to stand up to the winds of the open sea (see Madeira Islands, 1418; Canary Islands, 1425). 
1492 tw tw Discovery D Financed by Castile’s Isabella, who has borrowed the wherewithal from Luis de Santangel by putting up her jewels as security, Columbus has crossed the Atlantic to make the first known European landing in the Western Hemisphere since early in the 11th century. He disembarks in the Bahamas on an island he names San Salvador under the impression that he has reached the East Indies. 
1522 tw tw Discovery D Ferdinand Magellan’s lieutenant Juan Sebastian d’Elcano (del Cano) returns to Seville September 6 aboard the Vittoria with 18 surviving sailors of the Ma-gellan expedition and with a cargo of valuable spices that more than pays for the expedition that has accomplished the first circumnavigation of the world. 
1588 tw tw Sail P An “invincible” Spanish Armada of 132 vessels sails against England under the command of Spain’s “admiral of the ocean,” the untrained nobleman Alonso Perez de Guzman, 38, seventh duke of Medina-Sidonia. His largest ship is a 1,300-ton vessel, but more than 30 are below 100 tons. The Royal Navy commanded by Lord High Admiral William Howard has only 34 ships, of which the largest is the 1,000-ton Triumph. Admiral Howard on his 800-ton flagship Ark Royal has the support of 163 armed merchant vessels, including the Buonaventure, first English vessel to round the Cape of Good Hope and sail on to India, and he has the help of Sir Francis Drake and Sir John Hawkins. The two fleets engage forces July 31, a great storm blows up in the following week, and the elements help the English defeat the armada by August 8, scoring a victory that opens the world to English trade and colonization. 
1787 tw tw Steam T A steamboat launched on the Delaware River August 22 by U.S. inventor John Fitch, 44, is the first of several Fitch will build in the next few years 1791; Symington, 1788 
1787 tw tw Steam T A steamboat on the Potomac River in December by Maryland inventor James Rumsey, 44, is driven by streams of water forced through the stern by a steam pump. 
1788 tw tw Steam T Scottish engineer William Symington, 25, invents the first practical steamboat, installing a direct-action steam engine in a paddle boat. His vessel attracts no commercial attention (see 1787; 1791). 
1791 tw tw Sail E U.S. privateer Joseph Peabody settles at Salem, Mass., after having amassed a fortune. Peabody starts a shipping business that will soon own 83 vessels, employ 7,000 sailors, and trade with Calcutta, Canton, St. Petersburg, and dozens of other world ports
1803 tw tw Steam T U.S. engineer Robert Fulton, 38, develops a small ship propelled by steam power. His Treatise on the Improvement of Canal Navigation appeared in 1796, and he has been in Paris since 1797 working on his submarine Nautilus (see 1807; Symington, 1788; Fitch,
1807 tw tw Steam T The first commercially successful steamboat travels up the Hudson River August 17 and arrives in 32 hours at Albany to begin regular service between New York and Albany. Designed by Robert Fulton and backed by Robert Livingston of 1803 Louisiana Purchase fame, the Clermont has paddle wheels (suggested by inventor Nicholas Roosevelt, 40) powered by an English Boulton and Watt engine with a cylinder 24 inches in diameter and a 4-foot stroke. The vessel is 133 feet long, 18 feet in the beam, with a 7-foot draft and a stack 30 feet high, and is the forerunner of steamboats that soon will be carrying western grain to Gulf Coast ports via the Ohio and Mississippi 1811; Stevens
1815 tw tw Canal T The New York State legislature approves a plan to finance an Erie Canal with state bonds pursuant to a proposal by Governor De Witt Clinton (see 1817). 
1816 tw tw Steanship T The steamboat Washington launched June 4 at Wheeling, Va., sets a pattern for U.S. riverboats. Designed by Capt. Henry M. Shreve, 31, the 148-foot 400-ton Washington has a shallow draft to clear the snags and sandbars of the 
1816 tw tw Co.  T The Black Ball Line begins regular Baltimore clipper ship service between New York and Liverpool, but the full flowering of the clipper ship will not come for 3 decades
1822 tw tw Steam T The S.S. Robert Fulton completes the first steamboat voyage from New York to New Orleans and proceeds to Havana.
1825 tw tw Canal T The Erie Canal opens October 26 to link the Great Lakes with the Hudson River and the Atlantic. Gov. De Witt Clinton greets the first canal boat on the $8 million state-owned canal, which is 363 miles long, 40 feet wide, and 4 feet deep, with tow paths for the mules that pull barges up and down its length at 1 mile per hour. The time required to move freight from the Midwest to the Atlantic falls to 8 or 10 days, down from 20 to 30, freight rates drop immediately from $100 per ton to $5, New York City becomes the Atlantic port for the Midwest, and the canal makes boom towns of Buffalo, Rochester, Cleveland, Columbus, Detroit, Chicago, and Syracuse (see 1819; 1836; 1917). 
1827 tw tw Navigation T The screw propeller for ships is invented by Austrian engineer Joseph Ressel, 34, and—independently—by Scottish engineer Robert Wilson, 24 (see 1832). 
1850 tw tw Steamship T Cornelius van Derbilt establishes a shipping line to California via Nicaragua and cuts the prices charged by competitors (see 1834, 1853; Clayton-Bulwer Treaty). 
1902 tw tw Co. T United States Shipbuilding Co. is organized by U.S. Steel executive Charles Michael Schwab, 40, who merges Bethlehem Steel into the new company as a source of plates for ships (see 1886; 1905). 
1936 tw tw Co. T National Bulk Carriers is founded at New York by U.S. shipbuilder Daniel Keith Ludwig, 39, who has pioneered in developing a technique for side-launching newly built ships and a welding process to replace riveting in shipyards (see 1941). 
1941 tw tw Kaiser T Henry Kaiser establishes a chain of seven Pacific Coast shipyards north of Richmond, Calif., at the outbreak of the Pacific war in December. Kaiser shipyards will use prefabrication and assembly line methods to set new speed records in shipbuilding (see 1942). 
1942 tw tw Kaiser T The Liberty ship Robert E. Peary launched November 9 by Kaiser Shipyards on the Pacific Coast is the first of some 1,460 Liberty-class cargo vessels and other ships that Kaiser will build during the war. She is delivered November 12—7½ days after her keel was laid (see 1941). 
1956 tw tw Ship T The world’s first containership port opens at Elizabeth, N.J., where the Port of New York Authority has paid $3.5