About the ship: Paddle Steamer

The paddle steamer ship is a shop which is powered by a steam engine and uses paddle wheels to propel through the water. The paddle steamers were largely used in the late 19th century as they could carry large amounts of goods through the sea. These ships are efficient in rough or open water. There are two types of paddle steamers-

  • Sternwheeler- The sternwheelers where largely used for services in America, especially through the Mississippi, although they were invented in the Europe. The first sternwheeler was built in the year 1815.
  • Side-wheeler- The side-wheelers are made narrower than the sternwheelers as the paddle wheels on the sides can have different speed and can go in different directions, that is, they are maneuverable. This feature of the side-wheeler makes them popular in rivers.

History of Paddle Steamers

The first use of paddle wheels can be traced back to Rome, when an engineer Vitruvius used multi-geared paddle wheels to propel a ship. One of the first functioning paddle steamers is Palmipede which was built in France in the year 1774 by Marquis Claude de Jouffroy. The ship was 13 meter long had rotating paddling. It sailed on the Doubs River in 1776. The next successful paddle steamer was made almost ten years later in the year 1788. The Charlotte Dundas, built in 1802 was one of the largest paddle steamers which carried 70 tons for almost 20 miles in six hours.

In East Asia, the concept of paddle wheel was first mentioned in the 7th century by describing the naval ships of Liu Song Dynasty. However, the first paddle steamer in China was used during the First Opium War for transportation on the Pearl River in the years 1839-1842.

The largest paddle steamer ever built was Great Eastern by Brunel. It was 211m long and weighed up to 32000 tons. The paddle wheel of this large boat had a diameter of 17m.

However after the invention of the screw propeller, the paddle steamers were much less useful other than for coastal service and tugboats.

Paddle Steamers in Today’s World

The usage of Paddle steamers fell by great numbers and today there are every few paddle steamers around the world. In the USA and Canada paddle steamers are used as cruise boats on lakes and continue to operate on the Mississippi river. However, paddle wheelers were used till the late 20th century but non-steam powered engines were used to propel them. In 1912, the USS Wolverine was built and it was the largest passenger-carrying paddle steamer with a capacity of 6000 people. However, till date at least a couple of paddle steamers are used in different countries such as Germany, USA, Italy, Denmark, Austria, Canada, Norway, Switzerland, France, Russia, United Kingdom, Netherlands, New Zealand and Australia for different purposes.

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