February 4th, 2010


Transcribing and packet ships

Tonight I did some transcribing. I think I've gotten through 31 pages so far on the new project - 30 pages of steamers and 1 page of sailing ships. The names are fun, and it's always exciting to see some Union-Castle liners that I recognize!

During my break at work today, I learned quite a bit about packet ships. It seems that the packet ships were mostly square-riggers. They ran scheduled routes (the most famous American packet line had departures every two weeks from NY and Liverpool). They carried mail, cargo, and passengers. Many immigrants emigrated in packet ships. Since these vessels had to keep to a schedule they were a very, very demanding line of work and their captains were well-respected. All of this made me want to read through Two Years Before the Mast again, since Dana's vessel was a brig. The Smithsonian has a model of a packet ship.

As a side note, it seems that most fore-and-aft rigged vessels (schooners, sloops, etc) were coastal and local vessels. I know that they can maneuver more easily and can run faster upwind. In America, schooners were used to trade all sorts of things from heavy cargo (lumber, stone, coal) to lighter and perishable cargo (food, tobacco, leather, furniture). Smithsonian has a couple models of schooners. I'm still curious to find out where topsail-schooners were run and how they differed from brigantines, though...