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A ship is a large buoyant watercraft. Ships are generally distinguished from boats based on size, shape and cargo or passenger capacity. Ships are used on lakes, seas, rivers, and oceans for a variety of activities, such as the transport of people or goods, fishing, entertainment, public safety, and warfare. Historically, a ,,ship" was a sailing vessel with at least three square-rigged masts and a full bowsprit.
In armed conflict and in daily life, ships have become an integral part of modern commercial and military systems. Fishing boats are used by millions of fishermen throughout the world. Military forces operate vessels for naval warfare and to transport and support forces ashore. Commercial vessels, nearly 35,000 in number, carried 7.4 billion tons of cargo in 2007. As of 2011, there are about 104,304 ships with IMO numbers in the world.
Ships were always a key in history's great explorations and scientific and technological development. Navigators such as Zheng He spread such inventions as the compass and gunpowder. Ships have been used for such purposes as colonization and the slave trade, and have served scientific, cultural, and humanitarian needs. After the 16th century, new crops that had come from and to the Americas via the European seafarers significantly contributed to the world population growth. Ship transport has shaped the world's economy into today's energy-intensive pattern.
Ships can usually be distinguished from boats based on size and the ship's ability to operate independently for extended periods. A commonly used rule of thumb is that if one vessel can carry another, the larger of the two is a ship. Dinghies are carried on sailing yachts as small as 35 feet (10.67 m), clearly not ships; this rule of thumb is not foolproof.
In the age of sail, a ,,ship" was a sailing vessel with at least three square-rigged masts and a full bowsprit; other types of vessel were also defined by their sailplan, e.g. barque, brigantine, etc.
A number of large vessels are usually referred to as boats. Submarines are a prime example. Other types of large vessel which are traditionally called boats are Great Lakes freighters, riverboats, and ferryboats.[citation needed] Though large enough to carry their own boats and heavy cargoes, these vessels are designed for operation on inland or protected coastal waters.
In most maritime traditions ships have individual names, and modern ships may belong to a ship class often named after its first ship. In English, a ship is traditionally referred to as ,,she", even if named after a man, but this is not universal usage; some journalistic style guides advise using ,,it" as referring to ships with female pronouns can be seen as offensive and outdated.
A boat is a watercraft of a large range of sizes designed to float, plane, work or travel on water. Small boats are typically found on inland waterways (e.g., rivers and lakes) or in protected coastal areas. However, boats such as the whaleboat were designed for operation from a ship in an offshore environment. In naval terms, a boat is a vessel small enough to be carried aboard another vessel (a ship). Another less restrictive definition is a vessel that can be lifted out of the water. Some definitions do not make a distinction in size, as bulk freighters 1,000 feet (300 m) long on the Great Lakes are called oreboats. For reasons of naval tradition, submarines are usually referred to as 'boats' rather than 'ships', regardless of their size and shape. Ships are generally distinguished from boats based on their larger size, shape and cargo or passenger capacity.
Boats have a wide variety of shapes, sizes and construction methods due to their intended purpose, available materials or local traditions. Canoe-type boats have been used since prehistoric times and various versions are used throughout the world for transportation, fishing or sport. Fishing boats vary widely in style partly to match local conditions. Pleasure boats include ski boats, pontoon boats, and sailboats. House boats may be used for vacationing or long-term housing. Small boats can provide transport or convey cargo (lightering) to and from large ships. Lifeboats have rescue and safety functions. Boats can be powered by human power (e.g., rowboats), wind power (e.g., sailboats) and motor power (e.g., propellor-driven motorboats driven by gasoline or diesel engines).
Dugouts are the oldest type of boats found by archaeologists, and boats have served as transportation since the earliest times. Circumstantial evidence, such as the early settlement of Australia over 40,000 years ago, findings in Crete dated 130,000 years ago, and findings in Flores dated to 900,000 years ago, suggest that boats have been used since prehistoric times. The earliest boats are thought to have been logboats, and the oldest boats found by archaeological excavation date from around 7,000–10,000 years ago. The oldest recovered boat in the world is the Pesse canoe, a dugout made from the hollowed tree trunk of a Pinus sylvestris and constructed somewhere between 8200 and 7600 BC. This canoe is exhibited in the Drents Museum in Assen, Netherlands. Other very old dugout boats have also been recovered. Rafts have operated for at least 8,000 years. A 7,000-year-old seagoing reed boat has been found in Kuwait. Boats were used between 4000 and 3000 BC in Sumer, ancient Egypt and in the Indian Ocean.
Boats played an important role in the commerce between the Indus Valley Civilization and Mesopotamia. Evidence of varying models of boats has also been discovered at various Indus Valley archaeological sites. Uru craft originate in Beypore, a village in south Calicut, Kerala, in southwestern India. This type of mammoth wooden ship was constructed[when?] using teak, without any iron, and had a transport capacity of 400 tonnes. The ancient Arabs and Greeks used such boats as trading vessels.
The historians Herodotus, Pliny the Elder and Strabo record the use of boats for commerce, travel, and military purposes.
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