January 1, 1451 - The Caravel

By Emerson Wienk

The caravel is an invention in 1451 that changed sailing, trade, and exploration forever. The caravel is a specific sailing ship that allowed the Portuguese to succeed in their journey to the coast of Africa. With God, gold, and glory being the main motivation for exploration, without this advancement in technology none of it would be possible. Without a doubt we would be living in a completely different world without the caravel. Europeans possibly would have never discovered the new world considering out of Columbus’ three famous ships the Nina and Pinta were both caravels. The 50 to 60 ton boat became popular when sailors weren’t able to fight the high winds at sea. Luckily, the caravel could not only tolerate the wind, but also travel at a much faster speed. The caravel allowed sailors to go into the wind and use a zigzag technique to maintain control.

The caravel put Portugal in the lead when Bartolomeu Dias and Vasco de Gama were able to explore Africa. In 1488 Dias reached the tip of Africa. In 1497 Da Gama rounded the tip and began exploring the east coast of Africa where he reached the port of Calicut. In Calicut he discovered new spices, silks and gems they could take back with them in 1499. The caravel pathed De Gama’s success of giving Portugal a direct sea route to India. The explorers established trade routes in their newfound land accomplishing their desire for god, gold, and glory. For such a large impact, the caravel was shockingly small for our modern standards. However, it remains a mystery who invented and created this game changing vessel. Some argue that you can connect the caravel to Muslim cultures where they were used as small fishing boats for shallow water. Others compare this boat to a smaller version of the Arab vessel known as the qârib, holding the same characteristics as its famous relative.

Throughout centuries the caravel changed and adjusted while still redefining exploration in the sea forever. Not just exploration, but the caravel helped spread Christianity, fulfilling the motivation of god, gold, and glory. Europeans felt it was their job to convert non-Christians throughout the world, and they could. Overall, the caravel led to bigger and better boats you see today and without it the Portuguese would have failed.




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