Whether it’s the Maine Maritime Museum, where visitors learn about the role the state of Maine played in building the United States into a naval power, or The National Maritime Museum In the UK, the largest maritime museum on the planet, there’s something evocative about traveling back in time to the days when intrepid sailors, navigators and even pirates ruled the world. That’s why names like Francis Drake, Captain James Cook and Ferdinand Magellan are held in reverential admiration and their accomplishments highly romanticized. This is also the reason why stories of ships like the Titanic are still relevant. The truth is, we have a natural love affair with water.
While almost any ship will pique the interest of a ship lover, old ships have a special allure. In this article, we shine the spotlight on a 3,500-year-old ship at the Dover Museum which has the distinction of being the oldest ship in the world.
Here’s what to know about the oldest ship in the world
Considering the age at which it was supposedly built, the length of the oldest ship in the world is quite impressive. It spans 9.5 meters (about 30 feet). For perspective, it’s the average height of a two- or three-story building. And then this ship is variously called the oldest “known” ship in the world. And that’s important. It may not be the oldest ship, as there could still be ships – or remains of ships – that have yet to be discovered. They are buried somewhere in Portugal or Peru. Or even in the Atlantic or the Mediterranean. The planks of the oldest known ship in the world are made of oak wood. This corresponds to the history of shipbuilding. While wood from trees such as pine, elm, or ash was sometimes used to make a ship’s planks, oak wood was by far the most preferred, especially for naval vessels. It’s not for nothing. The strength of oak wood is unmatched. It is also dense and compact, characteristics that make it resistant to fungal attack.
And then the planks of the oldest known ship are held together by yew branches which are perhaps best known today for their use in making bows because they remarkably combine the characteristics of strength and flexibility in a almost equal measure. For example, Robert the Bruce, King of Scotland at the dawn of the 14th century, is said to have ordered the manufacture and use of yew arches in the victorious battle of the Scots at Bannockburn in 1314.
How the world’s oldest known ship was discovered
Around the time of 1992, just as autumn had just heralded its arrival by painting the landscape in impossibly bright colours, workers constructing the road from Dover to Folkestone came across something underground which impeded their progress. Slightly digging into it, the rough silhouette of a wooden boat emerged from the brown rubble. As fate would have it, the construction team included archaeologists. This ensured that the unusual find would not simply be overlooked or ignored as a useless relic. The archaeologists who were part of this team were members of the Canterbury Archeological Trust. This ensured that the trust got involved. They would eventually help dig the boat into as perfect a condition as possible under the circumstances, despite being up to six meters deep in the ground.
It turned out to be a monumental archaeological discovery in the naval history of the world. Originally the ship was a whopping 60 feet long and 8 feet wide. Other studies and analyzes have revealed that this vessel must have been steered by up to 20 paddlers. Moreover, it could carry a huge cargo of 2 tons. The reason the wood had resisted decay for over three millennia was that the silt was remarkably oxygen-free. Although no one knows what the boat was originally used for, it is likely that it was used to transport tin so that the communities of the English Channel could make bronze.
Planning to see the oldest ship in the world? Here’s what you need to know
Today, visitors can view the oldest known ship in the world at the Dover Museum. Dover is a port city in Kent, southeast of England. It is known for its dramatic chalk cliffs and for stretching along the Kent coast, an area known for its exceptional beauty. The city is 76.3 km from London and on the southeast side of the capital of England. From October to March, the Dover Museum is open from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. but remains closed on Sundays.
- How much is the entrance fee to the Dover museum? Admission to the Dover Museum is free.
However, from April to September, the museum reopens from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. It also opens on Sundays although it is only from 10:00 to 15:00. Sometimes a team of volunteers takes the boat for excursions along the port of Dover. The ship also occasionally participates in maritime festivals across the continent, where it usually draws large crowds. If old is gold, then seeing the oldest ship in the world should be on everyone’s travel bucket list.