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Inventions Related to Oceanography

The History of Oceanography


Oceanography - Spyglass and Compass on a Nautical Chart

Oceanography - Spyglass and Compass on a Nautical Chart

Getty Images/David Chasey
The oceans that make up three-quarters of the Earth's surface are realms of boundless energy. Oceans have been a source of food, the birthplace of weather systems that effect the continents, pathways for commerce, and fields of battle.

Oceanography - What is Oceanography?

Studying the world beneath the ocean, the air above it, and the interface of the sea surface with the atmosphere is called the science of oceanography. Oceanography has been recognized as a formal scientific discipline for one hundred and fifty years, however, finding practical applications (inventions) for commerce and war at sea, goes back much further.

Early History of Oceanography

Oceanography means more than an understanding how ships perform. Oceanography also means understanding the sea and atmospheric conditions. Knowledge, for example, of prevailing winds aided the success of the early Polynesians in spreading themselves over a large portion of the Pacific. Early Arab traders sailed regularly to ports along the Malabar Coast of western India and even further east, because they knew enough to time their voyages to match the alternating monsoon winds. Fifteenth century Portugal became a mighty maritime nation because it lay closest to the strong, steady pressure of northeast winds - called the trade winds - which could carry their caravels along the coast of Africa and on to the riches of India with little effort at the sails.

During the age, when the major European nations contested their fortunes at sea with great fleets of sailing warships, they often "seized the weather gauge" a reference to an invention which also meant attacking an enemy fleet from windward for an immediate advantage.

The history of both ocean exploration and ocean warfare is filled with examples of "environmental intelligence" and inventing the new weapons, sensors, and ships of the time.

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