What is a Steamboat?

What is a Steam Engine? Who is the Father of Steam Navigation? What are Steamboats and Why were they proved beneficial in the 18th and 19th centuries?
What is a Steamboat 2

Since technology has developed, various inventions have been carried out to make human life easier. Considering the importance of water transport and trade, some inventors focused on building ships with better technology. Today, we will learn about what is a steamboat and why was the steamboat important for traders. We will also cover steamboat facts that have been unknown to most of us until now.

1. What is a Steam Engine?

A steam engine is an engine that converts steam energy into mechanical energy that helps in locomotion. These engines were used in mine pumps during their earliest stage in the 1700s. Thomas Newcomen invented the Newcomen Steam engine that is the first practical steam engine.

  • Water in large boilers was heated through the heat produced by burning coal.
  • This process created steam that was pumped into the atmosphere or the cylinders.
  • This steam allowed the piston to move and give space for the valve to open.
  • This led to the movement of the boats.

2. Who Invented and Patented the Steam Engine?

James Watt, a Scottish inventor, has done a tremendous job in the field of steam engine and steam power technology. It was during the Industrial Revolution when James Watt invented many steam engines. And he got them patented under his name. His inventions proved to be a trigger for the industrial revolution. Other inventors developed an idea to use this technology in ships. (See 4 Most Important Inventions of the Industrial Revolution)

3. What is a Steamboat?

What is a steamboat can be defined as a boat that is operated from the paddle while it is powered by steam. These small boats are powered by steam and are used for working purposes in lakes and rivers. What is a steamboat? Any sea vessel like a ship or boat which derives power from a steam engine can be called a steamboat. The term steamboat is used in the context of small boats, whereas ships with a steam engine are known as steamships. (See How Did the “Unsinkable” Titanic Sink?)

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4. When did the First Steamboat Sail Successfully?

Robert Fulton, an American inventor, is credited for making the first successful steamboat, Clermont, in 1807. It set sail on 17 August 1807, from New York City, and its destination was Albany. Before taking his hands-on steamboats, he had already built submarines in France and was successful with it. Later, he converted steamboats and made them available for commercial purposes. Because of this contribution, he is known as the Father of steam navigation.

The distance covered by Clermont on its first trip was 150 miles (241.40 Km), and at the speed of 5 miles per hour. This journey was completed in 32 hours. This steamboat was the inaugural steamboat for the beginning of the commercial steamboat service of the world. Thereafter, steamboats proved to be an efficient means of transportation for passengers and goods. They were faster and more reliable than other ships in covering longer distances. Goods like sugar, cotton, and ma ny other types of commodities were transported through steamboats. (See Who Invented Lamborghini?)

5. Why were People Afraid to Travel in Steamboats?

Earlier, people used to believe that traveling on a ship would be very dangerous and life-threatening. They were afraid that Indian tribes would attack them. If this would not happen, then they believed that the ship would sink. They even fear that there will be a fire on the ship and will kill everyone. One way or the other, all the passengers will die in a steamboat. American inventors however, understood what is a steamboat and proved all these myths wrong. (See Why am I afraid of flying?)

6. Why was the Steamboat Important?

Earlier, boats had oars that were used to maintain the direction and speed of the ship manually. After the development of steam engine technology, boats did not have to rely on water current, air, and weather to sail. Now, ships and boats can travel anywhere, anytime, at a relatively faster speed because of the steam power provided by their steam engine. Steamboats do not use coal or any other fuel; therefore, it does not produce smoke. They cause less pollution in comparison to the other ships. They can also work on wind power which is a renewable resource of energy. (See How Does Hovercraft Work?)

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7. Miscellaneus Steamboat Facts

  • Just like all other products, steamboat manufacturing companies and inventors turned rivals. This rivalry was not confined to the makers only. Whenever two ships or steamboats came across each other on the river, the captains turned their race mode on. Then the race to see which steamboat could be the fastest started, and the passengers cheered the captain. (See Shipwrecks in the Ocean)
  • A ship powered by a steam engine, known as a steamship or sailship crossed the Atlantic Ocean in 1819.
  • Steamboat was used as a warship during the American Civil War, when the enemies tried to control and capture the rivers. They used paddle wheelers and steamers to demand control over Mississippi River and Tennessee river.
  • One of the oldest steamboats that had been working since 1856 was in good condition till 2015. It traveled across Lake Mjosa, Norway, and carried passengers from one side to the other. It sunk twice when it was taken off duty and kept in storage. The Norwegian Directorate for Cultural Heritage took it under their preservation. Now, it is a part of the national heritage of Norway.
  • American Queen is the steamboat that offers the facility of overnight cruising to its passengers. Apart from it, a few more steamboats travel on the old routes. while many have changed their routes or are not powered by steam engines anymore. (See Types of steamboats)

8. When and Why did the Steamboat Era End?

  • The major setback for the steamboat was that it was a form of water transport and thus, was always affected by weather conditions.
  • Just like the ships have adopted the method of steam power, inventors worked in the direction of improving railroads. Moreover, by 1870, railroads became the first choice for transporting people and goods between cities.
  • When the rail engines started working on the principle of steam engines, they became a feasible transport that was not influenced by the different weather conditions. People preferred railway transportation because they could travel in any direction and get down at any stop between the starting and ending stations. (See What Was Howard Hughes Net Worth When He Died?)

So today, we learned what is a steamboat and why was the steamboat important during the 18th and 19th centuries. We also uncovered several unknown and interesting steamboat facts about its origin and journey.

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