Slide Show >>During the Golden Age of Sail, the carrack enabled European explorers to cross the oceans for the first time. For a brief moment, the clipper ship whisked the traders of the burgeoning global economy from port to port at unprecedented speeds. Soon the innovative steam engine transformed ocean travel again.
These days, one might more likely look skyward to find amazing ships, but there are plenty of modern-day wonders on the seas. There is a drudger, a container ship, and an offshore oil rig. Three of the wonders, the Freedom of the Seas, American Queen, and the Queen Mary 2 (QM2) are passenger ships.
The list is dominated by superlative vessels. The Cunard Line's QM2, for instance, is the longest and tallest passenger ship in the world, while Royal Caribbean's (RCL) Freedom of the Seas—with a weight of 160,000 tons—is the largest. (The QM2 also has the distinction of being an ocean liner rather than a cruise ship, because its thick steel hull allows it to travel between New York and London all year round.)
NO ANCHOR NEEDED. The Majestic America Line's American Queen is the largest steamboat ever built. Completed in 1995, the ship is outfitted in classic American style but its technology is very modern. Although it does have a traditional paddlewheel and steam engine, it also boasts state-of-the-art Z-drive propellers and two black smokestacks that mechanically split and fold downward to pass under any bridges.
In other largests, the Vasco Da Gama is the largest dredger in the world, the Emma Maersk—with a capacity of 13,500 containers—is the largest container ship, and the monstrous Eirik Raude holds the title in the offshore oil rig category. The Eirik Raude also boasts an innovative propeller system that both powers the ship across the oceans and, along with transponders, satellite feeds, and onboard computers, keeps the rig accurately positioned without the use of an anchor.
The Visby Class Corvette also employs sophisticated technologies. The Swedish Navy's equivalent of the Stealth Bomber, the ship is designed to be nearly undetectable. Made of carbon fiber, its flat angled surface "minimizes all signatures"—technical jargon meaning that it is more difficult to pick up using radar, acoustic, hydroacoustic, optical, infrared, or other detection techniques. The ship also boasts a state-of-the-art digital command, control, and communications system.
Perhaps the most significant ship in our collection is still just a concept—but one that could have a ripple effect across the seas. Wallenius Wilhelmsen Logistics, which specializes in automotive cargo, is hoping its E/S Orcelle will change the way ships are built when it is completed in 2025. The model is an all-green ship that will use solar, wave, and wind energy to power onboard generators. When complete, the eco-friendly E/S Orcelle will be able to transport up to 10,000 cars—all hybrids, of course.
Click here to see a slide show of the ships.
To see other Wonders of the World, click here.