Home » 10th Class » Paragraph on “What was a clipper ship?” complete paragraph for Class 9, Class 10, Class 11 and Class 12

Paragraph on “What was a clipper ship?” complete paragraph for Class 9, Class 10, Class 11 and Class 12

What was a clipper ship?

This was a nineteenth century wooden sailing vessel built and rigged, or equipped, for speed. With the discovery of steam and its increasing use in shipping by the early 1800s, the position of the sailing ship as a means of transporting people and goods across the oceans, was threatened. So the clipper ship was designed as a final attempt to prove the supremacy of sial over steam.

For a time, the performance of these ships was superior to the paddle steamer – which was a wooden ship propelled both by steam engine and paddle wheels, worked through large openings in the bottom of the hull. But in the middle of the nineteenth century the invention of the screw,   as a marine propeller to replace paddles, made such a difference to the speed of the steamship, that by the end of the century the valiant clippers could no longer compete.

However, for about thirty years, from the 1840s to the 1870s these clippers were responsible for a glorious period in the history of sail and the sea. They were beautiful, reaching heights of 60 m (200 ft). they were slender, streamlined and yacht- like, having three and sometimes four masts square- rigged, and carried the triangular lateen sail fore and aft ( at the bow and stern).

The clipper was designed in America, one of the earliest being the Sea Witch, of about 950 tonnes, launched at New York in 1844,  and running from New York to San Francisco. In 1850 the first British clipper, the Challenger was built. The British ships made some marvelous records but generally, the American vessels did better. After  the discovery of gold in California, in the USA, and also in Australia the clippers took on new importance. There was no railway across the United States, so would – be prospectors in the east had to trek for six months from east to west across the country , or sail around Cape Horn, at the bottom of South America,  on a clipper ship, which only took three months, for the impatient goldminers the route by sea was their obvious choice. For the same reasons of speed the clipper run to Australia became popular over other sea routes. The wool trade too, between England and Australia began developing at this time and gave yet another boost to the clipper ship.

Racing developed between the clippers, and records were continually being made only to be broken immediately. There was a famous and beautiful American clipper, Lightning that ran from Liverpool, in England, to Melbourne, Australia, in 63 days and made her return voyage in 64 days. But probably the record for the Australian run was held by the Aberdeen built Thermopylae which sailed London- to Melbourne in just 60 days.

The first China tea crop brought from Shanghai to London was another reason for speed  across the oceans, and  races developed  on this route too, as a result. There was a spectacular race in 1866 between two Scottish – built vessels, the Ariel and the Taeping. They set sail together from Foo- choo- fo at sunset, crossing via the Indian Ocean  and not meeting again till at the mouth of the English Channel. They went neck and neck all the way up the Channel, Ariel reaching the London docks first but prevented from docking because the tide was too low. But Taeping, having a shallower draft, ( less of her hull being below the waterline) managed to dock with what was left of the falling tide, and so won the very close race.

Races such as these raised much excitement, especially among those with investments  in the ships’ cargoes.

The well- known Cutty Sark was another clipper on the Chinas run, but as far as records were concerned she did much better on the Australian run, which she covered for eight successive voyages.


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