List of longest wooden ships
A list of the world's longest wooden ships is compiled below. The vessels are sorted by ship length including bowsprit, if known.
Finding the world's longest wooden ship is not straightforward since there are several contenders, depending on which definitions are used. For example, some of these ships benefited from substantial iron or even steel components since the flexing of wood members can lead to significant leaking as the wood members become longer. Some of these ships were not very seaworthy, and a few sank either immediately after launch or soon thereafter. Some of the more recent large ships were never able or intended to leave their berths, and function as floating museums. Finally, not all of the claims to the title of the world's longest wooden ship are credible or verifiable.
A further problem is that especially wooden ships have more than one "length". The most used measure in length for registering a ship is the "length of the topmost deck" – the "length on deck" (LOD) – 'measured from leading edge of stem post to trailing edge of stern post on deck level' or the "length between perpendiculars" (LPP, LBP) – 'measured from leading edge of stem post to trailing edge of stern post in the construction waterline (CWL)'. In this method of measuring bowsprit including jibboom and out-board part of spanker boom if any have both no effect on the ship's length. The largest length for comparing ships, the total "overall" length (LOA) based on sparred length, should be given if known.
The longest wooden ship ever built, the six-masted New England gaff schooner Wyoming, had a "total length" of 137 metres (449 ft) (measured from tip of jib boom (30 metres) to tip of spanker boom (27 metres)) and a "length on deck" of 107 m (351 ft). The 30 m (98 ft)-difference is due to her extremely long jib boom of 30 m (98 ft) her out-board length being 27 m (89 ft).
Longest known wooden ships
|USS Dunderberg||1865–1874||scrapped||This French ship was an iron-clad ship built in New York City. About 50 feet (15 m) of her length was a ram. She was not particularly stable or seaworthy, even with her substantial metal components, and only made one voyage in the open ocean to reach her new owners.|
|Modern estimates are approx 104 m (341 feet)||20.3 m
|Caligula's Giant Ship||c. 37||foundation of lighthouse||Traces of this Roman barge were found during the construction of Rome's Leonardo da Vinci International Airport at Fiumicino, Italy, a port on Italy's coast, just north of Ostia at the mouth of the Tiber. According to Pliny, this or a similar ship was used to transport the obelisk in St. Peter's Square from Egypt on the orders of Roman emperor Caligula.|
|Pretoria||1900–1905||sunk||An American barge built for use on the Great Lakes. To strengthen the wooden frame and hull, builders included steel keelson plates, chords, arches, and also was diagonally strapped with steel. A donkey engine powered a pump to keep the interior dry.|
|Great Republic||1853–1872||abandoned leaking, sank||This American ship used iron bolts, and reinforced with steel, including ninety 36 foot 4x1 inch cross braces, and metal keelsons. The MIT Museum noted that: "With this behemoth, McKay had pushed wooden ship construction to its practical limits.". The overall length including jibboom was 400 ft (120 m).|
|HMS Orlando and HMS Mersey||1858–1871, 1858–1875 respectively||sold as scrap||These British warships were pushing the limits of what was possible in wooden ship construction and suffered structural problems.|
(50 ft 1 in)
|Wyoming||1909–1924||sunk||This American ship had a tendency to flex in heavy seas, causing the long planks to twist and buckle. This allowed sea water into the hold, which had to be pumped out. The overall length including jibboom was 450 feet (140 m).|
(50 ft 1 in)
|Belyana type||19th century||disassembled||Belyanas were Russian river going ships purposely build for log driving on the Volga and Vetluga rivers. Their bottom was made from fir and sidings from pine and featured a complement of 60 to 80 workers. The largest Belyanas could transport up to 13,000,000 kilograms (29,000,000 lb) of logs all stacked on their deck in the form of an inverted pyramid.|
|Santiago||1899–1918||swamped in gale and sunk||An American schooner-barge on the Great Lakes, towed by the Appomattox until 1905 and then the steamer John F. Morrow until 1918.|
|Roanoke||1892–1905||sunk after having burnt down to the waterline||A huge four-masted barque with skysails of a total length of 360 ft (110 m) and 3,539 GRT. In 1905 she was under the command of Capt. Jabez A. Amesbury when she caught fire while loading at the anchorage of Noumea. The crew, aided by those of the four-masted barque Susquehanna of the same owner and the three-masted ship Arabia, all in all 60 men, tried to fight the fire. This American ship used iron bolts and steel reinforcements. She belonged to the fleet of Arthur Sewell & Co. of Bath, Maine and was the largest wooden ship (115 m / 377 ft LOA) after the Great Republic.|
|Appomattox||1896–1905||run aground and sunk||A Great Lakes steamship capable of carrying 3000 tons of bulk cargo. Built with metallic cross bracing, keelson plates, and multiple arches because of her extreme length. Several syphons and steam-driven pumps were required to keep her afloat. Towed the steamer barge Santiago.|
|Baron of Renfrew||1825-1825||stranded and broke apart; planned to be disassembled to sell components||This unseaworthy British ship was a disposable ship. Created to avoid taxes on timber, the components were intended to be sold after the ship's arrival from Quebec to London. The ship stranded on the Goodwin Sands and broke apart while being towed with a pilot aboard. Parts of her timber were found on the French coast. The ship had 5,294 GRT and an overall length of 362 ft / 110 metres.|
|Frank O'Connor||1892–1919||burned||A steam screw operating on the Great Lakes, it required an innovative iron and steel-reinforced hull to be a viable vessel.|
|Columbus||1824–1825||broke apart and sunk||It was the first timber ship or disposable ship with a kind of four-masted barque rigging – just three square sails (course, top, and topgallant sails) per mast, two fore and aft sails on the spanker mast, and two foresails. Built to avoid taxes on timber (the timber used for the ship was tax-free), her cargo and components were intended to be sold after the ship's arrival from Quebec (Anse-du-Fort) to London. Changing its plans Charles Woods, her builder and owner, had only the cargo discharged and sold and ordered the ship back for another voyage with a timber cargo before being disassembled. But the ship broke apart and sunk in the Channel on her return voyage to St. John, New Brunswick. The ship had a 356 ft / 108 metres overall length.|
|Eureka||1890–1957||museum ship||The Eureka is a steamboat with twin, 27-foot paddlewheels. She carried railcars, cars and passengers across San Francisco Bay. This National Historic Landmark is at the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park.|
|Al-Hashemi-II||2001-||museum and restaurant||Planning for this non-seagoing model of a Kuwaiti dhow began in 1985, and construction started in 1997.|
|15 m||William D. Lawrence||1874-1891||converted to barge and sank under tow||The largest wooden sailing ship ever built in Canada, William D. Lawrence was built at Maitland, Nova Scotia and had a profitable career as cargo carrier under the Canadian flag and after 1883 under Norwegian ownership as Kommander Svend Foyn. She was converted to a barge in 1891 and later sank during a tow at Dakar. Her sparred length, including bowsprit was 335 ft / 102 m.|
|14.5 m||Adler von Lübeck||1567–1588||disassembled||The Adler von Lübeck was built by Lübeck in two years' time to serve as the main fighting ship of the Hanseatic League. The galeon featured 138 guns, and space for 650 marines and a 350-man-strong crew. She was the largest ship of her time.|
|21.22 (69.6 ft)||Mahmudiye||1829–1874||disassembled to sell components||Mahmudiye (1829), ordered by the Ottoman Sultan Mahmud II and built by the Ottoman Imperial Naval Arsenal on the Golden Horn in Constantinople, was for many years the largest warship in the world. The 76×21 m ship-of-the-line was armed with 128 cannons on three decks with complement of 1280. She participated in many important naval battles, including the Siege of Sevastopol (1854–1855) during the Crimean War (1854–1856). She was decommissioned in 1875.|
|HMS Sovereign of the Seas||1637–1696||accidentally burned||Being one of the first three-decker warships, the ship was built as a deliberate attempt to bolster the reputation of the English crown. The ship took part in many battles after the upper deck had been removed for reasons of balance.|
|11 m (36 ft)||Michael||1512-||sold to the French crown||Michael (1512) was the flagship of the Royal Scots Navy, ordered by James IV of Scotland, and built at Newhaven, Edinburgh. Known as the Great Michael, she was sold on to the French navy following the Scottish defeat at the Battle of Flodden.|
|SS Great Western||1837–1856||disassembled in salvage yard||A British steamship designed by the English engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel for regular transatlantic steam "packet boat" service. In addition to the paddle wheels, she carried four masts for supplementary propulsion and stability.|
|14.1 m||Chinese treasure ship replica||2008 (planned) –||under construction||This ship will exceed "the Götheborg, the world's largest wooden ship, by 10 m. in length" (sic), according to China Daily.|
|13.5 m||Jylland||1860–1908||museum ship||A restored Danish ship on display in the coastal town of Ebeltoft, Denmark|
|15.7 m||HMS Victory||1765–||In commission, not for active service||HMS Victory is a 104-gun ship of the line of the Royal Navy. She is the oldest naval ship still in commission and the only remaining ship of the line. She sits in dry dock in Portsmouth as a museum ship and serves as flag ship for The First Sea Lord.|
|15.2 m||Grace Dieu||1420–1439||sunken wreck||An English carrack used as King Henry V's flagship. She burned after being hit by lightning.|
|16.2 m||Orient||1791–1798||blew up||Of the French 118-gun Océan class ship of the line 16 ships were built. Orient was the flagship of the French Nile fleet. She was destroyed when fire reached her magazine during the Battle of the Nile.|
|10.6 m||2000–||operational||A recently made British ship designed for the disabled.|
|17.3 m||USS Pennsylvania (1837)||1837–1861||burned to prevent capture||Largest and most heavily armed American wooden sailing warship. Mounted 120 guns. Made only one voyage. Laid up at the Norfolk Navy Yard and burned in April 1861 to prevent capture by the Confederates at the start of the American Civil War.|
|13.3 m||USS Constitution||1797–||In commission, not for active service||The second-oldest commissioned warship (after the Royal Navy's HMS Victory) in any of Earth's navies, and the oldest wooden ship still afloat in the 21st century.|
|16.2 m||Santísima Trinidad||1769–1805||sunk after battle||One of the few four-deckers ever built. 136 guns.|
|11 m||Götheborg||2003–||operational||This Swedish ship is 40.9 m (134.2 ft) long without the bowsprit, and a replica of the original that sank off Gothenburg in 1745.|
|HMS St Lawrence||1814–1815||turned into a hulk then sunk||Constructed in the Kingston Royal Naval Dockyard in Upper Canada during the War of 1812 to fight on the Great Lakes. After never seeing action she was decommissioned and became a storage hulk before sinking.|
|Bounty||1960–2012||sunk in Hurricane Sandy||An enlargement of HMS Bounty, which was scuttled by mutineers; built by MGM for the movie Mutiny on the Bounty.|
(179 ft 6 in)
|HMS Surprise||1970||museum ship||Originally commissioned and operated as a sail training ship, HMS Rose was renamed Surprise for her part in the movie Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World. She was sold to the Maritime Museum of San Diego in 2007. She again appeared on film as HMS Providence in the Disney film Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides.|
|13.1 m (43 ft)||Kronan||1672–1676||partial wreck excavated; possibly a planned exhibit||Sank with great loss of life at the Battle of Öland on 1 June 1676. Kronan is estimated to have been the third or fourth-largest ship in the world when built, but only seventh-largest at the time of her sinking.|
|12 m||Peter von Danzig||Before 1462 – late 1470s||wrecked||A Hanseatic League caravel, built in the French Atlantic port town La Rochelle, and the first large vessel in the Baltic Sea with carvel planking.|
|13.5 metres (45.5 ft)||Mars||1564||sunk after battle||A Swedish warship with 107 guns, that sunk after the battle known as Action of 30 May 1564 of the Northern Seven Years' War. Wreck possibly relocated in 2011. A possible sparred length has been estimated by divers as 80 meters.|
|11.7 m||Vasa||1628–1628||museum ship||
This Swedish warship sunk on her maiden voyage when a gale forced water onto the ship, she fell over on her port side and sank. Her sparred length is estimated at 69 meters, but her measured deck length (between perpendiculars) is 47.5 meters (155.8 ft).
Claimed but poorly documented
|Noah's Ark||c. 2100 BC||According to Genesis, God gave Noah instructions for building the ark. Seven days before the deluge, God told Noah to enter the ark with his household and the animals.|
by 18 m (420×58 ft)
|Tessarakonteres||c. 200 BC||The Greek Tessarakonteres (meaning 40 files of oarsmen) reportedly carried a crew of 400, was powered by 4000 oarsmen and transported 2850 soldiers, according to Athenaeus and Plutarch (Life of Demetrios). She was built for Ptolemy IV Philopator. Historical evidence for this ship is limited to ancient references. It is speculated that the ship could have had two hulls. According to Plutarch, during the tests the ship was difficult and dangerous to move.|
by 52 m (416×170 ft)
|Chinese treasure ship||15th century||Historical records from the document History of the Ming dynasty claim that the largest Chinese treasure ships were more than 400 feet (120 m) long. However, the size of treasure ships is still disputed and some scholars argue that they were probably closer to 200–250 feet in length, while others argue that they were actually 309–408 feet in length and 160–166 feet in width. |
by 14 m (377×46 ft)
|Thalamegos||c. 200 BC||Thalamegos (Ancient Greek θαλαμηγός = "leader of the rooms" from θάλαμος, -οι (thálamos, pl. -oi) = room(s) and ἡγεῖσθαι (hegeísthai) - to lead, guide) was a river going pomp boat of Ptolemy IV Philopator.
It is speculated that the ship had two hulls, with one single mast with a yard and sail, and is said to have been towed from the banks of the Nile.
|Syracusia||c. 240 BC||The Greek ship Syracusia is claimed to be the largest transport ship of antiquity. She was designed by Archimedes and built around 240 BC by Archias of Corinth on the orders of Hieron II of Syracuse.|
(360 ft) according to modern estimates
|Leontophoros||c. 280 BC||A warship (octere) built for Lysimachos. After his death was used by Ptolemy Keraunos to defeat Antigonus I in a battle in 280 BC.|
|Great Michael||1511||Some claimed that the Scottish carrack Great Michael was over twice the size of her competition of the same era, and had oak sides over 3 meters (10 ft) thick. She was allegedly armed with the largest ship's cannon ever.|
|63–95 m by 27–32 m, according to modern estimates||Hatshepsut's barge||c. 1500 BC||Used to transport obelisks.|
|Isis||c. 150||The Roman ship Isis was described by the sophist Lucian when he saw her in Athens' seaport Piraeus.|
|Ormen Lange||c. 1000||The Ormen Lange (The Long Serpent) was one of the most famous of the Viking longships, built for the Norwegian King Olav Tryggvason, and was the largest and most powerful longship of her day.|
- The World's Largest Ship, And a Tale of Two Ports, Alan Lucas, AFLOAT, October 2006.
- Wisconsin's Great Lakes Shipwrecks: Pretoria University of Wisconsin–Madison Sea Grant Institute and Wisconsin Historical Society, 2003.
- Lubbock, Basil: The Down-Easters. Glasgow: Brown, Son, & Ferguson, 1929, pp. 49 and 253.
- It started to leak after encountering a hurricane off Bermuda.
- Great Republic, A Sailor (presumed to be Duncan McLean), Eastburn's Press, Boston, 1853.
- MIT Museum's Hart Nautical Collection Portrays the Romance and Reality of Clipper Ships: The Clipper Ship Era, A Fever for Gold, Speed, and Profit 1843-1869, September 30, 2004 — July 10, 2005; More on the history of the clipper ship: Remarkable Achievements, MIT Museum article.
- Even the biggest of the 5,000-6,000-ton wooden battleships of the mid- to late 19th century and the 5,000-ton wooden motorships constructed in the United States during World War I did not exceed 340 feet (100 m) in length or 60 feet (18 m) in width. The longest of these ships, the Mersey-class frigates, were unsuccessful, and one, HMS Orlando, showed signs of structural failure after an 1863 voyage to the United States. The Orlando was scrapped in 1871 and the Mersey soon after. Both the Mersey-class frigates and the largest of the wooden battleships, the 121-gun Victoria class, required internal iron strapping to support the hull, as did many other ships of this kind. In short, the construction and use histories of these ships indicated that they were already pushing or had exceeded the practical limits for the size of wooden ships. (Asia's Undersea Archeology, Richard Gould, NOVA, PBS Television article).
- "Britain had built two long frigates in 1858 – HMS Mersey and HMS Orlando – the longest, largest and most powerful single-decked wooden fighting ships. Although only 335 feet (102 m) long, they suffered from the strain of their length, proving too weak to face a Ship of the line in close quarters." (HMS Warrior, h2g2, BBC Television)
- It foundered in heavy seas in 1924 with loss of all hands.
- The twisting and bucking of the planks were caused by the Wyoming's extreme length and mostly wood construction, although it did include metal bracing and other metal components.
- Steam-driven pumps were installed and run constantly to keep the hold relatively dry.
- "Unique River Ships of the Past". English Russia. July 11, 2012. Retrieved August 1, 2013.
- Santiago, Great Lakes Shipwrecks, ©1999-2007, David D. Swayze, Lake Isabella, MI, retrieved August 16, 2007.
- "BIG SAILING SHIP BURNS.; Famous American Craft Roanoke Is Destroyed by Fire". The New York Times. August 11, 1905.
- Wisconsin's Great Lakes Shipwrecks: Appomattox University of Wisconsin–Madison Sea Grant Institute and Wisconsin Historical Society, 2003.
- "She left Quebec Augt. 23rd & filled with water 650 Miles from land, drew 33 ft (10 m). & had 31 ft (9.4 m). water in her Hold, was waterlogged & went ashore in 3 pieces 24th Octr: near Calais." (Baron Renfrew Timber Ship (Timber Drogher) 1825, Library and Archives Canada, Acc. No. R9266-3280 Peter Winkworth Collection of Canadiana).
- Also known as a timber ship, or timber drogher.
- Originally known as the City of Naples, she was one of three sister ships (the others being the City of Venice and the City of Genoa).
- Its two sister ships were constructed the same way for the same reasons.
- Service History, Frank O'Connor article, Wisconsin's Great Lakes Shipwrecks website, Wisconsin Historical Society and University of Wisconsin–Madison Sea Grant.
- Launch of the Columbus
- Her round-bottomed hull is 42 feet (12.7 m) wide by 277 feet (83.9 m) long. The house rests on a platform extending 18 feet (5.5 m) from the hull on either side.
- CNN WORLD REPORT: World's Largest Wooden Ship Unveiled in Kuwait, CNN Transcript, July 8, 2001.
- Maritime Museum of the Atlantic William D. Lawrence Infosheet
- Deutsche Museumswerft
- Mahmudiye (ship)
- Michael (ship)
- China To Revive Zheng He's Legend, China Daily, September 4, 2006.
- Harbron, John D. (1988). Trafalgar and the Spanish navy. Annapolis, Md: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 0-87021-695-3.
- *(Swedish) Glete, Jan (1999) Hur stor var Kronan? Något om stora örlogsskepp i Europa under 1600-talets senare hälft in Forum Navale Sjöhistoriska samfundet, Stockholm, p. 17–25.
- The Peter von Danzig introduced the Mediterranean ship building technique of carvel planking into Northern Europe.
- "Swedish Unrated Warship Mars (1563)", Three Decks - Warships in the Age of Sail]
- Because of the conditions of the Baltic Sea, the Vasa was well preserved and was recovered relatively intact in 1961. She is now in the Vasa Museum in Stockholm, Sweden. (The Swedish Ship Vasa's Revival)
- "Vasa in Numbers, Vasa Museet
- Athenaeus. "The Deipnosophists".
- Casson, Lionel (1994). Ships and Seamanship in the Ancient World.
- Casson, Lionel. "The Age of the Supergalleys, Chapter 7 of Ships and Seafaring in Ancient Times" (PDF). University of Texas Press. ISBN 0-292-71162-X.
- Athenaeus, The Deipnosophists, Book 5, Loeb Classical Library No. 208, Harvard University Press, 1987.
- "History of the Ming dynasty" «明史», Zhang Tingyu chief editor, published 1737, “四十四丈一十八丈”.
- Stern rudder posts have been found that are over 15+ ft, and calculations show that the ships would have been around 400 ft long from this. Some claims of lengths as much as 600 feet (180 m) exist.
- Ancient Chinese Explorers, Evan Hadingham, Sultan's Lost Treasures, NOVA, PBS Television.
- Asia's Undersea Archeology, Richard Gould. NOVA, PBS Television article.
- The Great Chinese Mariner Zheng He [Cheng Ho], China the Beautiful webpage with Zheng He links.
- Zheng He: China and the oceans in the early Ming dynasty 1404–1433, Edward L. Dreyer, Longman, ISBN 0-321-08443-8, reviewed in China at sea, Jonathan Mirsky, The Times Literary Supplement, Times Online, January 24, 2007.
- The Colossal Ships of Zheng He: Image or Reality?, Sally K. Church, pp. 155-176 of Zheng He; Images & Perceptions, South China and Maritime Asia , Volume 15, Hrsg: Ptak, Roderich /Höllmann Thomas, O. Harrasowitz Verlag, Wiesbaden, 2005.
- When China Ruled the Seas", Louise Levathes, p. 80.
- It was over 300 feet (91 m) long, Casson, Lionel, 'Ships and Seamanship in the Ancient World', 1995, p. 342.
- 'Athenaios does not indicate his sources for the second ship, [the Thalamegos] but it must have been an eye-witness or a person who obtained measurements and other details from a contemporary', Sarton, George, 'Hellenistic Science and Culture in the Last Three Centuries B.C.', 1993, p. 121.
- Morrison, J.S. (1996). Greek and Roman oared warships. Oxford: Oxbow Books.
- The Great Michael was said to carry the Mons Meg cannon, the largest gun ever carried on any vessel in history with a bore of 56 cm (22 inches) that fired a 180 kg (396 lb) projectile. She also carried dozens of other cannons.
- Ancient Records of Egypt: Historical Documents from the Earliest Times; Volume Two: The Eighteenth Dynasty, James Henry Breasted, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1906, ISBN 0-8370-1660-6; republished by University of Illinois Press (May 17, 2001), ISBN 0-252-06974-9.
- Ancient Egypt: River Boats website.
- Ships of the Pharaohs, Björn Landström, Allen & Unwin, London, 1970.
- 'It is estimated that the obelisk barge may have been over ninety-five metres in length and thirty-two metres wide. Too large to be equipped with a sail and not very manoeuvrable, the barge would have been towed downstream by smaller vessels, also using the current, from Aswan to Thebes.' (Technology along the Nile: Ancient Egyptian Boats, Robert Partridge, Ancient Egypt Magazine, Volume 4, Issue 5, April/May 2004, last modified March 27, 2002).