UCD Centre for Economic Research Working Paper Series WP17/11
Against the consensus that sailing ship technology was stagnant during the early Industrial Revolution,we find striking improvements in safety at sea. Between 1760 and 1825, the risk of being wrecked for Atlantic shipping fell by one third, and of foundering by two thirds, reflecting improvements in seaworthiness and navigation respectively. Seaworthiness improved through replacing the traditional stepped deck ship with stronger flushed decked ones derived from Indian designs, and the increasing use of iron reinforcement. Improved navigation owed little to precise longitude estimation and stemmed mostly from accurate charts and instruments, and accessible manuals of navigational technique.