Sea History - Sea of darkness

Images of the Sea of Darkness show how frightening it was to sail beyond what was known. Sea monsters, sea serpents, and ghost ships loomed in sailors' imaginations along with legends of the sea such as Sinbad and other seafaring tales.

Historically, flat earth concepts limited seafaring to coastal waters. As maps improved, so did navigation devices. Storms, icebergs, and other hazards continued to cause shipwrecks, which cost sailors their lives, seen in historical pictures of events encompassing Biblical ship disasters to the Titanic. Sea rescues and other heroism at sea became legendary in maritime history, as the dramatic illustrations attest.

Despite the dangers, historical pictures show there were always adventurers who dared the elements. Vikings raided European coastal settlements and then ventured west to Greenland and the shores of North America. Medieval Portuguese mariners found the sea route around Africa to India seeking spices and silk from the Orient for European markets.

Highlights of the Age of Discovery, as shown in historical pictures, are Columbus's voyages, Balboa's discovery of the Pacific Ocean, and Magellan's circumnavigation of the earth. New World discoveries led to New World conquests, which required sea voyages, supply ships, and construction of colonial seaports in the Americas. Maps of "Terra Incognita" became sketched-in coastlines, although the search continued for a Northwest Passage by Arctic explorers until the 20th century.

Historical pictures indicate the colonization of Africa opened seaports on the African coast, which allowed access to what had been the Dark Continent. African explorers largely followed the Congo River and other waterways inland. One result was the African slave trade, giving a different meaning to the "Sea of Darkness".


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