The history of boating dates back to ancient times, with the first known watercrafts being used for transportation and trade. However, the concept of safety aboard the vessels didn’t arise until much later. It was in the mid-18th century when ships began carrying lifeboats.
The motivation behind carrying lifeboats was due to the alarming number of fatal accidents that had occurred in the shipping industry. In 1754, the British Parliament passed an act that required every British vessel over 80 tons to carry at least one, six-oared boat, one half-oared boat, a sounding lead, a line, and a bucket. Additionally, seamen were also required to learn how to swim.
In 1786, the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) was formed as a charity dedicated to saving lives at sea. They began manufacturing their own lifeboats, which were made of wood, copper, and later iron. The RNLI’s lifeboats were built to endure the harsh conditions at sea, making them durable during rescue operations.
By the 19th century, lifeboats were standard on all ships. New designs of lifeboats, such as the cork life raft invented by Norwegian Thor Dahl, were made to be more lightweight and compact, which allowed vessels to carry more than one lifeboat.
However, the importance of lifeboats became more relevant after the sinking of the Titanic in 1912. The ship was said to have had enough lifeboats, but many were not properly filled, leading to a large number of casualties. This gave rise to stricter regulations, with all ships being required to have enough lifeboats for every person on board.
The concept of carrying lifeboats on ships was motivated by the need to preserve life in the shipping industry. Though it began as a law, it evolved into a necessity, and by the 19th century, lifeboats were standard. As technology has advanced, newer and more advanced designs of lifeboats continue to emerge, providing greater safety for those who navigate the seas.