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Overseas shipping in the 16th Century

Aug 5, 2008
After the discovery of America in 1492, overseas shipping took on a whole new dimension in the 16th Century. Ships that once traversed the Mediterranean and the coast of Africa now had to re-equip and refit for the longer voyages to the New World. Just as it is today, speed and reliability meant the success or failure of any company in the overseas shipping business.

Up until 1500 AD, many of the ships that were built were large enough to carry cargo but small enough to negotiate the inland seas and waterways that they had to pass through to reach the inner regions of the Middle East and the western shores of Asia. The 16th Century was the age of the trans-Atlantic voyage and the development of huge merchant vessels and warships. The conquest of America was a race that required faster ships and larger overseas shipping cargoes. Supplies, food, and weapons flowed across the ocean under the flags of half a dozen nations struggling for control of the new land.

Establishing a permanent colony on the mainland in America was the top priority for every nation that was involved in this epic battle to get there first. Spanish Conquistadors led the way but had little interest in settling permanently. Looking to gather treasures to send back via overseas shipping as tributes to their adventures, these steel clad soldiers traveled great distances but accomplished little in the way of settling the new land.

The British attempted an early colony in the 16th Century at Roanoke, Virginia but it disappeared mysteriously when their transport ships returned to England for supplies. Returning with overseas shipping vessels laden with supplies and weapons, the captain of the lead vessel was shocked to find an empty settlement and no trace of where the people had gone. The event remains a mystery today.

It wasn't until after the 16th Century in 1620 that a first colony was established by the British at Plymouth, Massachusetts. It still exists and is considered the beginning of what would become the United States of America. In the century preceding the founding of Plymouth settlements on the mainland and in the Caribbean were mainly military bases that served as departure and arrival points for the overseas shipping companies that supplied the army.

There was one settlement that was founded in the 16th Century that survived into the modern age but the original intent was not for it to be permanent. Ponce de Leon, who sailed with Columbus on his second voyage, founded and became governor of Puerto Rico. The tiny island nation was actually the first international overseas shipping power in the Western Hemisphere. Ponce de Leon was not quite as fortunate. His quest for the legendary Fountain of Youth in Florida eventually killed him and his accomplishments in Puerto Rico have faded into obscurity behind the legend of his quest. By the end of the 16th Century, the lines had been drawn and the Caribbean belonged to Spain. With seemingly unstoppable momentum, their eyes turned north to the peninsula of Florida and the Eastern Seaboard. The year 1600 came and left and it seemed that the Spanish Cross would stand alone on the shores of America.
About the Author
Nir Dotan is a writer and promoter of
Overseas Shipping services,

Local as well as International Moving.
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