SCIENCE – Weather can affect sea travel in many ways. Sailing vessels use the wind for power. Sailing ships have historically been held victim to the tides, currents, and weather patterns, leaving little predictability for travel. In the late nineteenth century, weather could delay a transatlantic voyage by days or weeks. These trips already took anywhere from four to eight weeks. Imagine the cost of such delays and the impact it would have on crew members and passengers, such as how to ration food.When steamships were invented, travel became more predictable and they could transport goods and people faster and safer.

Weather Station
By Howard Miller
Metal, glass dome, bakelite base

Combination barometer, thermometer, hygrometer under glass dome. German made. Used for determining weather on a ship.

From the Posner Maritime Art Collection, SSHSA Archives.

Scroll through the images below for more detail.

« 1 of 4 »

Images from the Posner Collection.

Unidentified freighter covered in ice. From the Acores Collection, SSHSA Archives.

Additional Resources

The Ocean and Climate – Heat Redistribution lesson plan from PBS Learning Media for grades 9-12.

Molika Ashford, “How do Sailboats Sail into the Wind,” Live Science, 2010.

“How Do Large Ships Deal with Massive Hurricanes,” Forbes, 2012.

Questions for Further Thought

  1. How does wind affect sea travel?
  2. Explain the difference between sailing vessels and steam vessels in regards to wind and weather.
  3. What do you think it was like as a passenger traveling across the Atlantic in winter storms?

Education Standards

National Science Education Standards

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.