Ships Bells Are Historical Gems
Even in modern times the ship bell’s origin is firmly rooted in tradition. The founding principles of the ships bell were: keeping order, warning other ships and crew, timekeeping, sounding alarms, and for religious uses.
The first metal ships bell was created during the Bronze Age. One of the first countries that learned to make quality ship bells from metal was China. Among the first time that a ships bell was recorded in use was aboard the British Ship Grace Dieu in 1485. These ship bells were dubbed "wache bells".
Soon, it became commonplace that the ships bell be used during times of heavy fog to warn other ships of their presence. Notifying other ships in the area of one's presence was easy thanks to the loudness of the ships bell. It eventually became maritime law that all boats have a functioning ships bell at all times. During the Revolutionary War, the revolutionaries adopted the same practices as the British in regards to the ships bell. The ships bell aboard the USS Constitution (the oldest surviving ship in America) weighed approximately 242 pounds.
Furthermore, the ships bell helped the American Navy excel during the War of Independence. For instance, the Jamaica Fleet, an enemy of America at the time, loudly sounded their ships bell during a period of intense fog, inadvertently alerting the Americans to their position. Their reckless use of the bell was loud enough for the Americans to hear, and led to what became the biggest prize catch of the War of Independence. Overall, the total number of prizes and cargo captured that day amounted to roughly one million dollars by today’s standards.
Also, the ships bell is an invaluable part of keeping the crew on their toes in cases of emergency. The loud ships bell proved to be vital in capturing the attention of the crew. Also, if there were a fire, the ships bell was rung with increased vigor for five full seconds. The next few rings told the location of the fire. A single ring identified the fire to the front; consecutive rings identified the fire in the center; three rings identified the fire to the rear.
In the modern age, the ship bell is used as a timekeeping tradition, an alarm for the crew, and a ceremony bell. Several historical ship bells are displayed at the Naval Historical Center. Many ships honor the historical significance of the ships bell, as do museums that display and/or research them. It seems that the traditional sound of the ships bell still echoes to this day. Whenever one thinks of a ship, it is hard to imagine it without a ship bell.
Because of its history, the ships bell is a nautical gift that many people collect. You can find many authentic ship bells at online model ship retailers. Just like a ship missing one, the nautical decor collector without at least one ships bell is hardly a nautical decoration collector at all.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
George is an avid collector and connoisseur of all things having to do with the ocean- nautical decor, model boats, historical artifacts, etc. He has written articles for several large manufacturers and retailers of model ships, and he is a master ship builder himself. He brings a unique perspective from both the retail and the consumer side of the nautical decorating and model boat building markets.