The Fascinating Ship's Bell
The nautical culture respects the ship’s bell for both the historical and traditional significance it carries. Ship bells are strongly tied to the nautical culture, as you can see by the number of ship bell nautical decorations available today. Nautical home decor ship bells can come as brass or even chrome.
Furthermore, the ships bell is used as a tool that can be used to warn the crew on board of the vessel. The ship bell’s distinct sound was critical to getting the attention of the crew. Also, in the case of a fire, the ships bell was rung hard and loud for five straight seconds. The location of the fire was then revealed to the crew through a coordinated ringing of the ship bell. A single ring meant that the fire was to the front; while two and three rings identified the fire in the center and rear, respectively.
The ship’s bell was essential for keeping time aboard the ship before the invention of the chronometer. This was done first by using a half-hour glass and the ship’s bell. The time keeper struck the ship bell whenever the hour glass reached a half-hour mark. After an hour was up, the ship’s bell would be struck twice. After the first hour, two more bell strikes were added on for the following half hour. The watchman working a four hour shift relied on this ringing of the ship’s bell to keep track of his duties. The United States Navy's daily routine uses the ship’s bell in the same way.
Sailing through dense fog required that all ships use their bells to send out a warning to other vessels that may be sailing in the same area. The ship bell’s volume penetrated the fog to warn other ships in the immediate area. It wasn’t long before all ships were required by maritime law to carry working ship’s bells when sailing. In the Revolutionary War, the settlers were introduced to the same functions of the ship bell as used by the English. The USS Constitution, the oldest surviving ship in American history, had been fixed with a 242 pound bell.
The unintended effect of one of the ship bell’s standard uses led to one of the American Navy's greatest sea victories during the War of Independence. The Jamaica Fleet, lost in fog, did what they were supposed to do by sounding their ship bells, but instead led the Americans directly to their position. The American’s preemptive strike resulted in not only a victory, but the largest prize catch during the War of Independence. As the biggest prize catch of the war, the amount of cargo seized amounted to roughly one million dollars.
The history behind ship’s bells makes them perfect candidates for use as nautical decorations. Many online nautical decoration stores have authentic ship bells for sale. The bell of the ship is a nautical decor item that should not be passed up.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
George is an avid collector and connoisseur of all things nautical- 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.