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The Clipper Ships

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FanOfTimeLifeBooks

The Clipper Ships/The Seafarers

by FanOfTimeLifeBooks on May 5, 2011

The Clipper Ships is one of twenty-two volumes in the Time-Life book series The Seafarers. This series celebrates the spirit of maritime adventure, from ancient times to the twentieth century. This volume portrays the clipper ships, their designers, their captains, and their crews. An American demand for perishable tea from China and the discovery of gold in California and Australia led to a demand for faster sea transport in the 1830s and 1840s. At the same time, American naval officer Matthew Maury published data cataloging the tides, currents, winds, and other oceanographic and meteorologic data which clipper ship captains used to their advantage as they sought to break speed records. Competitions arose among clipper ship captains as they raced from New York to San Francisco via Cape Horn in South America. An economic slump in 1857 and the disruption of shipping during the American Civil War led to the decline of American clipper ship transport. However, the British continued to utilize clipper ship transport through the 1890s. The Cutty Sark was one of the most famous British clipper ships; between the 1870s and 1890s the Cutty Sark delivered Chinese tea and Australian wool. The construction of the Suez Canal in 1869 and the development of steamships and windjammers (steel ships with sails) led to the demise of the era of the clipper ships. Author A. B. C. Whipple has done an excellent job of describing both the glamour and grit of the age of the clipper ships with his vivid and fast-moving narrative. The stories of clipper ship races are especially well done. Numerous paintings and photographs enhance the text. In sum, The Clipper Ships is an excellent portrayal of the zenith of the age of sail.

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