July 16, 2009 7:39 PM Subscribe
Is there any way of determining what percentage of ships arrived safely at their destinations - or did not - during a given period in history?
posted by AngerBoy to Travel & Transportation (14 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I'm struck by how prevalent the imagery of shipwrecks has been in literature throughout history. I'm talking about shipwrecks as plot points in stories and plays, as a metaphor in poetry, and so on.
And I'd guess that, depending on when the author or poet was writing, their work might be more or less likely to feature shipwrecks depending on how common such accidents were at the time.
But, so far, I haven't found any way of finding out precisely how likely it was that any given trip at sea would have been to end in disaster during any given time in history. Do we think that 80% of journeys ended successfully? 60%? 40%? Did the numbers change appreciably between, say, the 13th century and the 17th?
I'm not sure if there's any verifiable way of getting these answers, but the more examples I came across, the more I realized that I had absolutely NO idea how frightening and/or grimly realistic the idea of shipwrecks would have been for Shakespeare's audience, or Homer's, or Wordsworth's.
Any knowledge of the subject (even anecdotal) or suggestions about books or websites to read would be great!