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5 November 2003 (USA)  »

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'The Biggest Moveable Things People Make'
31 March 2008 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Shipyards are not something you hear much about these days. When I heard the end of this program and how many are still around in the United States (see below), I knew one reason why I was so uneducated about them. However, in most years in not just U.S. but world history, shipyards are a very big deal. Ask the British, who ruled the seas around 1700 and just check out the naval battles in both World Wars. Ships have always been a major part of existence for human beings.

This program gave a lot of history, back from the Greek and Roman Empire days to day. Archeologists are still looking for many historical shipyards but almost always unsuccessfully. Many times the modern yards have totally replaced the early shipyards.

Some of things that stood out to me in this History Channel episode was how big some of these shipyards are and how much manpower and effort it took to make this huge vessels, especially the further one goes back in time. It took thousands of men a long time to make huge ships. Now, robots and computers do a lot of the work. Amazing.

For most of time, a gently sloped piece land and a deep channel were the two most important parts of shipyards. Now, they found sloops are not needed. In the Colonial period in the U.S., Maine was the state that seemed to play the biggest role in shipyards. The transfer from steam to electric power made it easier to build bigger ships, the massive ones you've seen in footage of WWI and II battles. Steel shipyards replaced wooden shipyards, which also meant a different work force, one that could work with steel.

Of all the statements made in this show, one stood out over all the others: "Ships are the biggest movable things that people make."

A few other facts: the biggest boom in shipyard building was in the 1930s and 1940s. In a two-year span in the '30s, far more docks were built than it all the previous years in American history combined. World War II really was the boom period.

Speaking of the later, it is pointed out in this program that when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, they made a mistake of not bombing the dry docks. Having those in tact enabled the Americans to quickly rebuild.

During WWII, one shipyard put out a new destroyer every 17 days! Reportedly, when Hitlerheard how fast Americans were producing ships, said, "we have lost the war."

When WWII ended, there was a problem of what to do with all these excess cargo ships, but the Cold War kept military ships going strong, as President Ronald Reagan kept pace with the Soviets.

However, since then the number of shipyards in the United States has dwindled down to single digits: six. With only a half dozen left, the biggest loss, according to the writers of this show, is the loss of knowledge. A lot of ship builders are out of work and there very, very few people to replace them, certainly nobody with their 30-40 years of experience.


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