Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 58.djvu/541

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533
THE SCIENCE OF DISTANCES.

few, salient facts may be quoted about ships—sailing ships and steam vessels—and about telegraphs and cables.

In 1870 there were no more than ten British sailing ships which exceeded or reached two thousand tons burden. In 1892 the yards on the Clyde alone launched forty-six steel sailing vessels which averaged two thousand tons each. In 1895 the number of large steel sailing ships being built in the United Kingdom was down to twenty-three, and, speaking generally, it is inevitable that sailing vessels must give way to ocean steamships for most kinds of cargo—cattle, coals, wool, grain, oil and everything else.

Now let us turn to the results in shortening journeys accom- plished by the progress made in the construction and in the driving machinery of steamships within the last forty years, which has especially been fruitful in such improvements.

During this century the six months' voyage round the Cape to India became a forty and then a thirty days' journey by what was known as the overland route for mails and passengers through Egypt. By de- grees it had become shorter still by the railway extensions on the Con- tinent and by the unbroken steamship passage through the Suez Canal, until now the mails and hurrying travelers may reach London in twelve or fourteen days after leaving Bombay; and the great liners of the P. & 0. Company can arrive in the Thames eight days later. This famous corporation, after her Majesty had been reigning nearly ten years, pos- sessed only fourteen ships, with an aggregate of 14,600 tons. Now it owns a princely fleet of fifty-three ocean steamers, with a total capacity of 142,320 tons. Practically the voyage to India in her Majesty's reign has been diminished by one-half at least.

Also since the Queen's accession the passage between the British Isles and the Commonwealth of Australia has grown shorter, from the ninety days taken by the sailing clippers to the fifty-three days occupied by Brunei's 'Great Britain.' At the present time it lasts from thirty to thirty-five days by the Suez Canal route, while it has been finished in as little as twenty-eight days. Australia is consequently only half as far away, in time, as it was; while, if the Suez Canal were closed for any reason, we have at our disposal, in addition to the Cape route with its quick steamers, which is linked to us by the Pacific Ocean road, the splendid service of that Empire-consolidator, the Canadian Pacific Railway.

The important part played by the Suez Canal in this connection will be discussed a little later. Now I am merely indicating by a few well-known facts the diminution of distance by the improvements which have been made in the ships themselves and in their propelling machines.

Across the Atlantic the rapidity of traveling and the general aver-