1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Mast
MAST (1) (O. Eng. maest; a common Teutonic word, cognate with Lat. malus; from the medieval latinized form mastus comes Fr. mât), in nautical language, the name of the spar, or straight piece of timber, or combination of spars, on which are hung the yards and sails of a vessel of any size. It has been ingeniously supposed that man himself was the first mast. He discovered by standing up in his prehistoric “dugout,” or canoe, that the wind blowing on him would carry his craft along. But the origin of the mast, like that of the ship, is lost in times anterior to all record. The earliest form of mast which prevailed till the close of the middle ages, and is still in use for small vessels, was and is a single spar made of some tough and elastic wood; the conifers supply the best timber for the purpose. In sketching the history of the development of the mast, we must distinguish between the increase in the number erected, and the improvements made in the mast itself. The earliest ships had only one, carrying a single sail. So little is known of the rigging of classical ships that nothing can be affirmed of them with absolute confidence. The Norse vessels carried one mast placed in the middle. The number gradually increased till it reached four or five. All were at first upright, but the mast which stood nearest the bow was by degrees lowered forward till it became the bow-sprit of modern times, and lost the name of mast. The next from the bows became the foremast—called in Mediterranean sea language mizzana, in French misaine. Then came the main-mast—in French grand mât; and then the mizen—in French, which follows the Mediterranean usage, the artimon, i.e. “next the rudder,” timon. A small mast was sometimes erected in the very end of the ship, and called in English a “bonaventure mizen.” It had a close resemblance to the jigger of yawl-rigged yachts. By the close of the 16th century it had become the established rule that a ship proper had three masts—fore, main and mizen. The third takes its name not as the other two do, from its place, but from the lateen sail originally hoisted on it (see Rigging), which was placed fore and aft in the middle (Italian, mizzo) of the ship, and did not lie across like the courses and topsails. With the development of very large sailing clippers in the middle of the 19th century a return was made to the practice of carrying more than three masts. Ships and barques are built with four or five. Some of the large schooners employed in the American coast trade have six or seven, and some steamers have had as many.
The mast was for long made out of a single spar. Thence the Mediterranean name of “palo” (spar) and the Spanish “arbol” (tree). The typical Mediterranean mast of “lateen” (Latin) vessels is short and bends forward. In other classes it is upright, or bends slightly backwards with what is called a “rake.” The mast is grounded, or in technical language “stepped,” on the kelson (or keelson), the solid timber or metal beam lying parallel with, and above the keel. As the 15th century advanced the growth of the ship made it difficult, or even impossible, to find spars large enough to make a mast. The practice of dividing it into lower, and upper or topmast, was introduced. At first the two were fastened firmly, and the topmast could not be lowered. In the 16th century the topmast became movable. No date can be given for the change, which was gradual, and was not simultaneously adopted. When the masting of sailing ships was fully developed, the division was into lower or standing mast, topmast, topgallant mast, and topgallant royal. The topgallant royal is a small spar which is often a continuation of the topgallant mast, and is fixed. Increase of size also made it impossible to construct each of these subdivisions out of single timbers. A distinction was made between “whole” or single-spar masts and “armed” and “made masts.” The first were used for the lighter spars, for small vessels and the Mediterranean craft called “polacras.” Armed masts were composed of two single timbers. Made masts were built of many pieces, bolted and “coaked,” i.e. dovetailed and fitted together, fastened round by iron hoops, and between them by twelve or thirteen close turns of rope, firmly secured. “Made masts” are stronger than those made of a single tree and less liable to be sprung. The general principle of construction is that it is built round a central shaft, called in English the “spindle” or “upper tree,” and in French the mèche or wick. The other pieces—“side trees,” “keel pieces,” “side fishes,” “cant pieces” and “fillings” are “coaked,” i.e. dovetailed and bolted on to and around the “spindle,” which itself is made of two pieces, coaked and bolted. The whole is bound by iron bands, and between the bands, by rope firmly “woulded” or turned round, and nailed tight. The art of constructing made masts, like that of building wooden ships, is in process of dying out. In sailing men-of-war the mizen-mast often did not reach to the kelson, but was stepped on the orlop deck. Hollow metal cylinders are now used as masts. In the case of a masted screw steamer the masts abaft the engines could not be stepped on the kelson because they would interfere with the shaft of the screw. It is therefore necessary to step them on the lower deck, where they are supported by stanchions, or on a horseshoe covering the screw shaft. The size of masts naturally varies very much. In a 110–gun ship of 2164 tons the proportions of the mainmast were: for the lower mast, length 117 ft., diameter 3 ft. 3 in.; topmast, 70 ft., and 203 in.; topgallant mast, 35 ft., and 115 in., 222 ft. in all. At the other end of the scale, a cutter of 200 tons had a lower mast of 88 ft., of 22 in. diameter, and a topgallant mast (there was no topmast between them) of 44 ft., of 93 in. in diameter, 132 ft. in all; topgallant mast of 44 ft., and 93 in. in diameter. The masts of a warship were more lofty than those of a merchant ship of the same tonnage. At present masts are only used by warships for signalling and military purposes. In sailing merchant ships, the masts are more lofty than they were about a century ago. A merchant ship of 1300 tons, in 1830, had a mainmast 179 ft. in height; a vessel of the same size would have a mast of 198 ft. to-day.
A “jury mast” is a temporary mast put up by the crew when the spars have been carried away in a storm or in action, or have been cut away to relieve pressure in a storm. The word has been supposed without any foundation to be short for “injury” mast; it may be a mere fanciful sailor adaptation of “jury” in some connexion now lost. Skeat suggests that it is short for O. Fr. ajourie, Lat. adjutare, to aid. There is no reason to connect with jour, day.
See L. Jal, Glossaire Nautique (Paris, 1848); Sir Henry Manwayring, The Seaman’s Dictionary (London, 1644); N. Hutchinson, Treatise on Naval Architecture and Practical Seamanship (Liverpool, 1777); David Steel, Elements and Practice of Rigging, Seamanship and Naval Tactics (London, 1800); William Burney’s Falconer’s Dictionary (London, 1830); Sir Gervais Nares’s Seamanship (Portsmouth, 1882); and John Fincham, On Masting Ships and Mast Making (London, 1829). (D. H.)
Mast (2) (Anglo-Saxon maest, food, common to some Teutonic languages, and ultimately connected with “meat”), the fruit of the beech, oak, and other forest trees, used as food for swine.