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The History of the Sea is the History of the World

Everyone is fascinated with the sea, its mysteriousness, and danger. The Titanic sank in 1912, and stories about the people who sank and the remains of the ship itself still make front-page news. Perhaps if there had been offshore injury attorneys in 1912, the owners of the Titanic would have been more careful and less confident. People are still drawn to the sea for vacations, and they go into the waters even when they hear of the dangers. Legends are still told of heroes and disasters, while survivors looked on with awe. But the history of the sea traces back as far as we can see.

The National Maritime Historical Society is a group that emerged out of an effort to raise public awareness and support to preserve maritime history. The first effort was to save the last American-built square rigger, the 1899 merchant bark Kaiulani. When the Kaiulani sank while they were trying to raise the funds to save it, it became a symbol to the members of The National Maritime Historical Society of the need to educate Americans about our seagoing heritage and our maritime accomplishments. Understanding our maritime accomplishments is a key to our ongoing national success, and the Kaiulani is on the society’s seal, publications and merchandise.


When looking at great maritime events, it is possible to trace the history of the world. Dugout canoes can be traced back as far as 6,000 B.C., and in 480 B.C., the Battle of Salamis was possibly the largest naval battle of ancient times. The first raid of the Vikings was in 793, and everyone knows about Columbus in 1492. All children learn about explorers first, and how we and our ancestors came to be in the locations we now live. Cities are still important places for access to water. Even though people don’t technically come through Ellis Island anymore, it is still an important place for new people and ideas.

People would not be covering every continent and interacting with each other on a global basis if they had been afraid to explore the sea. Even though the original explorers had no idea what they would find, they ventured into the abyss and claimed the lands for themselves. It was so dangerous that it wasn’t until 1771 that James Cook made the first circumnavigation without anyone dying of scurvy.


The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor crossed many miles of sea, a feat which couldn’t have been done not long before. And, this was the event that brought the United States into the Second World War. The Allied landings in Normandy to defeat the Germans are still the largest amphibious invasion in history, and the Battle of Midway trumpeted the end of battleships and the clear domination of aircraft carriers after that point. Many other conflicts occurred at sea, causing many fatalities but also bringing out people’s heroism. The USS Indianapolis sank in 1945 during World War II, because of a torpedo, and 300 men went down, but many floated to eventual safety.

In 1962, the Cuban Missile Crisis signaled a major naval confrontation between the United States and Cuba. The Russians used an icebreaker ship in 1977, the Arktika, to get to the North Pole for the first time. As of 2005, piracy in international seas became so rampant that it was now an international concern. Maritime admiralty law has had a hard time dealing with what are essentially outlaws. Arktika 2007 took people to the Arctic seabed for the first time in history.

Here are some of the most important and dramatic ways maritime events and characteristics affect modern life:

  1. Security –Even though modern warfare has changed drastically, coastal regions are the first area of vulnerability for all modern nations. Any area with access to the sea is vulnerable to unwanted or dangerous strangers with bad motives. There are outlaws on the high seas, as is proven by the fact that pirates are still a serious threat to people using the oceans for travel or business. Whatever the size of the nation, there needs to be fortifications or artillery to repel invaders. Modern society feels safe, but those living in coastal areas take this sense of security for granted because we don’t see the dangers on a daily basis.
  2. Pearl Harbor –Theories still go back and forth as to what was known and when it was known. Having such a vulnerable group of Americans separated by geography made a huge part of the decision for the Japanese when they attacked. The attack on innocent people not yet at war angered a country trying to stay away from conflict, but it also influenced modern politics and relationships between countries. People picked sides in a big way, and there are still remnants of that event everywhere.
  3. Sea Exploration –James Cameron completed the second manned voyage to the bottom of the Challenger Deep, the deepest point in the Earth’s seabed hydrosphere, in 2012. We are still exploring the mysteries of the sea, and even the most prominent and learned scientists are curious about what all is down there. The first two descents were unmanned because it is very dangerous. If you get hurt at the bottom of the sea, there are no emergency responders. Study here is important because it could change everything we know about life.
  4. Modern Disasters– The whole world watches when there is a disaster at sea. The most shocking ones in recent memory caused strong feelings and sometimes even arrests. In Senegal in 2002, 1,864 people died when an overloaded ferry capsized. A ferry in the Philippines capsized in a typhoon, and only 57 out of 747 survived. On 2014 a ferry capsized, and the world mourned more loudly than normal as most of the victims were secondary school students. A submarine crew was killed in 2003 when the diesel engine on the Chinese vessel failed to shut down during a training exercise. One disaster where the captain was blamed was the running aground of the Costa Concordia, which sank in shallow waters, killing 32 people. People want to be on the move and watch with horror and fascination because we can see disasters in real time now. Everyone mourns for victims we’ve never met, and we feel outraged when we learn who is to blame.
  5. Expensive Modern Sea Disasters –People at sea are protected by nautical laws, and it is part of modern life that it can take a personal injury attorney to get justice for a situation which seems impossible. A maritime personal injury attorney must specialize in maritime laws because the rules are different from regular laws and are tried in different courts. Some of the lawsuits in maritime cases have won enormous amounts of money. These laws protect everyone from oil rig workers to ship hands. A maritime personal injury lawyer might see cases which are horrible, like when fire has consumed an oil rig, or when a ship sinks and many people perish. Truly, the world has been brought into the modern age with the intermixing of law and sea life.

Maritime explorers throughout history have been businesspeople and heroes, and even the ones with selfish intentions are looked at kindly for the most part because they were willing to be out ahead of everyone else. Everyone knows the names of explorers like Christopher Columbus and Vasco de Gama, who made maps.

Juan Ponce de Leon, John Wesley Powell, Marco Polo, William Smith, John Smith, Hernando de Soto. These are all names which will probably be remembered forever and taught in schools.

Clearly, the oceans and seas are important not just because of history, but because what happens there affects everyone in the world. A respect for the history and relevance of the sea is important to modern life. People fear and love the sea in an almost mythical way, moving toward the water’s edge for work, fun and food.

The history of the sea is dramatic and inspiring, and there continue to be disasters and rescues which affect people around the world. There are people who specialize in helping those who are victims of modern maritime disasters, and those who help people who are victims of offshore accidents or even injuries which occur while working on a ship or other conveyance on open water since workers’ compensation won’t cover those claims.

Working at sea is like being in another country. An offshore injury lawyer does not usually work in regular state or local courts. Instead, these specialists are governed by laws like the Death on the High Seas Act and the Jones Act.

  1. http://www.seahistory.org/
  2. http://www.seahistory.org/in-the-pages-of-sea-history-158/
  3. http://seahistory.org/publications/magazine/feature-story/
  4. https://www.seahistory.org/about/
  5. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maritime_timeline

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