The Early Modern Era saw great change in the field of naval technology. Exploration and the desire to expand trade fueled the development of new, more effective naval vessels. These vessels, in turn, contributed to the growth of worldwide trade and interconnection that marked the period.
In 1453 the Ottomans took control of Constantinople, and effectively cut off direct European trade to East Asia. Because of this, in the late 15th and early 16th centuries, exploration in search of alternative routes became a key focus of Western European nations.
The development of such vessels as the caravel and carrack allowed for the great expansion of this trade-driven exploration. The caravel, a small, lateen-rigged ship of 12-18 meters (Russel, 229) , was developed as a fishing boat in the early 13th century, in Portugal. Its maneuverability and speed made it possible for explorers, merchants, and fisherman alike, to go further, faster. The Caravel would become the backbone of early Spanish and Portuguese exploration, and the model on which many other vessels were based. Columbus used two caravels in his ‘discovery’ of the new world: the Niña and the Pinta; and Vasco Da Gama used the caravel Berrio in his expedition around Africa.
The carrack, or nao, was a large, multi-decked ship that used a combination of square and lateen sails to ensure a balance of power and maneuverability. The carrack became the premiere ship of early exploration and trade as it was able to carry up to 1,000 tons(Johnston) and was capable of withstanding the lengthiest voyages. The premiere ships of the voyages of Columbus, De Gama, and Magellan were all carracks.
These early vessels allowed for the mass exploration and colonization, of the Americans, the growth of trade with the East Indies, and the beginnings of the Columbian Exchange. However, by the mid 17th century, new vessels phased out the caravel and carrack, meeting the increasing needs of the Atlantic Trade.
The foremost vessel of the 17th and 18th centuries was the galleon. The galleon was developed as to balance the relatively streamlined profile of the caravel and the size of the carrack. The resulting ship was able to carry as much, if more than a comparable carrack, while traveling substantially faster. This, along with the relative cost-effectiveness of producing one, made the galleon one of the (if not the) most widely used vessels throughout the...