'Basilisk', paddle sloop, 6 guns, towing stern-to-stern with 'Niger', screw sloop, 14 guns

Inscribed: “Towing stern to stern each vessel exerting her utmost power in opposite directions. This trial of power between the Paddle Wheel & Screw took place in the English Channel on the 20th June 1849, and lasted one hour in which time the ‘Niger’ towed the ‘Basilisk’ at the rate by patent Log, or 1.466 Knots per hour. Both ships constructed by Oliver Lang Esqre Royal Dock Yard Woolwich”. Details are also listed, one ship described on each side of the inscription. ‘Basilisk’ is on the left and ‘Niger’ on the right.

This trial was one of several carried out that summer which effectively sealed the fate of paddle propulsion (see Winfield (2014) ‘British Warships in the Age of Sail 1817-1863’, p.343).

The ‘Smith’s screw’ specified under ‘Niger’ in the inscription refers to the self-taught engineer Francis Pettit Smith, who in 1836 took out a patent for propelling vessels by means of a screw revolving beneath the water at the stern. SLR2375 is a wooden model, dated 1835, of Smith’s soon-to-be patented screw propeller, from which was later built the one fitted to SS ‘Archimedes’ – the world's first screw-propelled steamship – and thus subsequently had a profound influence on ship development, prompting Brunel to fit one to his SS ‘Great Britain’ and eventually encouraging the adoption of screw propulsion by the Royal Navy.

Lang was from 1826-53 Master Shipwright at Woolwich, responsible for the vast majority of early designs for steam paddle vessels, beginning with the ‘Comet’ in 1821/2, which was the Royal Navy’s first effective steam-powered vessel. The Museum holds many plans signed by him.

Signed H. Sewell R.N. on a piece of floating debris in the foreground.

Object Details

ID: PAH0944
Collection: Fine art
Type: Print
Display location: Not on display
Creator: Jobbins, J. R.; Powell, J. Edward Jobbins, J. R. Powell, Edward J. Sewell, H.
Vessels: Basilisk (1848); Niger (1846)
Date made: circa 1849
People: Francis Pettit Smith; Lang, Oliver
Credit: National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London
Measurements: Sheet: 423 x 530 mm; Mount: 480 mm x 634 mm

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