Supertanker ships transport enormous amounts of oil.

They were invented by Ludvig and Robert Nobel, brothers of Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite who founded and funded the Nobel Prize.

“Dy-na-mite!” said Ludvig and Robert Nobel’s brother, Alfred, when they shared their invention, an enormous ship to move oil.

OK, we’re 99.99% sure that didn’t happen. But the Nobel brothers certainly had an interest in the exploitation of natural resources.

Supertankers make the modern world possible by moving oil from where it’s plentiful to where it isn’t. The early ones were dangerous, with just one hull filled with explosive and filthy oil.

In one early accident, the oil caught fire and burnt half the crew alive. For example, in 1989 the Exxon Valdez supertanker ran aground and spilled 10.8 million US gallons (about 41 million liters) of oil into a pristine wildlife sanctuary.

Despite the dangers, tankers are necessary. They continually evolved in size and scope. Today, the largest supertanker is 450 meters long and 25 meters wide, an entire kilometer in diameter.

Besides tankers that carry oil, there are newer ships that carry other natural resources. Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) tankers carry natural gas turned into a liquid, but still stem from the same basic idea of enormous specialized ships to move natural resources.

Caravel Oceanic Ship

Before the Caravel, ships were limited to coastal navigation. The Caravel, with its relatively small hull and large sails, enabled long-distance navigation over large bodies of water; it was the jetliner of its era. Invented in the mid-1400s, the Caravel — among other things — enabled Columbus to navigate from Europe to North America. Other famous Caravel explorers include Diogo Cāo, Bartolomeu Dias, and Miguel Corte-Real.

The Caravel had to types of sails, lateen which allowed it to navigate close to shore and Atlantic; heavy sails used for long-distance navigation. This flexibility made the Caravel lower cost than larger, slower ships, affording a substantive trading and military advantage to Portugal and Spain, which both quickly transformed into world powers of their day.

As time went by, sails evolved from triangular to square shapes, that are familiar in medieval drawings. Eventually, the more efficient Carrack ship superseded the Caravel.