Ship naming and launching

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The ceremonies involved in naming and launching naval ships are based in traditions thousands of years old.


Methods of launch

There are three principal methods of conveying a new ship from building site to water, only two of which are called "launching." The oldest, most familiar, and most widely used is the end-on launch, in which the vessel slides, usually stern first, down an inclined slipway. The side launch, whereby the ship enters the water broadside, came into 19th-century use on inland waters, rivers, and lakes, and was more widely adopted during World War II. The third method is float-out, used for ships that are built in basins or drydocks and then floated by admitting water into the dock.

History of ship naming


A Babylonian narrative dating from the 3rd millennium BC describes the completion of a ship:

Openings to the water I stopped;
I searched for cracks and the wanting parts I fixed:
Three sari of bitumen I poured over the outside;
To the gods I caused oxen to be sacrificed.

Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans called on their gods to protect seamen. The favor of the monarch of the seas — Poseidon in Greek mythology, the Roman Neptune — was evoked. Ship launching participants in ancient Greece wreathed their heads with olive branches, drank wine to honor the gods, and poured water on the new vessel as a symbol of blessing. Shrines were carried on board Greek and Roman ships, and this practice extended into the Middle Ages. The shrine was usually placed at the quarterdeck, an area which continues to have special, ceremonial, significance.

Different peoples and cultures shaped the religious ceremonies surrounding a ship launching. Jews and Christians customarily used wine and water as they called upon God to safeguard them at sea. Intercession of the saints and the blessing of the church were asked by Christians.

Ship launchings in the Ottoman Empire were accompanied by prayers to Allah, the sacrifice of sheep, and appropriate feasting.

The Vikings are said to have offered human sacrifice to appease the angry gods of the northern seas.[citation needed]

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