Brigantine Conoid – Whitstable Shipping Company – © Jonathan Aylen
Where does old technology go to die? Much effort is spent considering the diffusion of new technologies. But old technologies fade away unremarked.
The fax machine remains central to business life in Japan, but has disappeared elsewhere. Crack steam locomotives were relegated to goods traffic as diesel took over. Elderly jet aircraft are downgraded to freight carrying before being cannibalised for spare parts at boneyards in the Arizona desert and elsewhere. Video hire was once a profitable business. It is no longer fashionable to flaunt an i-pod.
Here we look at the last of the sailing ships. Not the mechanised, modern steel hulled windjammers of the Last Grain Race, but prosaic coasting vessels made of wood – the topsail schooners, the elderly brigantines and boomie barges that carried cargoes such as coal and china clay between small ports around the shores of the UK. These small vessels dominated coastwise trade in the 19th century, but only 2 were left working under sail by 1947.