6 Unique River Ships of the Past

Unique River Ships of the Past

Posted on July 11, 2012 by team

Few probably know that some hundred years ago on the Volga river were sailing the ships whose displacement was bigger than cruiser “Aurora’s” one. It’s hard to believe but they were built from .. wood! “Belyanas”, as they were called, became a part of the Russian ship-building history as the most unique river ships in the world.

They were rather large compared to other river ships. Some of them reached 100 m in length, the height of the sides – 6 meters! Their lifting capacity was quite enormous too – 100-150 thousand poods (one pood = 16kg). They were as big as ocean vessels though they were sailing only on the Volga and never sailed further than Astrakhan.

For construction of one belyana they spent 240 pine logs and 200 fir logs. The bottom was made of fir, the sides – from pine. The distance between the frames didn’t exceed 0,5 m so belyanas were really solid. Initially the ships were built without a single nail, but subsequently they started to apply nails.

The steering wheel of a belyana looked like large wooden gates that was turned with help of a huge long log. It was rather clumsy but maneuverable. Belyanas had big and small anchors with weight from 20-100 poods and a lot of various ropes.

But the most interesting about belyanas was their cargo – “white timber” i.e. white-yellow logs with removed bark.

Belyanas were loaded in such a way they could have an access to the bottom in the case of leakage.

By the way a deck of a belyana represented a cargo too. It was either from boards or planks and was so huge that resembled a deck of a modern aircraft carrier.

Belyanas were often decorated with all possible flags, some of them were so big that looked like sails. But for traders it was a reason to be proud.

Some ships had 15-35 workers, bigger ones – 60-80 workers. Many of them were pumping water out of the ship hull. Leak was a permanent problem of belyanas.

The boom of belyanas construction happened in the XIX century with the prosperity of navigation. It’s even hard to imagine how much timber they required to maintain such a fleet. And they built 150 ships every year.


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6 Responses to “Unique River Ships of the Past”

  1. John says:

    Fire hazard!

  2. Tim Dennison says:

    Wait, so the deck was actually the cargo? Why make it flat, and similar to a ferry or aircraft carrier, when they could just make a mound, rounded on top. Possibly to keep the center of gravity lower?

  3. Max says:

    Dear Englishrussia and everyone else,

    Does anyone know where this post was originally published? I would be very, very grateful to know.

    Thanks, – Max S

  4. Maxim Ch. says:

    This…is REALLY cool.

  5. Blu1 says:

    How were they propelled?
    Interesting boats, would love to know more.

  6. jeffrey pigden says:

    All I can think of is Noah’s Ark.

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