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Modern ship rudder
Aircraft rudder

A rudder is a device used to steer a ship, boat, submarine, hovercraft, aircraft, or other conveyance that moves through a fluid (generally air or water). On an aircraft the rudder is used primarily to counter adverse yaw and p-factor and is not the primary control used to turn the airplane. A rudder operates by redirecting the fluid past the hull or fuselage, thus imparting a turning or yawing motion to the craft. In basic form, a rudder is a flat plane or sheet of material attached with hinges to the craft's stern, tail or after end. Often rudders are shaped so as to minimize hydrodynamic or aerodynamic drag. On simple watercraft, a tiller -- essentially, a stick or pole acting as a lever arm -- may be attached to the top of the rudder to allow it to be turned by a helmsman. In larger vessels, cables, pushrods, or hydraulics may be used to link rudders to steering wheels. In typical aircraft, the rudder is operated by pedals via mechanical linkages or hydraulics.


History of the rudder



Scheme of a sternpost-mounted medieval rudder. The iron hinge system was the first stern rudder permanently attached to the ship hull.[1] It made a vital contribution to the navigation achievements of the age of discovery and thereafter.
Quarter rudder of a Phoenician ship

Generally, a rudder is "part of the steering apparatus of a boat or ship that is fastened outside the hull", that is denoting all different types of oars, paddles and rudders.[2] More specifically, the steering gear of ancient vessels can be classified into side-rudders and stern-mounted rudders, depending on their location on the ship. A third term, steering oar, can denote both types. In a Mediterranean context, side-rudders are more specifically called quarter-rudders as the later term designates more exactly the place where the rudder was mounted. Stern-mounted rudders are uniformly suspended at the back of the ship in a central position, but the term has historically been found wanting because it does not take into account that the stern rudders were attached to the ship hull in quite a different way: While the European pintle-and-gudgeon rudder was attached to the sternpost by pivoting iron fastenings, the Arabs used instead a system of lashings. Chinese stern rudders also featured tackles, but, unlike their medieval and Arab counterparts, had no sternpost to which to attach them.[3] Roman and particularly ancient Egyptian stern rudders featured again a different method of fastening where the stock, having a single point of contact with the stern, was additionally secured to the ship body by an upright rudderpost or braced ropes.[4][5]

Although Lawrence Mott in his comprehensive treatment of the history of the rudder,[3] Timothy Runyan,[6] the Propyläen History of Technology,[7] the Encyclopedia Britannica,[2] and The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology[8] classify a steering oar as a rudder,[3] Joseph Needham, Lefèbre des Noëttes, K.S. Tom, Chung Chee Kit, S.A.M. Adshead, John K. Fairbank, Merle Goldman, Frank Ross, and Leo Block state that the steering oar used in ancient Egypt and Rome (and even ancient China) was not a true rudder; the steering oar has the capacity to interfere with handling of the sails (limiting any potential for long ocean-going voyages) while it was fit more for small vessels on narrow, rapid-water transport; the rudder did not disturb the handling of the sails, took less energy to operate by its helmsman, was better fit for larger vessels on ocean-going travel, and first appeared in ancient China during the 1st century AD.[9][10][11][12][13][14][15] In regards to the ancient Phoenician (1550–300 BC) use of the steering oar without a rudder in the Mediterranean, Leo Block (2003) writes:

A single sail tends to turn a vessel in an upwind or downwind direction, and rudder action is required to steer a straight course. A steering oar was used at this time because the rudder had not yet been invented. With a single sail, a frequent movement of the steering oar was required to steer a straight course; this slowed down the vessel because a steering oar (or rudder) course correction acts like a brake. The second sail, located forward, could be trimmed to offset the turning tendency of the main sail and minimize the need for course corrections by the steering oar, which would have substantially improved sail performance.[16]

Ancient Egypt

Stern-mounted steering oar of an Egyptian riverboat depicted in the Tomb of Menna (c. 1422-1411 BC)

Rowing oars set aside for steering appeared on large Egyptian vessels long before the time of Menes (3100 BC).[17] In the Old Kingdom (2686 BC-2134 BC) as much as five steering oars are found on each side of passenger boats.[17] The tiller, at first a small pin run through the stock of the steering oar, can be traced to the fifth dynasty (2504–2347 BC).[18] Both the tiller and the introduction of an upright steering post abaft reduced the usual number of necessary steering oars to one each side.[19] Apart from side-rudders, single rudders put on the stern can be found in a number of tomb models of the time,[20][21] particularly during the Middle Kingdom when tomb reliefs suggests them commonly employed in Nile navigation.[22] The first literary reference appears in the works of the Greek historian Herodot (484-424 BC), who had spent several months in Egypt: "They make one rudder, and this is thrust through the keel", probably meaning the crotch at the end of the keel (see right pic "Tomb of Menna").[23][24]

In Iran, oars mounted on the side of ships for steering are documented from the 3rd millennium BCE in artwork, wooden models, and even remnants of actual boats.


An Eastern Han (25–220 AD) Chinese pottery boat fit for riverine and maritime sea travel, with an anchor at the bow, a steering rudder at the stern, roofed compartments with windows and doors, and miniature sailors.
An early Song Dynasty (960–1279) painting on silk of two Chinese cargo ships accompanied by a smaller boat, by Guo Zhongshu (c.910–977 AD); notice the large stern-mounted rudder on the ship shown in the foreground

In China, miniature models of ships that feature steering oars have been dated to the Zhou Dynasty (c. 1050 BC – 256 BC).[11] Stern mounted rudders started to appear on Chinese ship models starting in the 1st century AD.[11] However, the Chinese continued to use the steering oar long after they invented the rudder, since the steering oar still had limited practical use for inland rapid-river travel.[9] One of oldest known depiction of a stern-mounted rudder in China can be seen on a 2 ft. long tomb pottery model of a junk dating from the 1st century AD, during the Han Dynasty (202 BC-220 AD).[25][26] It was discovered in Guangzhou in an archaeological excavation carried out by the Guangdong Provincial Museum and Academia Sinica of Taiwan in 1958.[25][26] Within decades, several other Han Dynasty ship models featuring rudders were found in archaeological excavations.[27] The first solid written reference to the use of a rudder without a steering oar dates to the 5th century.[28]

Chinese rudders were not supported by pintle-and-gudgeon as in the Western tradition; rather, they were attached to the hull by means of wooden jaws or sockets,[29] while typically larger ones were suspended from above by a rope tackle system so that they could be raised or lowered into the water.[29] Also, many junks incorporated "fenestrated rudders" (rudders with holes in them, allowing for better control), an innovation adopted in the West in 1901 to increase the manoeuvrability of torpedo boats. Detailed descriptions of Chinese junks during the Middle Ages are known from various travellers to China, such as Ibn Battuta of Tangier, Morocco and Marco Polo of Venice, Italy. The later Chinese encyclopedist Song Yingxing (1587-1666) and the 17th century European traveler Louis Lecomte would write of the junk design and its use of the rudder with enthusiasm and admiration.[30]

Paul Johnstone and Sean McGrail state that the Chinese invented the "median, vertical and axial" stern-mounted rudder, and that such a kind of rudder preceded the pintle-and-gudgeon rudder found in the West by roughly a millennium.[28] However, Mott points out that the Chinese rudder worked by a very different suspension system, and that it was not permanently attached to a sternpost, leaving little point in comparing two such different types of rudder.[3] The method of mounting steering gear from the stern was well known in Mediterranean navigation by the time the practice appeared in Chinese ships.[4][5][31][32][33][34][35][36]

Ancient Rome

Stern-mounted rudder of a Roman boat, 1st century AD (RG-Museum, Cologne).

Roman navigation used sexillie quarter rudders which went in the Mediterranean through a long period of constant refinement and improvement, so that by Roman times ancient vessels reached extraordinary sizes.[37] The strength of quarter rudder lay in its combination of effectiveness, adaptability and simpleness.[37] Roman quarter rudder mounting systems survived mostly intact through the medieval period.[37]

By the first half of the 1st century AD, rudders mounted on the stern were also quite common in Roman river and harbour craft as proved from reliefs and archaeological finds (Zwammderdam, Woerden 7). A tomb plaque of Hadrianic age shows a harbour tug boat in Ostia with a long stern-mounted oar for better leverage.[31] Interestingly, the boat already featured a spritsail, adding to the mobility of the harbour vessel.[38] Further attested Roman uses of stern-mounted rudders includes barges under tow, transport ships for wine casks, and diverse other ship types.[32][33][34] Also, the well-known Zwammerdam find, a large river barge at the mouth of the Rhine, featured a large rudder mounted on the stern.[35][36] According to new research, the advanced Nemi ships, the palace barges of emperor Caligula (37-41 AD), may have featured 14 m long stern-mounted rudders.[39]

Medieval Near East

Arab ships also used a sternpost-mounted rudder, but which differed technically from both its European and Chinese counterparts, indicating an independent invention.[40] On their ships "the rudder is controlled by two lines, each attached to a crosspiece mounted on the rudder head perpendicular to the plane of the rudder blade."[40] The earliest evidence comes from the Ahsan al-Taqasim fi Marifat al-Aqalim ('The Best Divisions for the Classification of Regions') written by al-Muqaddasi in 985:

The captain from the crow's nest carefully observes the sea. When a rock is espied, he shouts: "Starboard!" or 'Port!" Two youths, posted there, repeat the cry. The helmsman, with two ropes in his hand, when he hears the calls tugs one or the other to the right or left. If great care is not taken, the ship strikes the rocks and is wrecked.[41]

Arabs used instead a system of lashings. Chinese stern rudders also featured tackles, but, unlike their medieval and Arab counterparts, had no sternpost to which to attach them.[3] According to Lawrence V. Mott, the "idea of attaching the rudder to the sternpost in a relatively permanent fashion, therefore, must have been an Arab invention independent of the Chinese."[40]

Medieval Europe

Pintle-and-gudgeon rudder of the Hanseatic league flagship Adler von Lübeck (1567-1581), the largest ship in the world at its time

Oars mounted on the side of ships evolved into quarter rudders, which were used from antiquity until the end of the Middle Ages in Europe. As the size of ships and the height of the freeboards increased, quarter-rudders became unwieldy and were replaced by the more sturdy stern-mounted rudders with pintle and gudgeon attachment. While stern-mounted rudders were found in Europe on a wide range of vessels since Roman times, including light war galleys in Mediterranean,[42] the oldest known depiction of a pintle-and-gudgeon rudder can be found on church carvings of Zedelgem and Winchester dating to around 1180.[12][28]. The invention of the rudder in Medieval Europe is attributed to Somerled in 1156, when it was the decisive factor in his defeat of Gofraidh mac Amhlaibh during the formation of the Lordship of the Isles[43].

Historically, the radical concept of the medieval pintle-and-gudgeon rudder did not come as a single invention into being. It presented rather a combination of ideas which each had been long around before: rudders mounted on the stern, iron hinges and the straight sternpost of northern European ships.[44] While earlier rudders were mounted on the stern by the way of rudderposts or tackles, the iron hinges allowed for the first time to attach the rudder to the entire length of the sternpost in a really permanent fashion.[45] However, its full potential could only to be realized after the introduction of the vertical sternpost and the full-rigged ship in the 14th century.[44] From the age of discovery onwards, European ships with pintle-and-gudgeon rudders sailed successfully on all seven seas.

Contrary to an older hypothesis, all evidence indicates that the European hinged stern-mounted rudder, whose technical specifications considerably differ from the Chinese one, was invented independently:

The only actual concept which can be claimed to have been transmitted from the Chinese is the idea of a stern-mounted rudder, and not its method of attachment nor the manner in which it was controlled. Since that idea of putting a rudder on the stern can be traced back to the models found in Egyptian tombs, the need to have the concept brought into the Middle East is questionable at best. There is no evidence to support the contention that the sternpost-mounted rudder came from China, and no need to call on exterior sources for its introduction into the Mediterranean.[46]

Boat rudders details

Boat rudders may be either outboard or inboard. Outboard rudders are hung on the stern or transom. Inboard rudders are hung from a keel or skeg and are thus fully submerged beneath the hull, connected to the steering mechanism by a rudder post which comes up through the hull to deck level, often into a cockpit.

Rudder post and mast placement defines the difference between a ketch and a yawl, as these two-masted vessels are similar. Yawls are defined as having the mizzen mast abaft (ie. "aft of") the rudder post; ketches are defined as having the mizzen mast forward of the rudder post.

Small boat rudders that can be steered more or less perpendicular to the hull's longitudinal axis make effective brakes when pushed "hard over." However, terms such as "hard over," "hard to starboard," etc. signify a maximum-rate turn for larger vessels.

Aircraft rudders

The tail of a Martin B-57E with rudder deflected to starboard.

On an aircraft, the rudder is called a "control surface" along with the rudder-like elevator (attached to horizontal tail structure) and ailerons (attached to the wings) that control pitch and roll. The rudder is usually attached to the fin (or vertical stabilizer) which allows the pilot to control yaw in the vertical axis, i.e. change the horizontal direction in which the nose is pointing. The rudder's direction is manipulated with the movement of foot pedals by the pilot.

In practice, both aileron and rudder control input are used together to turn an aircraft, the ailerons imparting roll, the rudder imparting yaw, and also compensating for a phenomenon called adverse yaw. Adverse yaw is readily seen if the most simple type of ailerons alone are used for a turn. The downward moving aileron acts like a flap, generating more lift for one wing, and therefore more drag (though since the 1930s, many aircraft have used frise ailerons or differential ailerons, which compensate for the adverse yaw and require little or no rudder input in regular turns). Initially, this drag yaws the aircraft in the direction opposite to the desired course. A rudder alone will turn a conventional fixed wing aircraft, but much more slowly than if ailerons are also used in conjunction. Use of rudder and ailerons together produces co-ordinated turns, in which the longitudinal axis of the aircraft is in line with the arc of the turn, neither slipping (under-ruddered), nor skidding (over-ruddered). Improperly ruddered turns at low speed can precipitate a spin which can be dangerous at low altitudes. This can be clearly seen in the crash of United Airlines Flight 585 and USAir Flight 427, where the aircraft experienced a rudder hard-over at a low altitude.

Sometimes pilots may intentionally operate the rudder and ailerons in opposite directions in a maneuver called a forward slip. This may be done to overcome crosswinds and keep the fuselage in line with the runway, or to more rapidly lose altitude by increasing drag, or both. The pilots of the Air Canada Flight 143 used a similar technique to land the plane as it was too high above the glideslope.

Any aircraft rudder is subject to considerable forces that determine its position via a force or torque balance equation. In extreme cases these forces can lead to loss of rudder control or even destruction of the rudder. (The same principles also apply to water vessels, of course, but it is more important for aircraft because they have lower engineering margins.) The largest achievable angle of a rudder in flight is called its blowdown limit; it is achieved when the force from the air or blowdown equals the maximum available hydraulic pressure.


  1. ^ Lawrence V. Mott, The Development of the Rudder, A.D. 100-1337: A Technological Tale, Thesis May 1991, Texas A&M University, p.2f., 92-95
  2. ^ a b rudder.Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved August 8, 2008, from Encyclopædia Britannica 2006 Ultimate Reference Suite DVD
  3. ^ a b c d e Lawrence V. Mott, The Development of the Rudder, A.D. 100-1337: A Technological Tale, Thesis May 1991, Texas A&M University, p.2f., 92
  4. ^ a b William F. Edgerton: “Ancient Egyptian Steering Gear”, The American Journal of Semitic Languages and Literatures, Vol. 43, No. 4. (1927), pp. 255-265
  5. ^ a b R. O. Faulkner: Egyptian Seagoing Ships, The Journal of Egyptian Archaeology, Vol. 26. (1941), pp. 3-9
  6. ^ Timothy J. Runyan: “Review of The Development of the Rudder: A Technological Tale“, Speculum, Vol. 74, No. 4, (1999), pp. 1096-1098 (1098)
  7. ^ Wolfgang König: Propyläen Technikgeschichte: Landbau und Handwerk 750 v. Chr. bis 1000 n. Chr., Berlin 1990, p.260
  8. ^ The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology
  9. ^ a b Needham, Joseph. (1986). Science and Civilization in China: Volume 4, Physics and Physical Technology, Part 3, Civil Engineering and Nautics. Taipei: Caves Books Ltd. Pages 627–628.
  10. ^ Chung, Chee Kit. (2005). "Longyamen is Singapore: The Final Proof?," in Admiral Zheng He & Southeast Asia. Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies. ISBN 9812303294. Page 152.
  11. ^ a b c Tom, K.S. (1989). Echoes from Old China: Life, Legends, and Lore of the Middle Kingdom. Honolulu: The Hawaii Chinese History Center of the University of Hawaii Press. ISBN 0824812859. Page 103–104.
  12. ^ a b Adshead, Samuel Adrian Miles. (2000). China in World History. London: MacMillan Press Ltd. New York: St. Martin's Press. ISBN 0312225652. Page 156.
  13. ^ Fairbank, John K. and Merle Goldman. (1998). China: A New History, Enlarged Edition. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. ISBN 0674116739. Page 93.
  14. ^ Ross, Frank. (1982). Oracle Bones, Stars, and Wheelbarrows: Ancient Chinese Science and Technology. New York: Houghton Mifflin. ISBN 0395549671.
  15. ^ Block, Leo. (2003). To Harness the Wind: A Short History of the Development of Sails. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 1557502099. Page 123.
  16. ^ Block, Leo. (2003). To Harness the Wind: A Short History of the Development of Sails. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 1557502099. 8–9.
  17. ^ a b William F. Edgerton: "Ancient Egyptian Steering Gear", The American Journal of Semitic Languages and Literatures, Vol. 43, No. 4. (1927), pp. 255
  18. ^ William F. Edgerton: "Ancient Egyptian Steering Gear", The American Journal of Semitic Languages and Literatures, Vol. 43, No. 4. (1927), pp. 257
  19. ^ William F. Edgerton: "Ancient Egyptian Steering Gear", The American Journal of Semitic Languages and Literatures, Vol. 43, No. 4. (1927), pp. 260
  20. ^ Lawrence V. Mott, The Development of the Rudder, A.D. 100-1337: A Technological Tale, Thesis May 1991, Texas A&M University, p.84, 92
  21. ^ Francesco Tiradritti (ed.): “The Treasures of the Egyptian Museum”, The American University in Cairo Press, Cairo 1999, ISBN 978 977 424 504 6, p.92f.
  22. ^ Mohamed Ata: “Egypt from Past to Present. Through the Eyes of an Egyptian”, Cairo 2007, p.68
  23. ^ Herodot: Histories, 2.96
  24. ^ William F. Edgerton: “Ancient Egyptian Steering Gear”, The American Journal of Semitic Languages and Literatures, Vol. 43, No. 4. (1927), pp. 263
  25. ^ a b Needham, Volume 4, Part 3, 649-650.
  26. ^ a b Fairbank, 192.
  27. ^ Deng, Gang. (1997). Chinese Maritime Activities and Socioeconomic Development, c. 2100 B.C.-1900 A.D. Westport: Greenwood Press. ISBN 0313292124. Page 42.
  28. ^ a b c Johnstone, Paul and Sean McGrail. (1988). The Sea-craft of Prehistory. New York: Routledge. ISBN 0415026350. Page 191.
  29. ^ a b Needham, Volume 4, Part 3, 362.
  30. ^ Needham, Volume 4, Par634.
  31. ^ a b Lionel Casson: Harbour and River Boats of Ancient Rome, The Journal of Roman Studies, Vol. 55, No. 1/2, Parts 1 and 2 (1965), pp. 31-39 (plate 1)
  32. ^ a b Lawrence V. Mott, The Development of the Rudder, A.D. 100-1337: A Technological Tale, Thesis May 1991, Texas A&M University, p.84, 95f.
  33. ^ a b Lionel Casson: “Ships and Seamanship in the Ancient World”, ISBN 0801851300, S.XXVIII, 336f.; Fig.193
  34. ^ a b Tilmann Bechert: Römisches Germanien zwischen Rhein und Maas. Die Provinz Germania inferior, Hirmer, München 1982, ISBN 3-7774-3440-X, p.183, 203 (Fig.266)
  35. ^ a b M. D. de Weerd: Ships of the Roman Period at Zwammerdam / Nigrum Pullum, Germania Inferior, in: Roman Shipping and Trade: Britain and the Rhine Provinces. (The Council for) British Archaeology, Research Report 24, 1978, 15ff.
  36. ^ a b M. D. de Weerd: Römerzeitliche Transportschiffe und Einbäume aus Nigrum Pullum / Zwammerdam, in: Studien zu den Militärgrenzen Roms II (1977), 187ff.
  37. ^ a b c Lawrence V. Mott, The Development of the Rudder, A.D. 100-1337: A Technological Tale, Thesis May 1991, Texas A&M University, p.1
  38. ^ Lionel Casson, Harbour and River Boats of Ancient Rome, The Journal of Roman Studies, Vol. 55, No. ½, Parts 1 and 2. (1965), pp. 35 (Pl. I); 36, Fn.43 (Pl.II,1)
  39. ^ Deutschlandfunk: Römische Schiffsversuchsanstalt in den Albaner Bergen
  40. ^ a b c Lawrence V. Mott, p.93
  41. ^ Lawrence V. Mott, p.92f.
  42. ^ Lawrence V. Mott, The Development of the Rudder, A.D. 100-1337: A Technological Tale, Thesis May 1991, Texas A&M University, S.2, 95f.
  43. ^ Kathleen Macphee, Somerled: Hammer of the Norse, Vital Spark, 2004, ISBN-13 9781903238240
  44. ^ a b Lawrence V. Mott, The Development of the Rudder, A.D. 100-1337: A Technological Tale, Thesis May 1991, Texas A&M University, S.118f.
  45. ^ Lawrence V. Mott, The Development of the Rudder, A.D. 100-1337: A Technological Tale, Thesis May 1991, Texas A&M University, S.2, 92f.
  46. ^ Lawrence V. Mott, p.92


See also

Conventional ship and boat rudders

Specialist ship and boat rudders

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

'RUDDER (O.E.' Rother, i.e. rower), that part of the steering apparatus of a ship which is fastened to the stern outside, and on which the water acts directly. The word may be found to be used as if it were synonymous with "helm." But the helm (A.S. Hillf, a handle) is the handle by which the rudder is worked. The tiller, which is perhaps derived from a provincial English name for the handle of a spade, has the same meaning as the helm. In the earliest times a single oar, at the stern, was used to row the vessel round. In later times oars with large blades were fixed on the sides near the stern. In Greek and Roman vessels two sets were sometimes employed, so that if the pitching of the ship lifted the after pair out of the water, the foremost pair could still act. As these ancient ships were, at least in some cases, sharp at both ends and could sail either way, steer (or steering) oars were fixed both fore and aft. The steer oar in this form passed through a ring on the side and was supported on a crutch, and was turned by a helm, or tiller. Norse and medieval vessels had, as far as we can judge, one steer oar only placed on the right side near the stern - hence the name "starboard," i.e. steerside, for the right side of the ship looking forward. In the case of small vessels the steer oar possesses an advantage over the rudder, for it can bring the stern round quickly. Therefore it is still used in whaling boats and rowing boats which have to work against wind and tide, and in surf when the rudder will not act. It is not possible to assign any date for the displacement of the side rudder by the stern rudder. They were certainly used together, and the second displaced the first in the course of the r4th century when experience had shown that the rudder was more effective at the stern than at the side. The rudder of a wooden ship when fully developed was composed of four pieces. The first or main piece was hung on to the stern post of the ship. Its upper portion was known as the rudder head, and was at first an oval shaft which passed into the ship through the rudder port, and to which the helm was fixed. A canvas bag called a rudder coat covered the opening to exclude the water. In later days Sir R. Seppings introduced the cylindrical form in order to prevent the water from coming into the round rudder port. Three back pieces were fastened to the main piece longitudinally. The whole were fastened together by iron bands called pintle straps, which had at the forward end a pin or pintle, which fitted into braces, i.e. fixed rings on the stern post, so that the rudder hung on hinges. The lower part of the main piece was bevelled, and so was the stern post, so as to allow the rudder to swing freely. A projecting piece called a chock or wood-lock was fixed in the head outside the ship in order to prevent the rudder from being lifted by the water out of its hinges. A small vessel can be steered by the helm or tiller, but in a larger it is necessary to apply a mechanical leverage. This was secured by carrying ropes, or in later times chains, to the sides of the ship, and then through blocks to the upper deck, round a barrel which is worked by the wheel. The principle of the rudder cannot alter, but the means employed to work it have been altered by the introduction of the screw, and by the increased size of ships. A single screw is placed in an open space before the stern post. As the opening thus created prevents the water from flowing directly on to the rudder, a screw steamer is sometimes difficult to steer. In order to make the rudder more manageable, it has been balanced, i.e. pivoted, on a shaft placed at about a third of its length from the foremost edge. In a double screw there is no opening, but the balanced rudder is still used, and the ship can be turned by reversing one of the screws. The need for more power to work the helm has led to the introduction of steam, and hydraulic steering apparatus which can be set in motion by a small wheel.

See Burney's Falconer's Dictionary (London, 1830), Torr's Ancient Ships (Cambridge, 1894); Nares, Seamanship (Portsmouth, 1882).

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Simple English

A rudder is used to steer ships, boats, submarines, aircraft, hovercraft or other conveniences that move through air or water.

History of the rudder

Oars mounted on the side of ships for steering are documented from the 3rd millennium BCE in Persia and Ancient Egypt in artwork, wooden models, and even parts of actual boats of that times. An early example of an oar mounted on the stern is found in the Egyptian tomb of Menna (1422-1411 BC). Stern-mounted oars were also quite common in Roman river navigation as proved from reliefs more than a millennium later.

One of the world's oldest known image of a stern-mounted rudder can be seen on a 2 ft. long tomb pottery model of a Chinese junk that dates from the 1st century CE, during the Han Dynasty (202 BC-220 AD).[1]

Foot notes

  1. Needham, Volume 4, Part 3, 649-650.
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