The stern is the rear or aft-most part of a ship or boat, technically defined as the area built up over the sternpost, extending upwards from the counter rail to the taffrail. The stern lies opposite of the bow, the foremost part of a ship. Originally, the term only referred to the aft port section of the ship, but eventually came to refer to the entire back of a vessel. The stern end of a ship is indicated with a white navigation light at night.
Sterns on European and American wooden sailing ships began with two principal forms: the square or transom stern and the elliptical, fantail, or merchant stern, and were developed in that order. The hull sections of a sailing ship located before the stern are composed of a series of U-shaped rib-like frames set in a sloped or "cant" arrangement, with the last frame before the stern being called the fashion timber(s) or fashion piece(s), so called for "fashioning" the after part of the ship. This frame is designed to support the various beams that make up the stern.
In 1817 the British naval architect Sir Robert Seppings first introduced the concept of the round or circular stern. The square stern had been an easy target for enemy cannon, and could not support the weight of heavy stern chase guns. But Seppings' design left the rudder head exposed, and was regarded by many as simply ugly—no American warships were designed with such sterns, and the round stern was quickly superseded by the elliptical stern. The United States began building the first elliptical stern warship in 1820, a decade before the British. The USS Brandywine became the first sailing ship to sport such a stern. Though a great improvement over the transom stern in terms of its vulnerability to attack when under fire, elliptical sterns still had obvious weaknesses which the next major stern development—the iron-hulled cruiser stern—addressed far better and with much different materials.
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Famous quotes containing the word stern:
“To most men, experience is like the stern lights of a ship, which illumine only the track it has passed.”
—Samuel Taylor Coleridge (17721834)
“His eloquence was of every kind, and he excelled in the argumentative as well as in the declamatory way. But his invectives were terrible, and uttered with such energy of diction, and stern dignity of action and countenance, that he intimidated those who were the most willing and the best able to encounter him. Their arms fell out of their hands, and they shrunk under the ascendant which his genius gained over theirs.”
—Philip Dormer Stanhope, 4th Earl Chesterfield (16941773)
“It is even more grim and wild than you had anticipated, a damp and intricate wilderness, in the spring everywhere wet and miry. The aspect of the country, indeed, is universally stern and savage, excepting the distant views of the forest from hills, and the lake prospects, which are mild and civilizing in a degree.”
—Henry David Thoreau (18171862)