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There is one word that the human race has adored and worshipped since the very beginning of their existence: Convenience. Scientists and innovators have spent countless hours making use of whatever resources are available to ease the struggles of humanity and to improve the quality of life. Everybody wants to live in comfort and security. Our society is so interconnected that almost any desire is within reach! Learning a new language, visiting the ancient ruins of our world, having a casual conversation with a stranger across the globe, looking up a new recipe for lunch or just passing time and killing boredom with entertainment; we are constantly reaching new peaks at an exponentially faster rate than ever before. But with all this advancement and the lightning pace of our days, we tend to forget the simpler times. It was an age that the people of today have been simultaneously deprived of experiencing, and yet privileged to have missed – a dark age of enlightenment. They built the foundations that shaped our modern society with only the sticks and stones that lay beneath the shrubs eagerly waiting for people to take a hold of them and unlock their full potential. Without their canvas, we could not have painted our picture.
We underestimate the amount of time it takes to move from one point on the map to another. We have shortened treks that should have taken days, months, or even years and reduced it to a manner of hours… days at most, with many different modes to choose from. The land, sea, sky, and space are all mediums that are utilized for our benefit. Besides being means of movement, these natural elements are essential tools for navigation. With the imaginative abilities of a young child and his trusty crayon, our primitive friends looked to the heavens and saw a huge game of connect the dots, with images of dragons and bears and bulls and warriors each claiming their own little corner of the night sky, along with one little stubborn star happily planting itself right above the North Pole. These stars were mapped and explored from light years away and their fixed positioning was used as one of the oldest methods of determining cardinal direction. And of course, we cannot forget the star that shines so bright that it draws a blue curtain concealing the valiant efforts of all other stars in the sky, our beloved Sun. The rise of the sun in the east and its setting in the west is one of the rare certainties in life that we desperately seek and take comfort in. The journey of these celestial bodies across the sky was the inspiration behind the mechanism of many navigational instruments. Most of these tools were used to determine the latitude by observing the elevation of a celestial body relative to the horizon. The astrolabe, backstaff, cross-staff, quadrant, reflecting circle, traverse board, sextant, and compass are all tools that you can describe as both unbelievably simple yet utterly complex. Thanks to these, and more, we obtained the freedom to venture through the lands and waters of our wonderful Earth without fear of losing our way.
The vastness of Mother Earth is an intimidating force to be reckoned with, so naturally, we have imposed upon ourselves the task of overcoming our blindness and shortcomings so that we no longer feel like specks of dust aimlessly drifting along with the currents of the wind directed by none other than Earth herself. She split into the land, sea, and sky and challenged us to explore what is beyond our reach while offering us the reward of all the beauties and wonders that can be found around every corner. So we picked up our old tools and started putting together our building blocks to construct a myriad of contraptions that gradually developed over time to what would become the revolutionary transportation industry that we are familiar with today.
In a simpler time, these conveniences were non-existent and, therefore, inaccessible to the primitive people, so the oldest and only reliable power system was the power of the human muscle. Before the domestication of animals, man could only rely on himself to move about with his goods and necessities. Even just scavenging for food meant that settling would eventually lead to running out of resources in the immediate vicinity. And once man grew out of his scavenging phase and discovered the art of hunting and gathering, he knew that some help is in order. Walking, running, sprinting, swimming, climbing, and mountaineering and even just crawling is an exhausting effort when the end of the marathon is miles away. So, the creative minds of these fed-up people came up with many different solutions to their problem. The buoyant properties of wood sparked the idea of staying afloat on the large expanses of water while expending the least amount of effort led to the invention of the canoe. The Pesse Canoe, a 10,000-year-old dugout style boat formed by the log of a Scots pine tree and constructed around 8000 BC in the Netherlands, is the oldest boat to be discovered to date. Meanwhile, other regions that display prominent stretches of time in which the land gets frozen over or covered with the sky’s equivalence of sugar powder – snow – were some of the first to utilize the power of nature to aid their determined efforts of movement through the land by inventing the skis. Dating all the way back to 6000 BC or possibly even further back, archeologists discovered fragments of ski-like objects in cold winter areas such as Central Asia and Northern Russia. The domestication of animals became prevalent in the small societies that incorporated the newly discovered art of agriculture with the more primitive habit of hunting and gathering. The uses of animals varied greatly, ranging from being food supplies, hunting partners, methods of transportation or purely and simply just lovable pets. They were heavily relied on, and sometimes these animals were the representative symbol of the region due to their important roles such as the elephants of India, the buffalos of the Americas, the camels of Arabia, the donkeys of Africa and the horses of Eurasia.
As impressive as the previous techniques were, transportation did not really take off until the invention of six basic systems that revolutionized the industry of not only transportation, but technology as a whole: the lever, the inclined plane, the wedge, the pulley, the screw, and, most importantly, the wheel and axle. These simple machines are considered one of the greatest inventions of mankind and are still being regularly used to this day!
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