HEMP: The Authorative Historical Digital Record

1. SHIPS AND SAILORS

    Ninety percent* of all ships’ sails (since before the Phoenicians, from at least the 5th Century B.C.E. until long after the invention and commercialization of steam ships—mid- to late-19th Century) were made from hemp. (See picture.)

    * The other 10% were usually flax or minor fibers like ramie, sisal, jute, abaca.

    (Abel, Ernest, Marijuana: The First 12,000 Years, Plenum Press, 1980; Herodotus, Histories, 5th Century B.C.E.; Frazier, Jack, The Marijuana Farmers, 1972; U.S. Agricultural Index, 1916-1982; USDA film, Hemp for Victory, 1942.)

    The word “canvas”1 is the Dutch pronunciation (twice removed, from French and Latin) of the Greek word “Kannabis.”*

    * Kannabis—of the (Hellenized) Mediterranean Basin Greek language, derived from the Persian and earlier Northern Semitics (Quanuba, Kanabosm, Cana?, Kanah?) which scholars have now traced back to the new-found dawn of the 6,000-year-old, Indo-Semitic-European language family base of the Sumerians and Accadians. The early Sumerian/Babylonian word K(a)N(a)B(a), or Q(a)N(a)B(a) is one of humanity’s longest surviving root words.1 (KN means cane and B means two—two reeds or two sexes.)

    1. Oxford English Dictionary; Encyclopedia Brittanica, 11th edition, 1910; U.S.D.A. film, Hemp for Victory, 1942.

ship rigging sailing ship ship rigging

    In addition to the canvas sails, virtually all of the rigging, anchor ropes, cargo nets, fishing nets, flags, shrouds, and oakum (the main protection for ships against salt water, used as a sealant between loose or green beams) were made from the stalk of the marijuana plant.

    Even the sailors’ clothing, right down to the stitching in the seamen’s rope-soled and (sometimes) “canvas” shoes were crafted from cannabis.*

    * An average cargo, clipper, whaler, or naval ship of the line, in the 16th, 17th, 18th, or 19th Centuries carried 50 to 100 tons of cannabis hemp rigging, not to mention the sails, nets, etc., and needed it all replaced every year or two, due to salt rot. (Ask the U.S. Naval Academy, or see the construction of the USS Constitution, a.k.a. “Old Ironsides,” Boston Harbor.)

    (Abel, Ernest, Marijuana, The First 12,000 Years, Plenum Press, 1980; Ency. Brittanica; Magoun, Alexander, The Frigate Constitution, 1928; USDA film Hemp for Victory, 1942.)

    Additionally, the ships’ charts, maps, logs, and Bibles were made from paper containing hemp fiber from the time of Columbus (15th Century) until the early 1900s in the Western European/American World, and by the Chinese from the First Century C.E. on. Hemp paper lasted 50 to 100 times longer than most preparations of papyrus, and was a hundred times easier and cheaper to make.

    Incredibly, it cost more for a ship’s hempen sails, ropes, etc. than it did to build the wooden parts.

sailing ship battle rope walk sailing ship battle

    Nor was hemp use restricted to the briny deep…

text from “The Emperor Wears No Clothes” © Jack Herer
CD-ROM and web presentation © Milo and MichaelM


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