The Martians developed two types of cloudships. The oldest and still most common type are those powered by sails. They are often refered to as "kites." A relatively recent development is the cloudship propelled by an airscrew, called a "screw galley." The airscrews are turned by crewman turning handcranks, linked through mechanical gear boxes.
And that's the trouble with cloudships, they have no keel and no water for the keel to push against. Without that, there is no way for them to sail, they can only drift. There is a solution to this problem, though, and it can come from the same liftwood that allows the cloudship to rise into the sky. We know that liftwood is effected by planetary magnetic fields (the Venusian magnetic field accelerates the decay of liftwood), so it seems reasonable that one effect might be that liftwood resists crossing the magnetic field lines. That resistance would not be enough to slow the cloudship significantly but could provide the equivalent of the drag of water, and thus allow the cloudship to truly sail through the sky. Obviously, the magnetic resistance is different from drag in the sense that it is very directional, i.e. there would be less resistance when the cloudship is traveling with the field lines than when crossing them, but this is roughly analogous to ocean currents and, like their Earth ocean sailing counterparts, the Martian cloud sailors would long since have learned to use this effect and will have adapted their sailing techniques to not only compensate for it, but will have learned to use it to their advantage.
Kites are not the only cloudships with which I have a problem. Screw galleys, as portrayed in most of the game materials, also have a shortcoming. They are invariably shown as having only the air screw as a means of propulsion. This is not at all reasonable. Since the air screw is driven by man-power, this severly limits the range of the vessel. Hand turned cranks simply could not drive a cloudship over any but very short distances. A good Earth analog for the screw galley are the oared galleys used around the Mediterranean in the 18th and early 19th centuries. They mounted a few heavy cannon, usually in the bow, and the larger ones had over a hundred oars, each pulled by several men. These galleys never ventured far from their home ports and were essentially coastal defense craft. Even so, they were still fitted with masts and sails so that they could sail most of the way to the battle and reserve the strength of their oarsmen for the final maneuvering. It is also of interest that in 1889, a large percentage of the steam-powered warships of Earth's navies still retained their rigging so they could sail if they needed to. It seems reasonable to me that the Martian sailors would be just as conservative and practical as the sailors of Earth and their screw galleys would be rigged for sailing, when the speed and maneuverability of the screw was not required. I was pleased to note that the cover illustration for the re-release of TRMGS Vol 1 did feature a screw galley that mounted sails as well.
Back to the homepage.
Space:1889 is Frank Chadwick's registered trademark for his game of Victorian Era space-faring. He has granted permission for the use of the background of Space:1889 for the stories presented here. All text, illustrations, photographs and design are © 2000-2013 Dan Thompson, except where otherwise noted.