4. The Bizarre Russian Ship
In 1874, the Imperial Russian Navy commissioned one of history’s most bizarre warships, the monitor ship Novgorod. It featured a circular hull and gained one of the poorest reputations ever attached to a ship. The idea behind the round hull was to give her as shallow a draft as possible, and allow her to carry a heavier weight of armor and weapons than other ships of a similar size but conventional designs. It turned out to be one of modern history’s worst-designed warships. A 2500-ton vessel, it was powered by six steam engines that drove six propeller screws, and was so clumsy that contemporaries compared it to a floating soup dish.
On the plus side, the Novgorod was largely immune to ramming – a common tactic back then. It featured an armored belt that was nine inches thick, its round shape deflected strikes, and its vital components were well inside the hull. It sported a pair of eleven-inch guns, which were powerful for the era. Its shape and flat bottom also gave it a draft of only twelve feet, which allowed it to operate close to the coastline in shallow waters. That was about it for the ship’s advantages. As seen below, they were greatly outweighed by the disadvantages.