Until the middle of the 19th century, ships were almost always launched into stern-first, the way they had been for thousands of years.
But as technology improved, ships grew in size and the space constraints of narrow waterways led to the need of new launching practices. By World War II, side launches had become common. Now, side launches are the only way to move battleships into the water for the first time if they’re being launched into smaller waterways such as rivers or inlets.
Although effective, side launches make what would otherwise be an imposing vessel look like a toy ship. When launched, a battleship begins dramatically pitching to one side as it hits the water, only stabilizing after it rocks back and forth several times.
Before the ship was launched on its side, it was brought to the water’s edge on a series of rollers.
Once at the water, the ship was raised onto a sliding platform …
… which quickly launches the ship into the water, where it tips from side to side like a bath toy.
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