A Brief History of Rope

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Over the years, rope has played a vital part in helping to achieve some wonderful and memorable things. In this blog post, we run down some amazing (and some fun) things that couldn’t have been achieved without the use of rope.


  1. Building the pyramids of Giza – The building of the pyramids in Egypt is one of the greatest-ever feats of human endeavour. It’s why they’re only one of the Seven Wonders of the World still standing. There has been much debate about exactly how the stones were carved, transported to the site and put in place over the years. However, there is no doubt none of this extraordinary feat could have been achieved without the use of rope.

Pyramids of Giza

  1. Hillary and Norgay reaching the summit of Everest – On 29 May 1953, New Zealander Sir Edmund Hillary and Sherpa mountaineer Tenzing Norgay were the first to reach the summit of Mount Everest. This fantastic achievement again would never have happened if the two gentlemen hadn’t been equipped with good quality climbing rope. For example, there is a near-vertical rock face near the summit of Everest named The Hillary Step, after Sir Edmund, the ascent and descent of which can’t really be made without the use of fixed ropes.
    Tenzing Norgay

    Tenzing Norgay at the Everest summit (courtesy of Edmund Hillary/Royal Geographical Society via Associated Press)

    Little-known fact too; many think this photo is of Edmund Hillary. However, it is actually of Tenzing Norgay – Hillary had brought a camera to record their achievement, but as Norgay had never seen a camera before, didn’t know how to operate it and conditions at the summit made showing him how to unfeasible, it was Hillary who took the famous photo that was seen around the world.
  1. Dame Ellen MacArthur breaking the world record for circumnavigating the globe – On 7 February 2005, Dame Ellen broke the world record for the fastest solo circumnavigation of the globe. While the record was subsequently broken again three years later, it was a great accomplishment and a feat of human endurance by Dame Ellen that would never have happened if she hadn’t been able to rely on the durability of her boat’s rigging.
    Alongside our other ranges, we also sell a wide variety of yacht rope, suitable for all manner of tasks. Whether simply going for a pleasure cruise or trying to break a marine world record, good-quality rope is something you can never have enough of on-board.

Ellen MacArthur
Dame Ellen MacArthur (courtesy of Press Association)

  1. The Wright Brothers taking flight – On December 17, 1903, Orville and Wilbur Wright made the first controlled flight of a powered aircraft. This heralded a new era in transport and lead to the transformation of how people travel, thereby making it possible for more and more people to ‘see the world’.Wright Flyer aircraft
    While it bears little resemblance to the jumbo jets of today, The Wright 1903 Flyer was the technological advancement of its’ time, centred around their break-through invention of three-axis control, enabling them to steer the aircraft effectively and maintain its equilibrium. This method was so innovative that it’s still the standard on all fixed-wing aircraft to this day. While the parts have been updated as aircraft have developed, the three-axis control systems in today’s fixed-wing aircraft are still fundamentally the same as the ropes and pulleys system developed by the brothers to pilot their Flyer.
  1. Training military personnelThe British Army go through extensive training and ropes courses are an integral part for all Army recruits. For example, Army Commando training requires recruits to be able to pass a number of physical challenges, including climbing a 30-foot rope while carrying a full 14kg kit and rifle.
    It is also worth noting that the training of other armed forces personnel in The Royal Air Force (RAF) and The Royal Navy also heavily involves the use of ropes. No more so is this true than for those in the Navy, where the successful completion of fast-rope training is an integral part of a Royal Marine’s training.


  1. Bungee jumps – Doing a bungee jump can be one of the most exhilarating experiences a person can have. Many organisations who offer bungee jumping set themselves up in a stunning location too, meaning the jumper gets the pleasure of seeing some awe-inspiring scenery as well as the rush of jumping from a great height.
    At the centre of any bungee jump is a length of shock cord. In fact, it would be fair to say that the bungee rope is the most important part of any successful bungee jump. This means making sure anyone you choose to do a bungee jump with has invested in top-quality shock cord, complies with all safety regulations and has a demonstrable track record in offering the service very important. Wherever and whenever you choose to do a bungee jump, we don’t recommend you do it like this though!;


  1. The Rocky IV training montage – The Rocky training montages are some of the most iconic in cinema history. While everyone remembers The Italian Stallion using a beef carcass as a punching bag and running up the steps of The Philadelphia Museum of Art in the first film, our personal favourite is the training montage from Rocky IV. While Dolph Lundgren’s Ivan Drago uses all the latest exercise equipment, Stallone’s Balboa goes old-school, hiding himself away in a secluded log cabin and using ropes in a variety of ways as part of his training regime. He loops rope around his shoulders to drag a sled through the snow, utilises a pulley system to lift a rope basket full of boulders and ducks and weaves along a line of rope, while also making use of a good, old-fashioned skipping rope too. Sit back, relax and enjoy part of an 80s classic below;


  1. And finally, this…


OK, so we know this isn’t one where the rope played a vital role, but we don’t need much excuse to enjoy Clarkson looking silly again!


All joking aside, the reason why we can laugh at Jeremy Clarkson in that clip is because he’s attached to a safety harness via rope at his waist and so, he’s never in any real danger. If he had panicked while in the water, his instructors would have been able to quickly and easily get him out and make sure he was OK.


As we’ve seen above, rope has helped to achieve some wonderful things over the years. Certain tastes have changed over the years and the cost of sourcing the more traditional rope-making materials, such as hemp and sisal, can also increase at times, leading to budgetary concerns for some. This has meant more traditional rope materials have been replaced in some industries in recent years. Therefore, we now also sell such things as steel wire rope and brass oval chain, as well as synthetic hemp and synthetic sisal rope.


However, rope of all kinds continues to be a vital component for some businesses and is also being used frequently in people’s leisure time too. For example, battle ropes are being used more and more for fitness purposes nowadays and is also increasingly being used by the public to decorate their homes too.


While the materials and the uses may have changed over the years, the need for rope in all walks of life has not, and we’re sure it will continue to be important for many years to come.

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