Bark, Barc, or Barque

However it’s spelled, historians believe a bark was originally a barge and, over time, the name has been altered. The earliest barques were noted in Portugal with square sails and oars. In the 1440s, Mediterranean barques carried three masts and lateen rigs. Eventually, there was a difference between a barge and a bark, which began to have sails. The French called a ship, “barque,” and the English, bark. In the 18th century, the British Navy used the term bark to cover ships that did not fall in any other categories. Ships of exploration such as Captain James Cook’s Endeavour were colliers that were converted to ships of exploration. That’s why the Navy referred to Cook’s ship as the HMS Bark Endeavour.

The word bark (which seems to be the American spelling) evolved by the 19th century to mean how a ship was rigged. The ship could have three or more masts and a particular sail configuration. The advantage of the bark-rig was that the ship needed fewer sailors to work the sails.