By Atlanticus (An officer on an Atlantic passenger steamer)
LITTLE more than a year has elapsed since the greatest disaster in maritime history upset all our accepted theories of the unsinkability of modern liners. The wild paths of imagination along which we were willingly led by naval architects, launched us into a disaster such as the world hopes never again to witness. Some very practical test of the unsinkability of liners will have to be vouchsafed the public before its old confidence in the safety of ocean travel can be restored. But to restore public confidence is not a task for naval architects alone; they have merely the mechanical problems to master, and these, in this mechanical age, we believe are not insurmountable. The public, the legislator, the shipowner and the practical sailor must work harmoniously alongside the naval architect if, out of the labyrinth of theories and contentions, we are to evolve a type of vessel that will not sink.
The Man on the Bridge (May 1910)
Two years before the sinking of the Titanic, a steamship officer warned of the dangers of overworked, overwhelmed, and sometimes irresponsible crew.
Since that fateful night of April, 1912, what have we done in the way of reform that will go toward averting another such disaster? Remember, the day of the unsinkable ship is not yet; but the majority of passenger vessels now in service on the Atlantic carry as many passengers as did the Titanic. Thus we cannot afford to allow the legislators on both sides of the Atlantic to thrust upon us hysterical reforms which are not only spurious in themselves, but which will defeat their object by becoming a source of danger to the public when called into active service. Time spent now in cool and calm deliberation will be well spent. It will add to the safety of the traveling public, will lessen confusion in emergencies, and will obviate unnecessary expense to the shipowner. The criminal waste of money at present forced upon all the big transatlantic liner companies is proof positive that some foolish Jackin-office has been given a loose rein. The efficiency gained by much of the expenditure amounts to nil. In fact, I believe that in certain directions we are worse off than we were a year or more ago.
After the loss of the Titanic the natural cry of the clamorous public and the nautically ignorant legislators on both sides of the ocean, was for more boats, boats at any cost, boats for all, no matter what their construction or the means available to launch them in an emergency. Besides more boats, pseudo-nautical experts submitted all kinds of crazy theories that were swallowed like hot cakes by the public. The fit of hysteria which the English and American people indulged in while the loss of the Titanic was a nine days' wonder, was about on a par with the miserable pathos that found its way into the press about the heroism of the crew, and their following out the supposed traditions of the sea by saving the women and children first. Saving women and children first is not a virtue monopolized by seamen. Wherever white men are found, this rule of life holds good, and the public guilty of indulging in such figures of speech, with such prodigality, has little right to a hearing when advocating all kinds of nonsensical reforms and the wasting of good money.
Immediately after the disaster, the shipowner and sailor were forced into a tight corner by an angry and unreasonable public. It seemed as if they were to be ridden over, without being allowed to explain, by the first idiot who cuddled a new theory. Yet, thank God, in the sequel most of these theories fell on stony ground! The fact that the public rained and stormed and showered abuse on men who, for the time being, were under a cloud, detracts nothing from the services which those men have rendered to the state. Such a spectacle merely affords one a glance at what an undisciplined people is capable of doing and saying when worked into a frenzy.
Was the shipowner, or the traveling public, or were the legal authorities, to blame for the shortage of boats aboard the Titanic? Without hesitation I exonerate the shipowner, and place the responsibility on the legal authorities and the traveling public. It is obvious that the two latter are dealt with fairly, for what the law demands the shipowner must supply or go to prison. What the traveling public requires he must also supply, or go out of business. If the law calls for a certain number of boats of certain capacities, the shipowner invariably goes beyond what is required of him. The public demands luxurious suites of rooms, Venetian cafes, lounges, buffets, reading, writing, and music rooms, swimming baths, gymnasiums, and so forth, and the shipowner meets the demand. Like managers of theatres, after satisfying the law, they cater to their public. To satisfy the law is quite a simple matter, but to meet the standard of luxury demanded by passengers to-day is not easy. Shipo-wner and sailor both know that luxury and efficiency make bad shipmates.
Let passengers demand fewer luxuries and the work of finding deck-space to carry boats for all will be simplified. The claim that a vessel carries boats for all does not mean safety unless the boats are allowed working room to launch them. It merely means the mechanical hoisting aboard of the required number of boats. To have boats for all is one thing, but if they are cramped, and the working space is hampered by Roman baths, etcetera, as it generally is, we are worse off than before. Superfluities always mean confusion. Add darkness to luxury and we have all that is required to turn confusion into chaos.
If wealth talks at sea in fine weather it must not wail when disaster overtakes it. There are limits to what the shipowner and naval architect can do. Running liners is a business that must return a profit, and be as void of sentiment as running trains. Ships must pay or cease to run, and, if the traveling public must have the luxuries and life-saving gear it demands, then it must pay the piper in the form of higher 'fares.
In answer to the demand for boats, boats of all sizes and descriptions found their way aboard many liners.
In positions where the official 'A' class lifeboats could be stowed, these boats were put aboard. But not many vessels had much space to spare, and in most of them we find collapsible boats and rafts of various patterns, some with artificial buoyancy and others with only the natural buoyancy of the material of which they are constructed. Rafts they are in every sense of the word, and I for one would prefer an overcrowded lifeboat of the approved pattern rather than trust myself aboard one of these decked, canvas-gunwaled contrivances. Having experienced all the inroads of the Atlantic, I should prefer to die in the first instance rather than prolong the agony on such rafts, knowing as I do that the first heavy sea which swept over them must wash all the occupants into the sea.
It is quite a simple matter to account for the appearance of such monstrosities aboard ship. I have it on the authority of a nautical surveyor of the British Board of Trade that, when the cry for more boats was at its loudest, the Board of Trade had not a staff of nautical surveyors big enough to carry on their ordinary duties in addition to surveying the construction of the rafts and collapsible boats which were to appease the public's appetite. Boats of a sort were crowded aboard ship without having passed an official test of any kind. But the shipowner had to meet the popular demand, and he did so with the only available means at his command; and, as the public has evinced no desire to have decks swept of lounges and so forth, still more of these cumbersome articles will find their way aboard until adequate space is given to lifeboats of an approved pattern, with sufficient working room to swing them out. Supposing that under the old scheme six lifeboats could be launched in half an hour, in many vessels the same number could not today be swung out in an hour, owing to the congested state of the decks.
And now we arrive at the method of swinging out boats. The system now in vogue very probably goes back to Nelson's day. Certainly it is not a whit more advanced than the method employed in sailing ships, when swinging out the captain's gig was performed by calling into service the fore-royal halliards and the maintopmast-staysail halliards. The three-fold purchase, as found in common use, though safe, is slow and cumbersome. To find men who can round up such a tackle, after launching a boat, without fouling it, or who can clear it after fouling, is almost impossible to-day; for the modern seafarer knows as much about a thoroughfoot in a tackle as he does about Greek prosody. To expect the men we have in our forecastles to round up a purchase after launching the first boat, so that the second boat can be put overside, is expecting more than we can get, especially if the work is being carried on during the dark hours. This purchase system cannot be too strongly condemned. It ought to be abolished root and branch, and in its place single-wire falls [ropes] should be used when swinging out all boats. We expected much of the Boat and Davit committee, but its findings leave us helpless. Though it recommended the use of single-wire falls in preference to the three-fold purchase, it did not condemn the latter as it should have done. The committee only wasted time and money in platitudes, and treated us to self-evident truths. All nautical men are agreed that the whole affair was a farce and an attempt to whitewash.
The demand for more boats having been met, we now have to find the men to handle them. At the American inquiry into the loss of the Titanic, Senator Smith emphasized the fact that a steward admitted that he had never handled an oar in his life. Not for a moment do I doubt the steward's word. For every such steward I could produce a so-called sailor and scores of firemen who cannot pull an oar.
If a steward, or sailor, or fireman cannot handle an oar, whose fault is it? Can six executive officers pretend to teach a crew of five or six hundred men the art of pulling and sculling, in a three weeks' voyage, when they have to navigate their ship across the ocean and attend to the duties incidental to a voyage? Is it officers' work to teach men how to pull and handle a boat? Strictly speaking, it is not. Do stewards and sailors and firemen evince a desire to learn pulling, etcetera? Do they, or not, jibe at the very idea of boatdrill and attempt by hook or crook to dodge it? Do they ever consult the boat-sheets and boat-plans hanging in their quarters, to find out the number and locality of their boats? Why the aimless wandering round of men looking for their boats when the boat-plans show exactly where they are stowed? and when boats are numbered and stowed in sequence in every ship, why such confusion ? Pure apathy is all there is to it until disaster overtakes such wastrels; then, like children, they wail. 'We were not told the number of our boats, we were not taught to pull an oar.'
I will go further yet and ask anybody holding executive rank on a liner if he is supported by the engineers and chief stewards in making a boat-drill efficient, instead of a farce. I have yet to experience such support. And yet, on the British side, we had unions representing seamen, firemen, and stewards at the Titanic inquiry, to watch over their interests and to prove, if possible, negligence on the part of the vessel's executive officers, and so make the company liable. I am sure of my ground when I say that, had these men been up to their jobs, more people could have been saved. To defend such men at any inquiry of the Titanic class is a tyranny practiced on the shipowner, the executive officer, and the public.
But such methods are quite typical of the Liberal government, which has reduced the penalties of disobedience to orders to a mere farce, in order to placate trade unions and to gain the support of the Labor members of Parliament. Vote-snatching at the expense of the public's life and limb is what it really amounts to.
And yet the cry to Heaven is for more seamen to man the boats. More imbeciles to create panic, I should term them. May Heaven and shipowners pay no heed to such a cry!
It may interest Senator Smith and the general public to know that we do not produce seamen to-day who can knot and splice, bend or unbend sail, furl or unfurl sail, handle boats or oars, and keep a ship steady on her course. When delivering his finding, Senator Smith remarked on the discipline aboard the Titanic after she struck the berg. He said, 'If this is discipline, what is disorder? ' The true wonder is, not that so many lives were lost, but that so many were saved. To rescue so many was magnificent work. Review the situation from an executive officer's point of view and then cease to wonder at the number of lives lost : a new ship, the largest in the world; a new crew, ignorant of the rudimentary principles of discipline and seamanship, and, as crews go to-day, refractory in every sense of the word, and out of sympathy with the very thought of discipline; more than two thousand passengers, or about three thousand souls including the crew; new boatgear straight from the builder's hands; add to all this the dark hours of the night and the fear of the unknown, and I assert that to save over seven hundred lives was giants' work, the carrying out of which fell on the shoulders of six or seven executive officers, who, when the weather is fine, and disaster below the horizon, fight a lone hand trying to maintain even a show of discipline.
Remember, in the merchant service we have no penalties as in the navy. What discipline is maintained, is forced out of an unwilling crew by sheer strength of character, not by fear. For my part, looking at the question from an officer's point of view, I hope and trust that the law and shipowners will resolutely stiffen their backs against the public outcry for bigger crews until such crews are no longer a source of danger to lives and property afloat.
Some two or three years ago a startling article 'The Man on the Bridge' appeared in the pages of this magazine. The writer of it Mr. C. T. Delaney evidently knew his ground. In the course of his remarks he spoke of the crews of liners joining up on sailing morning in a more or less muddled condition, caused, not by heartaches through leaving home, but by drink. Those who have seen such crews join up can testify to the truth of his statement; and these are the men who mount the crow's nests of liners to keep a lookout, and who complain when they are not supplied with binoculars. Were I a shipowner I should instantly dismiss any officer who for one moment trusted to the men on the lookout. The seamen who keep a lookout have no sense of responsibility, no certificate to lose, no interest in their work, and are not to be depended upon to keep an efficient lookout either by day or by night. As they have nothing to lose, so they have nothing to fear if negligent, their unions see to that, for they change their ship after the completion of nearly every voyage. They are birds of passage in every sense of the word. The officer who for a moment pinned his faith upon the lookout men I should deem mad, and thoroughly incompetent to take charge of any vessel's bridge. So much for the lookout man and the importance which Senator Smith and the public attached to his evidence. He is stationed in the crow's nest by the officer of the watch to meet the requirements of the law, and beyond that he is as useless as the fifth wheel of a coach.
Let us now review the question of the speed of liners. In the article referred to, Mr. Delaney treats of the matter of speed under various conditions. With vessels crossing the ice zone he advocates a reduction of speed as against that maintained in other regions, or during fog. He says, 'But full ahead across the ice track is a different proposition. Under no circumstances is full speed justifiable there.' I think that the writer intended to convey to the public that full ahead in fog across the ice track was not justifiable; for in concluding his treatment of the question of speed he says, ' I can conscientiously say that in all the time I have followed the sea in liners, I have never been with a master who did not slow down in fog' Mark the italics, 'in fog.' That is the vital point. Lord Mersey, the President of the British inquiry into the loss of the Titanic, when investigating the question of speed said, 'The only object in going slow is to avoid objects in your way. If you can avoid objects in your way without slowing down, you don't slow down. It does n't matter in the least if the ship is going eleven knots or fifty knots if it be true that you can avoid the obstacle. But if there is a danger of your not being able to avoid it, then the speed is a most important factor. 9 This is much to the point. In fog there is a danger, a great danger of your not being able to avoid an obstacle; therefore it is essential in crossing the ice track to slow down in fog, but only in fog. Captain Smith stands condemned for the speed of his vessel at the time it met disaster in crossing the ice field in a clear night. As a practical sailor I say that the speed he maintained was the right speed. Furthermore, were I placed under similar circumstances, I should give my vessel the last revolution she could turn even if she could go fifty knots an hour. In the face of what has happened this may seem a rash statement, yet I make it knowing that by practicing what I preach I should be looking after the interests of my owners, the lives under my care, and my own interest.
Having said so much, I must say more. I must let it be known that clear weather in the ice region is such a rare thing that the commander who does not make use of such a fine slant exposes his vessel to the ice during fog and treats his passengers to serious risks.
The question of the Titanic's speed I have heard discussed over and over again in the wardrooms of many liners, and I have still to meet the officer who condemned the speed maintained by her. I care nothing for the opinions of lawyers who may be elected presidents of boards of inquiry. Seamanship is not taught in lawyers' offices, nor is it handed round at courts of inquiry like sandwiches. Lord Mersey said that if there is danger of not being able to clear an object in your course, then speed is a most important factor. Brilliant legal seamanship if you like! So much is self-evident. A small boy knows that much, and so do the lampposts in the street when small boys bump into them.
Had the berg which caused the trouble been seen in time, then speed, plus helm, plus the handling of the engines, would have been the factors required to clear it. Had the Titanic been proceeding at reduced speed and had the same time been afforded her to clear the berg, could she have cleared it? Possibly yes, probably no. Such monster ships are sluggish in their responses to helm when under reduced speed. And even her reduced speed, as we can see, now that our eyes are opened to the unsinkable ship, would have left the issue the same. Experts estimate the force of the Titanic's blow at 2,000,000 foot-tons per second. A reduced speed say eleven knots would cut the impact in two, and if the proportions are the same we have a blow of 1,000,000 foot-tons per second. What would happen to any vessel suffering such a blow? Bow plates would crumple like eggshells, and watertight bulkheads and doors would be so contorted that their efficiency would be totally destroyed, and, like the Titanic, the vessel would sink bow first. Having stated my views, I must add that at no time would I allow them to interfere with what the law demands or with the instructions of the company which I serve.
Switch now to the question of searchlights. At both the British and the American inquiries the use of searchlights similar to those used aboard naval ships was advocated and recommended. To my own personal knowledge the same standard of searchlights can be found in most Cunard liners. Certain Cunard vessels have been so equipped for at least twelve years. With what result? Dead failure! The vessels so equipped have proved beyond a vestige of doubt that for practical purposes at sea the searchlight is a failure.
An essential feature of an efficient lookout at night is an unbroken veil of darkness. Even the smallest light such as that of a man lighting his pipe on the fore deck breaks the uniformity of darkness and weakens the efficiency of a lookout. Many of my readers who clamor for searchlights must themselves have passed from a brilliantly lighted room into the blackness of the night outside. They know how everybody must feel his way until his eyes become accustomed to the blackness; he will stumble and sprawl until he has 'got his eyes.' A momentary flash of lightning on a black night is blinding to the eyes, and it takes seconds at least before perfect penetrating power is restored.
Now, continually to flash a searchlight in the eyes of the officer of the watch would be suicidal, and would sooner or later end in disaster if the experiment became a practice. Twice I have seen a searchlight used when under way, entering the Narrows, Boston Harbor, and leaving Naples, and upon both occasions the experiment turned out a dismal failure because those on the bridge lost their sight when they needed it most. To watch a naval ship at anchor sweeping the skies with her lights is no doubt a pretty sight, and so long as she is at anchor no harm can happen to her. We of the merchant service have bitter cause to complain of the cavalier manner in which naval ships flash their lights in the faces of those on the bridge when making port. To use a natural phrase, naval ships patrolling the English Channel make it hell for the officer of the watch to keep his sight. The same practice holds good when entering naval ports or fortified harbors during evolutions. Now, what is the difference between having a searchlight flashed in your eyes by a naval vessel and flashing your own searchlight in your eyes? Right ahead, if the light is to be of any use, is where the flash must sweep, and right ahead is where one should keep the best lookout. I am of opinion that no liner needs a searchlight, and that to play with one on a dark night would end in trouble. I may be wrong, but, until searchlights have been proved useful to merchant ships, I prefer to trust to my eyes. Furthermore, searchlights are used in the navy, among other things, for signaling purposes, and this does not apply to merchant vessels.
In the Atlantic article of which I have spoken, mention is made of the long hours the master of a liner must be on the bridge during fog. The author's statement that he has seen a master about sixty years of age stand on a liner's bridge for over seventy hours,is unquestionably true. Deny it who will, the same long exposure to the elements may fall to the lot of any master at any time when crossing the Atlantic during the foggy months. Up to date, I know that the British Board of Trade has done nothing to remedy this evil. Should a captain get into difficulties through daring to be exhausted, no matter how long the strain he has stood as captain of his ship, he is liable. It may be that his means of livelihood will be taken away, that he will have to face the charge of manslaughter, and the ruin of his professional reputation. And all for what? For being of ordinary flesh and blood, or rather, of extraordinary flesh and blood, but still human.
To relieve their captains of many responsibilities the Cunard management have placed staff captains aboard certain of their best ships. They have done this without the sanction of the law and entirely upon their own responsibility, in order that the ships' captains may devote the whole of their time to the navigation of their ships. It is a move in the right direction, but until the law sanctions it, staff captains have no legal status, and the men holding such rank are between the devil and the deep sea. Legally, the chief officer is second in command, and should anything happen to the captain the command would devolve upon him. The staff captain, having been in command of the company's smaller vessels, is naturally more experienced than the chief officer, and in the company's service he is the senior of the two, and should the captain be unable to perform his duties the company would expect him to take over the command. He has no more legal right to do this than any sailor aboard. Should he take over the command and run the ship into trouble, then the chief officer would be responsible. So long as British law says that a ship of the Mauretania class can proceed to sea with only a master and mate aboard, we shall hear the crack of doom before staff captains are granted legal status. It is truly an astounding state of affairs that the biggest ship in the world can sail out of any port of the United Kingdom with a certificated master and one certificated mate, and if she is outside the three-mile limit, she need not carry a single certificated man except the cook. This is a literal fact. It is a fact, too, that there are many large vessels trading round the British coast without a certificated man aboard a grave menace to the safety of life and property at sea.
Returning to the staff captain, we learn from the rules of the line that he is in sole charge of all boats and other life-saving appliances, and that he is responsible for the efficiency of the crew at boat, fire, and bulkhead-door drills. Everything pertaining to the safety of life and property is under his control, so that, on Cunard ships carrying staff captains, we have the captain devoting all his time to the navigation of his ship, while the staff captain devotes his to life-saving gear. The pity of it is that the law will not allow a captain who is fagged out to be relieved of his command, after a long strain, by an experienced and able staff captain.
The tracks hitherto observed by most of the liners were agreed upon because they represented the shortest distance between England and America compatible with safety. During the summer months, when the ice is working south toward the steamer routes, the southerly tracks are followed. Toward autumn, most of the icebergs having worked south, it is considered safer to use the northern courses. Formerly it was the not infrequent practice to 'cut corners,' and so shorten the route by from forty to sixty miles. This dangerous custom was abruptly discontinued about two years ago. 1 I do not believe that to-day one mile less than the official length of the tracks whether they are the new or the old tracks is covered.
Having mentioned the new tracks, I may state that these were agreed upon last year, and are to be followed when an abundance of ice warrants it. They run as far south as 38 30' N., and as bergs seldom reach so far south in the longitude of the southerly limit of the tracks, they may be considered as representing the maximum of safety.
The vagaries of icebergs when influenced by the cold waters of the Labrador current and the warm waters of the Gulf Stream are so puzzling as to leave one undecided what to do for the best. It is admitted that last year's ice season was abnormal, otherwise how can one account for the appearance of a small berg three hundred miles off Cape Finisterre, and another as far south as 35 15' N. in 44 50' W;? Lest the sceptical doubt this statement, the authority for it had better be given in detail. [The Atlantic article to which the author repeatedly refers gave a detailed description of this practice. The statements were vigorously attacked at the time, but the main allegations were established. ' Corner-cutting' was first disavowed and then discontinued. --THE EDITORS.] The British Meteorological Society's notice to mariners No. 1321, October 5, 1912, states that on August 27, 1912, the steamer Lux, when in 42 30' N. and 15 26' W., passed a large piece of ice fifty feet long and five feet high. On the same society's track charts the position of a small berg sighted on October 8, 1912, by the steamer Putney Bridge is given as 35 15' N., 44 50' W. From these positions and dates it would appear that at no time of the year is the North Atlantic Ocean free of bergs to the northward of 30 or 35 degrees north latitude. Although it is admitted that the ice season of 1912 was abnormal, yet the conditions which made it so may recur any year.
Under the circumstances, what are the liner companies to do to minimize the risks of Atlantic travel? Much is expected of the North Atlantic Ice Patrol vessels Seneca, Miami, and Scotia. The two former vessels are United States revenue cutters, and the latter is a British steamer chartered by the Board of Trade and the British liner companies. With the assistance afforded by these vessels, and the adoption of more southerly routes if the presence of ice near the tracks in use warrants it, the chances of striking ice or even sighting it are greatly reduced. Also, should the present season prove normal, liners will leave the great circle track (outward) sixty miles farther to the southward than is usual, and when homeward bound will pick up the great circle track sixty miles farther south of the usual point. This increased distance means increased safety to the passenger, but increased expenditure to the shipowner without compensation.
In recent maritime disasters wireless telegraphy has played an important part. That it has proved of such excellent worth is not altogether to the credit of the Marconi Company, as many vessels, until recently, carried only one underpaid, shockingly overworked operator. These men, who were paid a mere pittance, were expected to stay up night and day over the length of a voyage. In this particular point the service was weak. Probably the man who received the Titanic's call for help was paid the princely salary of $20.00 per month! In vessels of the greyhound type the staff of Marconi operators has always been larger than in intermediate vessels, though the latter may carry just as many passengers as the former. As business men favor the fast vessels, and express a desire to keep in touch with market prices and quotations, they are accommodated by means of powerful wireless installations and a staff of operators large enough to respond to any calls made on their services day or night. Happily, the intermediate vessels now carry at least two operators, which means that the wireless instrument is never left unattended even to deliver messages to the bridge, for these can now be sent by telephone to the officer of the watch. What with larger staffs, telephonic communication with the bridge, and the strengthening of all weak installations, the wireless system needs but little to make it perfect. The call for assistance ought -to be received by any vessel within touch, day or night. The weak spot in the system is the disloyalty and indifference which the miserable wage-scale will breed among splendid operators.
The alterations that have been made within the last year can be considered only tentative, for until an international conference is held and uniformity of the main principles becomes a fact, rivalry and jealousy will oppose true progress. When a conference is held, the main body of it should be composed of naval architects, shipowners, practical seamen, with a sprinkling of prominent public men. Until such a conference is held it seems that there is a real danger of leaning over too much on the other tack.
For instance, the British Board of Trade's latest requirements for boatgear, and so forth, make one wonder where the passengers are to be stowed if taking to the boats becomes necessary. Even in a boat barren of equipment the number of persons which an approved life-boat is certified to carry means packing them like sardines in a tin. How one in charge of a loaded boat in a seaway is going to handle her is beyond my sailor mind. When the boats are loaded they float so low in the water that handling them even in the finest weather is an immensely difficult task. It may be that the lawmakers believe in the theory that once the cry for help is sent, ships will rush in from all directions at full speed.
So they will. But it is not comforting to know that the nearest vessel may be fifty miles or more away, and that this means two hours' steaming for the swiftest vessel. In a seaway, any boat loaded to its legal capacity may capsize in two seconds. What is the remedy? That is for the international conference to find out. The foregoing statement merely shows how helpless boats are in anything but a calm, if loaded according to law. Personally I should propose to substitute condensed foodstuffs or army emergency rations for the two pounds of biscuit per adult which boats are now supposed to carry. Sailor's biscuits are not very palatable, and they take up much room.
Before closing the article, I wish to take the opportunity to say that the general condition of an officer's life on a liner has been remarkably improved during the last two years. Physical strains are reduced, pay is higher, more home life is granted, annual leave is enjoyed, sick pay is allowed, and better all-round conditions exist. Certain heavy strains incidental to arrival and departure cannot be very well remedied, but these are borne more cheerfully than a year or more ago.
Without prejudice, I must state that if the law and the public respond to the shipowner's appeal for fair play, much may be accomplished for the cause of safety. Reviewing the events of the last year and the efforts made to remedy the defects in the Atlantic passengercarrying trade, it seems to me that the law and the public have gone out of their way to humbug shipowners and sailors, pile up unnecessary expense, complicate the work of saving life in emergencies, and place obstacles in the way of successful trade. And why? To relieve pent-up feelings and a bad attack of hysterics. That a different system of saving life is necessary no one will deny. But the law and the public must learn to realize that crowding boats on top of one another in all kinds of impossible positions is not the remedy.
As an officer on an Atlantic passenger steamer, I know that the last year has been purgatory. What with wooden boats, collapsible boats, rafts, ordinary boat-gear, extraordinary boat-gear, boat-surveys, boat-drills, and so forth, one can only arrive at the conclusion that the law, at least, has gone mad. But the law and the public must wreak their vengeance upon somebody, and we of the sea and those for whom we sail are the unlucky victims.
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