We're Not In The Caribbean Anymore!Below Deck :...
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The Middle Passage itself lasted roughly 80 days on ships ranging from small schooners to massive, purpose-built "slave ships." Ship crews packed humans together on or below decks without space to sit up or move around. Without ventilation or sufficient water, about 15% grew sick and died. Ottobah Cugoano, a survivor of the voyage, called it "the brutish, base, but fashionable way of traffic" (Gates and Anderson 1998: 369). In addition to the physical violations enslaved people suffered, they were ripped away from their families, homelands, social positions, and languages.
Ships are equipped with extensive below-deck areas for dry storage, as well as freezers and refrigerators that keep everything at the appropriate temperatures so nothing spoils. Food ingredients left over from one sailing are simply used on the next one.
Looking for peace and quiet on your sailing? Avoid staterooms that are above, below or next to crew areas such as the galley, and noisy public spaces like the theater, pool deck or kids club. Your travel agent or cruise line representative can help. If all else fails, Google deck plans for your ship.
He heard a broken cackle from the deck below, followed by sobs, reassurances. That woman Sylvia and her friend. Lee took a few steps back in case they looked up. He saw a woman a few feet away in a pale yellow gown leaning on the rail. There was something about the set of her shoulders, a certain absorption. From this angle her face looked wet. It alarmed him enough that he was willing to risk embarrassment. He walked over and stood beside her.
SA: ... And they were in Europe, at the invasions, ... but they were wood ... and they were smaller than the larger fleet minesweeper that I was on later. I remember one experience on this small AMC minesweeper. ... Before we left the dock in the morning, ... I had my breakfast, and as we went out and the water became very choppy. More so, and the ship began to roll. ... Soon, it was rolling ... close to sixty degrees, if you can imagine that! The side was almost touching ... the water. The clinometers in the engine room broke, so, we don't know how far over it went, but it was at least 64 degrees. ... I felt I wasn't going to hold my breakfast. ... I dashed to the head, stood there over the bowl, about to throw up my breakfast. ... But in the time that, ... (I hate to speak this gory way), it left my mouth, the toilet bowl was no longer beneath me; the bulkhead was beneath me, and the toilet bowl was up on the side, vertically. ... Everything splashed on the bulkhead, because that was under me. [laughter] This could go on sometimes for days, on longer trips. So, this was a quick initiation [laughter] [in]to what you could ... expect. Later, I was assigned to the USS Merganser. Merganser is a type of duck and a number of ... minesweepers were named after various ducks, for some reason. ... [There were] a bunch of names available and they found that useful. Now, the Merganser had about four officers and maybe thirty men; I'm not sure. ... I was the engineering officer on this [ship], as well as minesweeping [officer]; you had to combine duties on small [ships]. ... We operated out of Boston and out of Newport, Rhode Island, on this ... converted trawler. ... There weren't enough ... steel minesweepers to do the work that had to be done, so, they converted this ... trawler, (a fishing vessel). It was made of steel. The tonnage, I'd ... guess, [was] maybe 120 tons. A YMS is maybe sixty tons, I don't know, exactly a really small ship. ... The fishing gear was ripped out, and minesweeping equipment as well as armament and communications and other equipment was installed. Everything necessary to do the job was installed. ... We would go out into the Atlantic, patrol a couple of days' and sweep. ... We had antisubmarine gear to listen for subs and attack them. ... The ship ... wasn't even watertight. I understood shipbuilding and I worried when I saw that; ... in the engine room, [at] the top of the ... transverse bulkhead, the welding was broken. It wasn't even welded to the deck. ... We had a depth charge [launcher] on each side to hurl the depth charges off ... the side and I believe we could roll them off the stern. ... There were long cables, electric cables, that strung out behind us, to be towed, and we had minesweeping gear to cut mine cables and we could detonate acoustic mines and so on. I might ... touch on that later. ... My ... cabin there was a small room, perhaps eight feet long by four wide. ... (I don't think it was as much as five feet wide), and it was just ... on the other side of the bulkhead from the engine room, so that my head, as I lay in the bunk, was against this quarter-inch, steel bulkhead. ... On the other side of that was the engine room. ... It had a ponderous diesel engine, real old, that had been there when it was a fishing boat. ... It was a four-cylinder diesel engine with cast iron pistons, ... twelve inches in diameter. ... It would pound, pound, pound. ... [Editor's Note: Dr. Agron imitates the pounding sound.] One piston was cracked, but that didn't matter, it just kept [pounding]. ... If I tried to rest in my bunk or tried to sleep ... I heard the pounding in my head all the time, just on the other side of the bulkhead from me. [laughter] ... I remember, ... one occasion, we were out at sea, it was early in the morning, and I was in my bunk. ... I heard a "Thump, thump, thump, crash. Thump, thump, thump, crash," and I immediately realized [that] a depth charge, about seven feet over my head, had torn loose and was rolling on the deck and crashing, into stanchions ... right over me. ... Without hesitation, I dashed out, and raced up the ladder on the bulkhead at my door. ... There was a round hatch with a wheel. ... I scrambled up as fast as I could, opened the hatch and jumped out on the deck. ... I tried to wrestle with this thing. It was several hundred pounds, the size of a small ... garbage can, you know, full of TNT, [laughter] just rolling and crashing. ... I remember in the few seconds it took me to mount that ladder thinking, "Will I get there, or will the thing explode while I'm trying to get to it? Will I be aware of the flash or not?" [laughter] You know, in one second, these kinds of thoughts can go through your mind. ... Very shortly thereafter, the chief boatswain's mate came running from the fo'c's'le and the two of us grabbed it and ... rolled it back into its frame and lashed it with rope to keep it secure. Well, [that was] just part of a day's work. On one of the patrols out of Boston, on the USS Merganser, we were, perhaps one hundred miles out at sea on patrol for submarines, ... as well as mines. ... This would have been on the four AM to eight AM (0400 to 0800) watch and I was the OD on the bridge. It was my watch. It was a very cold January morning; I believe January. It was winter. ... In the pre-dawn darkness, you could see ... vapors rising out of the sea. It was the moisture condensing in the cold air; ... During the war, ships sailed with no lights. You were blacked out. ... When we left port on a patrol, we were told at what time [and] at what place we might expect friendly ships, American or British. ... Then, in the distance, way out, ... a little up off the port bow, (it was hard to make out the horizon, because it was still not light enough), I saw a tiny light, a tiny light, and then, it disappeared. I saw it again. So, I told the enlisted man there to call the Captain and he came on to the bridge and looked at it with the glasses. ... Sure enough, it was a light, just above the horizon, almost right on the water. It was several miles ahead of us. ... It seemed to be slowly going to the right, from port towards starboard. ... Then, we could make out another white light and it seemed to be just the tiniest fraction of an inch below and to the left of the first light. You wonder ..."What could it be, a submarine? Maybe." ... Then, it came right in front of us and we could see his green starboard light to the left, his red port light to the right, as well as a white light over them. All this added up to a submarine crossing our path from left to right, several miles ahead. The first light sighted was his mast light, the second light, also white was his stern light, lower in the water. When he crossed our course line, he turned directly towards us, showing his red and green running lights and the white mast light to our view. We were not expecting any friendly ships to be there, so, we thought, "Probably an enemy sub." Now, the trouble is, a submarine has a five-inch gun that can ... blow you out of the water from miles away, but we had, at that time, two saluting guns on the forward deck, not much more useful than to put a couple of firework salutes in the air. We also had several machine guns, .30-caliber or .50, and we may have had two antiaircraft guns, which would be twenty-millimeters, and the depth charges, of course. Now, there was no point in shooting at him; we couldn't even reach him with our little popguns. But he was closing in. ... The Captain had to make a decision. What do you do? ... He's lining us right up. Now, if he's a sub, he may be lining us up for a torpedo shot or maybe [a shot] from his five-inch gun. The Captain made the right decision. We couldn't touch him with our armament, so he broke the blackout rule. We put on our running lights, red and green on the sides, and then, ... three green lights, one on top of the mast, and one at the end of each yardarm, ... that's the signal for a minesweeper operating at night: three green lights. ... He reasoned, "If he's friendly, we would be identifying ourselves and he wouldn't think that we were an enemy. If he's enemy, we don't have a choice anyway." As we got closer and closer ... the stress level rose pretty high there on that bridge. ... We knew he could have blown us right out of the water and we couldn't have done a thing about it. ... Then, he veered off to the side and went to the right. ... When we got back, we reported this. We never heard from [the] higher-ups, who he was, what he was, why he was there, why we weren't told. Somebody I met wasn't so lucky. In Boston, while I served on the Merganser, one Saturday night, I was at the naval officers' club. ... It was wintry, rather bleak, spirits weren't too high. ... At one end of the bar was this very sad-looking fellow. He was a lieutenant commander in the Royal Canadian Navy, a man, thirty-ish, and he seemed so depressed. I thought I'd maybe cheer him up, or at least find out what's troubling him. So, I went over and started a conversation. ... He told me that he was in command of a corvette. A corvette is smaller than a destroyer, but it does similar tasks, convoying work, and it can engage in, you know, fire [operations]. He worked out of, I think, St. John's, Newfoundland, could have been Halifax; right now, it eludes me. ... He had been doing antisubmarine patrol in the North Atlantic. ... The convoys used that route back and forth to England and to Murmansk, [Russia], and so on. He would go about halfway across the Atlantic Ocean, [it would] take him several days, and then, he'd return. On the other side, it would be the British antisubmarine patrols who would patrol to that point, and then, return to England. Now, when he would leave on these periodic trips, he got his information from the communications officer at the naval base, ... telling him where and when every friendly vessel was to be expected along his path and which friendly submarines he might cross, ... so that if you encounter one that's not on your list, you assume it's not friendly [and] you go after it. This is the doctrine. ... [Incidentally, according to doctrine, we should have opened fire on those lights that we saw, because we were not told they'd be there, but we had no way of reaching them ... with our fire. It was hopeless. So, my Captain did the right thing.] Now, this guy was out there several days east of Newfoundland and he contacted an enemy sub. ... They went after it, as it wasn't on the list, and they depth charged it; sent it to the bottom. Oil came up, a mess, and the men cheered. They were glad and, in a happy mood, when they returned to base. When they got back, things were rather morose on base and when he ... reported to the communications officer, he learned that an English submarine was overdue! So, he had sent to the bottom a hundred English young men. You can imagine how he must have felt the rest of his life. ... They court-martialed the communications officer and the commander of the base. It wasn't the corvette commander's fault. ... The communications officer had failed to give [the corvette commander] the information: expect an English submarine at that location. 781b155fdc