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Spar Deck Swabbies: 1898

Spar Deck Swabbies: 1898

Circa 1898. "League Island Navy Yard, Philadelphia. U.S.S. Brooklyn spar deck." 8x10 inch glass negative, Detroit Publishing Company. View full size.


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Intake tubes

We still have them on some older ships; they're called scoops. At one point you could find them on cabin portholes too, which could be adjusted to redirect air into your living space, primitive "A/C" for the mariner!

What are those "pads" called?

Very interesting comment from Capn_Jack, thanks! I also noted four (4ea) boat support pads mounted above the spars with turnbuckles for adjustability. I wonder if they have a name.

Devil's in the details

Lots of neat details in this one. The intake ventilators TonyB asked about,-- usually these big ones are for the boiler room combustion supply as well as to cool the stokers as they fed coal into the furnaces -- are adjustable. There is a drive pinion shaft running up each one with a ring of gear teeth around the exterior (see the one top center). This would allow the crew to trim the ventilators to the wind direction so they could scoop as much air as possible. On some ships in this period boilers worked by natural draft -- the ventilators were not being helped by mechanical fans -- and this arrangement was much more common on cruisers that could handle the very tall funnels natural draft required. It seems likely Brooklyn was using wind to help her boilers get more air. More air, faster combustion, more power.

The second detail is the spars resting on the beams overhead. These spars might have been for the ship's boats. In this period, ships' boats were often sail and/or oar powered, with one or two steam launches. Cruisers had a large complement of boats since they often did service in remote areas. The "string of beads" thing at the end of a spar is a parrel -- a feature from the age of sail that slid (rolled on the beads actually) up and down on a mast to allow a gaff or yard to be hoisted smoothly. The shape of the jaws suggests a gaff, and the size of the wire loop suggests it's for one of the boats rather than for the ship itself.

Vampire Ship

The Photographer caught Nosferatu coming up the stairs.

The large intake tubes

Landlubber here so might be a dumb query. What are those huge tubes used for on these old ships? I assume air intake for down below?

[Yes. Ventilator ports. - Dave]

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