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Waste(That which is thrown away or disposed of by fire)But, Not on ships! Never Discussed!!

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  • Member since
    October 2019
  • From: New Braunfels, Texas
Waste(That which is thrown away or disposed of by fire)But, Not on ships! Never Discussed!!
Posted by Tanker-Builder on Monday, July 25, 2022 8:03 AM

Here's a question:

            I bet everyone has thought, but, never asked about in mixed company. In the OLD days what happened to Human Waste? I ask the Question because I have never seen or heard of anyone asking it. Why is the Forward part of a Sail Ship the place sailors go to do their Business? And always called the HEAD? Well, if you notice in any age there was usually Sideboards in that area and footropes(Before Wood grates).

             This was so the waste would be well washed away after the person was done. Now as to anything more personal, let's just assume for polite company the seawater acted like a Bidet for these guys. That was pretty much it, until The Officers were accomodates astern. Those old windowed stern areas sure look fine don't they? They were there for two purposes. One they provided light in the forward corners and two, certain levels were officers toilets.

           Take for instance the bottom level of windows on a ship like that. Some had actually stained glass panes in them so the crew could NOT see officers doing the same thing they did.That would make a sailor believe an officer didn't do anything different than he did. Just more comfortably. This was NOT what the officers of the time wanted. They were supposedly "Above" the ordinaries by some levels or whatever. Seeing them doing the same the same way would have the crew dis-respecting them, Maybe!

           There were channels in those areas that allowed that waste to fall into the wake. Now the Ship's cook would just throw leftovers right over the sides. Ships of that time Stunk! Not just from the tars and shellacs used but from Mold ,Mildew, and salt water turns sour after a few days standing around in a closed area. Plus the constantl Miasma of wet wood!

           Sailors got a bath when it rained or the ocean was coming over the sides! Officers actually had Tuns(A large Barrel) of water for the purpose of bathing out of site of the "Ordinaries". So in those days B.O competed with every other smell you could think of. During the heyday of shipping before Steam and proper" Bathrooms " the harbors stunk because of this. That's why some cities were named in slang in a disrespectful way( For instance "The Black Hole of Calcutta") That harbor stunk from pumped out waste and sewage till the middle half of the fifties.

          The sea currents didn't fully exchange the water in the ship basin daily. Then there were the ships themselves, Which did not align itself to the sensitive noses of travelers. Yes, in those days passengers, At least ladies, used Chamber Pots! These were placed in special racks that were hinged and hid away under the sleeping accomodations. Now in modern times, Warships might NOT had the best of privacy for the crew, but at least they got and get showers, Clean Commodes and Sinks as well as air conditioning. Plus they usually have a laundry aboard for soiled uniforms.

          Men on deck were referred to as tars because that was a common denominator amongst the crew. Many of the heavier lines in the Standing(Support) rigging were heavily Tarred to prevent failure from saltwater erosion! This is the rigging they would have to work with, around and on every day or sail shift! Plus climbing it to be an assigned lookout! They may have looked Glamerous to folks on shore, But to the crew there was no romance to the conditions they lived in. Think about that the next you're standing in your Kohler Waterfall shower or Just being private for a few minutes. You even have bright daylight in the bathing place!


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