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    Shifting coal: was [NAV-L] Battenberg Course Indicator
    From: George Huxtable
    Date: 2006 Mar 7, 21:15 -0000

    Paul Hirose wrote incidentally to a posting on a different matter-
    | I found the 1908 document "Coaling from a Collier" interesting, though
    | the instructions were about 70% incomprehensible due to the thicket of
    | terminology. Good grief, what a detestable task coaling must have been!
    | "The first maxim in coaling should be to get every single officer and
    | man that can be spared, into the collier to dig out the coal... You will
    | find at the commencement of a commission, that there are various ratings
    | who look upon it as a right to be excused coaling. Meet them with a
    | stony eye, and say there is no such thing as 'having a right' when the
    | coal has to come in."
    The English collier trade has been going for hundreds of years, mainly carrying sea-coals from the
    Northeast (North Yorkshire and Durham) to London, down the North Sea. It provided the sturdy vessels
    that Cook adapted for his circumnavigation.
    Loading the coal would often take place alongside a steep riverbank. It would be brought down from
    the mine in tubs, then shot into the hold from a built-up stage. But unloading the coal at the other
    end was a dramatic business. Hundreds of tons of coal had to be brought up out of the hold by the
    sweat and muscle of the vessel's crew, using a method known as "whipping". It worked something like
    Down in the hold the shovelling party would load a large canvas sack with coal, to a weight just a
    bit less than that of two people. The two whippers, of roughly equal weight, would start their climb
    up the ladders, out of the hold to deck level, and then further, up a temporary staging built up on
    the deck, alongside the hatchway, to a height of several feet. Above their heads, a spar, part of
    the rigging, would carry two separated pulley-blocks. Two ropes would rise out of the hold from the
    sack, each passing through a block, and back down to the whippers, now in place on the staging. They
    would take up any slack, and when the sack had been declared loaded, each took a firm grip of the
    rope and simulanteously they launched themselves off the staging.
    If everything had been judged right, their combined weight would overbalance that of the coal, and
    the whippers would descend to the hold as the coal rose to above the deck, when the ropes were made
    fast, so the spar could swing for unloading the sack. The whippers could start their long climb once
    again, as the sack was returned to the hold for refilling. The process was repeated, thousands of
    All very well, but just think of the potential for things to go wrong. If one of the whippers lost
    his grip, he would fall to the bottom of the hold, shortly followed by the sack of coal.
    That was the interlude that awaited a collier's crew, between a cold passage down the bleak North
    Sea, and a return voyage as soon as the coal had been discharged. A hard life.
    contact George Huxtable at george@huxtable.u-net.com
    or at +44 1865 820222 (from UK, 01865 820222)
    or at 1 Sandy Lane, Southmoor, Abingdon, Oxon OX13 5HX, UK.

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