LIFE IN THE STOKEHOLD.
A STUDENT'S IMPRESSION-, j A graduate of the University- of Pennsylvania, and "winner of laurels as a middle* weight wrestler, "stoked" his , way to Ipurope On ft big liner, and., telta bis impressions as the result of hard, actual' experience of a strange an 4 little-known phase of life.
Personally, In spite of its repellent features, he says, stoking has always had a certain fascination for mc, I don't attempt to explain It, b_t ft is so. Perhaps it is because you get a period of absolute Isolation from the world. You don't have to bother about any social usages, and you don't even have to talk if you don't want to; only work,, This gives you a chance to 'think; not a bad thing once In a while.
1 Also, It., may ,be that, the purging, effect lof .fhe heat holds some of the charm. If I you have anything on your mind or in your I Bjateni, after a few days' sweating"in the I stokehold it is sure to come off, and you [are as washed out aud utterly clean.-inside las you are utterly dirty outside. Then you J sleep, too. Gad, how you do sleep'-
i Altogether there were forty-eight hqnfts i in the room and forty ?four of them Wsr_ filled. When all.. the de-ppants were Xn, their bpnks 'the, reek was, terrific, particularly toward the. end. of the trip. ~T!he bunks were six Jeet long and there was Just 18 Inches between tbe bottom '"of the tlerg.
At first the • compartments were clean as a new pin, but as the days pa»Bed things began to accumulate On the floor, and In the end you needed boots or a snowpiougb to get out without being eontamlnatedA If ■a stoker managed to steal a bone or a bit of fat or food of any kind from the cook's galley be would bring it down and hide it in his bunk. When he was through, with it the would throw the remains on thfloor. Also there were other kinds of dirt. And ours was a clean ship. It is said that on some ships they hang a carbonised sheet over the hatchway leading to the stokers' forecastle. I can sympathise wit— them.
Often when, we were coming off ■jyatob. we would bang about a few minutes to walch the saloon passengers eating a genuine meal off a table with a real tablecloth, on it. Then we would go forward and shut our eyes and try to imagine we • wer« eating what we had seen there.
In our pft there were twelve fires. To these there were allotted four Bremen and four trimmers, one pair to each furnaceAt tbe beginning of each watch It was the duty of each fireman and bis assistant trimmer to "poll out" one of their three fires. Thus, as there were tnree fires to each fireman, and three sets of Ja the course of the three watches which madup twelve hours, each fire would be "pu!l«----out" once.
This "pulling out" business is the hardest part of all the stokers' wort, it consists of tearing to. pieces the living fire of tbe furnace and pulling out the white hot slag, clinkers and bits of rock that have accumulated during the previous fcwelvhours and which are choking the fire. The tools used are a 12-foot iron rake and a pointed iron bar the same lengtn ana about an inch and a-half ln diameter, called the Slicing bar. The bar weighs more than 100 pounds, the rake much Jess.
With the furnace doors shut tne temperature In the pits is about 110 degrees. When they are opened Jt runs from 140 degrees up. When cleaning a fire the furnace doors are open for twenty minutes at least, and all that time the fireman and nis trimmer are prying, pushing, Jamming, pulling, with, the bar and rake, in the m_m ot the raging fire, while one of tbe other crews stands by and douses buckets of water over the flaming slag, and sometimes over tho scorchlng men as well. As the water falls, the steam and dust fly up in clouds, often, to fall In burning showers. It is during these infernal sessions that men are most often taken with "stoker's madlness" and rush to the deck to Jump overboard.
After "pulling out" is finished, the firemen go at their regular Job or piling coal into the ever-hungry fires, while the trimmers hustle up Into the bunkers above, ana throw the coal that is there down chutes, each to his fireman below. Instead o! being cool, as might be supposed, the co_» ln tbe bunkers generates heat spontaneous.ly, and they are fully as hot as tho firerooms themselves.
If the trimmer does not send down enough coal for his fireman, then the fireman comes up the ladder with a coal shovel and persuades him to move mora quickly, Or perhaps an oiler happens along with a spanner : wrencU and stimulates fcb» to fresh labours, '.- . _' , ' '
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