America and West Indies Station
1930 – 1932
The Engine Room Department
It is difficult to summarise the Engine Room Department’s experiences whilst serving on the station because they have been so varied and it is hard to decide which would be the best to record. Technically, our experiences have been somewhat similar to those we have met on other stations. On days when the ship has been open to visitors, however, we have met people and have been asked questions peculiar to this part of the world.
Our first real experience of heat was during our passage through the Panama Canal. Certainly one could claim relationship with Salamanders or wonder why ‘asbestos’ was not used as a Christian name. How pleasant it was to be able to sit on the upper deck after some hours below and get a breath of fresh air! Then came Alaska, where on many occasions we were very grateful for the heat below.
Trinidad was our ‘bête noire.’ Here shoals of jellyfish, very much like turnips in appearance, pestered us day and night. Thousands of these invaded our condenser inlets and choked the condensers, which necessitated removal of doors and everyone fishing out jellyfish. Luckily the water was very warm. Our clothes on these occasions consisted of a bathing costume and a wrist watch and the engine rooms rivaled Billingsgate Market and approached the standard of Niagara Falls when we flushed the condensers through after cleaning. Despite the fact that we disposed of bucket after bucket full of jellyfish hundreds fell into the bilge, and speedily decaying, made our engine rooms hardly comparable with a bunch of violets.
The Engine Room Department was undoubtedly at its best when onshore. More work was discussed over a few glasses of beer than ever could have been accomplished onboard in a twelvemonth! Then, too visitors were a source of pleasure, for it was very gratifying to know that a general ‘run around’ the department was appreciated so much. The ladies who ventured below speedily regretted their rashness, for the heat was too much for them, and they hardly gained a respite even under the supply fans. Very audible gasps of relief were heard when they ascended to the fresh air.
At Santa Monica, in California, we were literally invaded by ‘Young America.’ The remarks passed on this occasion were certainly enlightening, and personally my slang looked like being increased very considerably. One began to answer to the name of ‘Johnny Bull.’ The Americans made friends and conversation in no time. One in particular was telling me about the practice shell he saw alongside one of the 6-inch guns. He said “You get medals for being hit with those, do you not?” “Hardly,” I replied, “you get medals for being missed by them!” They possess a fund of real wit and pithy sayings.
In the southern States we had a wonderful reception. The department was again invaded en bloc, and the people of Mobile began to know the Dauntless as well as we do. I had the pleasure of showing a Civil Engineer around, and he was certainly impressed by the way in which so much machinery is crammed into so small a space. I gathered that he wanted to impress me as well and our conversation drifted to Mobile and its industries. He remarked “Do you know that Mobile is famous for its turpentine, why, half Mobile is making turpentine?” I thought of the ‘bootleg’ I had seen the results of and answered “I quite appreciate this, and from what I have seen in Mobile I should think the other half is drinking it!”
Without a doubt our most interesting experiences were those in America.
We have had rough times, but the pleasant ones have amply counterbalanced these, and so we can look back and laugh over the many very pleasant occasions.