NAVAL INSTITUTE, BOSTON BRANCH,
Sept. 30, 1880.
Henry Lyon, M. D., in the chair.
The Laws of Hygiene as applied to Berthing, Messing, Ventilation, and Interior Arrangements of Men-of-war.
Naval Const. Pook:—I have been asked to say a few words on the subject of ventilation. I cannot think in what way I can do better than to give a description of the system of ventilation as arranged upon the Richmond, fitted at this navy yard, about two years since.
The Bureau of Construction had its attention called to the deficiency in ventilation upon ship board and, upon the representations of its chief, a board was organized by the Hon. Secretary of the Navy, consisting of Med. Dir. Turner, Naval Constructor Fernald, Comdr. J. R. Bartlett and Chief Engineer D. Smith. These gentlemen, coining to the Navy Yard, Boston, proceeded to arrange a plan as follows. A main duct was carried entirely through the ship, below the berth deck, which tapered from the centre of the length to the ends; when the engine room and coal bunkers were reached this passage was carried under the coal bunkers and out of the way of the machinery. Attached to this main pipe were smaller pipes which led into each room and stateroom of the ship; at the ends of these smaller pipes were placed brass registers.
The whole System was arranged to exhaust bad air from all parts of the ship, by the use of a fan blower which was run by a small steam engine at a high velocity. This was placed upon the berth deck. After the bad air was drawn out of the ship, it was passed under the berth deck, through square tubes, to vertical pipes, and into the open air—this was the exhaust method. Now, to supply the fresh air, pipes were arranged along the sides of the ship, wherever there was an opportunity to do so, with valves at the upper end, which could be kept open in good weather.
There was also a cowl of large size fitted on each side forward, which was placed so as to direct the wind into a port about two feet square; this port was boxed in, and was ultimately divided into three compartments, one of which led into the berth deck, another into the orlop, and a third into the hold. The port was fitted so as to be kept closed in rough weather, and the cowl arranged so as to turn around from the wind: at the after end of the ship, there were also fitted large, square ventilators, one from the hold, the second from the orlop deck, and the third from the berth deck, all leading into a skylight upon the poop deck, which was arranged to close in bad weather.
It was the intention of the original Board, that the ventilation should be so arranged that the engine should not only exhaust the air, but draw it into the ship,—but this being the first execution of their plan, this part of the work was not perfected. Lately, Assistant Constructor Hanscom has originated a method which bids fair to produce the desired result. This consists of a series of valves so arranged that by one turn of a lever on deck, the engine can be made to pump the air into the ship, or exhaust it, as may be desired—the blower mining constantly in the same direction. As it is not always desirable to have fresh air blowing into the room, Mr. Hanscom has introduced two registers, one at the lower part of the room, and the other at the upper,—that at the upper part being for the purpose of exhausting the foul air, and the one at the bottom for the supply of fresh air. This last plan has just been approved by the Bureau of Construction, and will be applied to the Hartford.
Additional ventilation was given to the Richmond, by the substitution of large oblong air ports, having lights nine by twelve inches on the outside, and flaring to openings nearly two feet square upon the inside. By this means double the volume of air that was formerly given to this ship was admitted.
Constructor Wilson has improved upon these ports by the use of a round port twelve inches in diameter, which is hung upon a hinge on the lower edge of the lights, and his attempt is to close the light by the use of a string and clamps or catches placed one on each side of the air port. The catches hanging loosely, hold the port something like the latch upon a gate, and the port is forced back upon its packing by the use of two nuts, one on each side. Mr. Wilson claims that the port thus closed will bear evenly upon the packing, and be made perfectly water-tight, the only objection being the time and the extra trouble it takes, to open the air port, which might sometimes be required to be done quickly. Wilson's ports will be applied to the Hartford, Lancaster and Brooklyn, and as many other ships as possible, it being understood that his port is adopted until a better one is presented. There is no question but that it is very desirable to have a perfect system of ventilation for our ships, particularly upon the berth decks, and no pains nor expense ought to be spared to bring out the best possible plans for their ventilation.
Chief-Eng. Trilley. I wish to inquire of Mr. Pook if the spaces between the deck-knees and planking under the spar-deck of the Hartford are to be left open?
Naval-Const. Pork. They will not be left open.
Comdr Ames. Gum shellac, dissolved and mixed with yellow ochre so as to make a covering paint is the best possible covering for berth and orlop decks. Once a month two coats should be put on berth decks, which can be done between "after breakfast" and supper time, the men staying on the spar-deck. During the middle of the month spots where the most wear occurs can be touched up. This treatment ensures a hard covering to the deck as easily cleaned and kept dry as marble, and with the proper use of whitewash overhead and good ventilation, as applied to the Richmond, I cannot see why a man-of-war should not be as healthful as any house. I have tried this system thoroughly on board the Kearsarge and Resaca with the best results as to cleanliness and health. I am pleased to know that Comdr Schley, lately from sea, confirms these ideas in every respect with his own experience.
Commodore Ransom. I believe that the use of shellac on lower-decks was forbidden by a general order from the Navy Department.
Naval Const. Hanscom. It appears to me that the closing of these apertures is well enough as far as it goes but the fact is that our ceilings are by no means tight in the seams, and if foul air is confined in the frame spaces it will find its way into the state rooms and on to the berth-deck. What appears to me to be needed is some means of carrying the foul air up and outboard.
Naval Const. Pook. These openings on the berth-deck were formerly left as one means of preserving the timber of the ship. But at the present time it does not seem so necessary, as all or nearly all the timber applied to the naval ships at the present time has undergone a process of preservation. I can see no objection to closing all these openings, provided the process of preservation proves to be all that it is recommended.
Comdr Ames. On board the Resaca the space under the floor was sufficient for a man to pass nearly the whole length of the vessel, and on this account her bilges could always be kept perfectly clean.
Dr. Lyon. Is not that the way in which foreign vessels of war are usually constructed?
Naval Const. Hanscom. They are generally built in that manner—what is needed in this respect is the raising of the floors of the hold. This would require but a small sacrifice of storage room, while it would make the bilges more accessible. Most naval officers know bow difficult it is to keep clean the bilges in the after part of our screw sloops, in the shaft-alley et cetera, but with the floors of the store-rooms on either side of the alley raised sufficiently high, apertures can be made communicating from the shaft-alley to the bilges under these floors, thereby affording an opportunity to wash out thoroughly.
Naval Const. Pook, As an instance of the necessity of cleaning bilges, I would speak of the condition of the Monongahela just before her last cruise to the East Indies. When she came to New York, under command of Captain Fitzhugh, the odor on board the ship was intensely disagreeable and unhealthy, coming from foul bilges; at the request of the Captain the ship was docked, and the bilges were thoroughly cleaned, at the same time the store-room and magazine decks were raised, and every part was made accessible for cleaning. I think this cleaning was effectual.
Chief-Eng’r Trilley. The bilges of the Vandalia are very accessible, from the shaft-alley to the forward bulkhead of the fire-room. The boilers are placed at a height sufficient for a man to pass underneath. The trouble of this vessel, from the bilge gases, on her first cruise, arose from the arrangement of the after magazine and store-rooms on each side of the shaft-alley. They were shut off from the shaft-alley by an iron bulkhead and the bilges were inaccessible, so that any foreign substance, lodging under the floors and decaying, caused the foul air to find an outlet into the ward-room state rooms through the apertures between the knees and the spar-deck planking. This was almost constantly occurring, and the smell from the bilge would be very strong in the ward-room when it could not be noticed on the berth deck, in the engine room and shaft-alley. The boilers of the Hartford are placed very low and I do not think they will admit of a man's passing underneath. I wish to inquire of Mr. Pook, if iron beams were substituted for wooden ones, could not the boilers be raised several inches?
Naval Const. Pook. In regard to the space under the boilers of the Hartford for effectual cleaning, I think a portion of that valuable space is taken up by a series of plates, separated by spools and angle irons as a preventive against the effects of heat; but for these arrangements there would be ample room for cleaning; for instance, if the boilers were placed upon legs, like the Richmond's.
Lieut. Bassett. I think much can be done in promoting the hygiene of the ship by the Watch, Division and Executive Officers. It is difficult to teach some men to keep clean. Constant and unremitting attention are necessary to teach the apprentices in the training ships to keep themselves and their clothing clean. Men are a little better, but must be watched. Persons, clothing and bedding must be frequently washed and aired, perhaps the latter more often than in some ships. Bathing facilities should be extended. I do not mean to advocate large and well appointed bath-rooms, but I cannot see why, if, as in some ships, the firemen have bathing arrangements, a similar attention should not be accorded to the seamen. As to washing decks, I had imagined that nearly all the medical men took strong sides against it, as we have all heard that holy-stones were to be banished, et cetera. But in reading an excellent paper, read before the Institute, by Medical Director Gibbs, I find that he, at least, seems not to fear that the sailor would, as the old adage has it, suffer more from the water inside the ship than that out of it. But the deck should be dried thoroughly, and it would be better to let it go in bad and damp weather. Drying stoves should be frequently used, and every means taken to dry the deck well.
Comdr Ames. On board the Pensacola, swinging tables were provided for the crew and were so arranged that in port they could be made solid, stationary tables by placing one of the end swinging supports underneath for legs. These tables gave great satisfaction.
Bag-racks were fitted on board the Colorado under the supervision of that most excellent officer Lieut.-Comdr, now Capt., L. A. Kimberly, and were fitted so that each mess had a rack; the key was always kept by the cook of the mess. This prevented stealing.
I consider lockers, bag-racks and swinging tables all in the direction of improvements in the condition of the sailor, and I feel that with properly shellaced, lower decks, and ventilation as arranged on board the Richmond, all that can be clone for the health and comfort of the crew in our present style of ships would be accomplished.
As regards the ration, I am firmly convinced that there is nothing which needs greater reform than the manner of putting no provisions for the navy. The manner in which stores are prepared for use in the far western posts of the army is far in advance of anything that we have, and ensures to both officers and men the best of provisions in almost perfect condition. A study of the methods used in the army purchasing office in Boston would amply repay any one interested in this matter.
Naval Const. Pook. The fitting of the mess tables, bag-racks, &c, is always optional with the Captain of the ship; but most of the ships which have been fitted where I have been, have been arranged without the racks and lockers, as was contemplated by the order of Admiral Porter, made sometime since, in consequence of the want of ventilation, and the dirt which will collect in spite of the utmost care, as well as being receptacles for bugs, mice and other vermin. The greater objection, however being deficient ventilation in those parts, and in consequence a rapid decay.
I have no doubt, however, that tables and lockers can be arranged, and all the parts thoroughly ventilated in connection with a general system of ventilation.
Lieut. Bassett. As regards the second section of the subject—Messing and Berthing—while we may regard Hygiene and Ventilation as belonging particularly to the Constructor and Doctor,—to line officers principally fall the duty of attending to messing and berthing. The executive arranges the details and the watch and division officers carry them out. As to berthing, I do not see why, if hammocks must swing so closely packed, they cannot be arranged so as to be less in contact. It is hard to see why men are healthy in fully manned ships, when they sleep in hammocks nearly touching, with rows dovetailed between, as closely swung. In ironclads, on account of the high decks, this is easily avoided. But in our wooden ships why cannot an arrangement like this be made; let the odd numbered hammocks swing as usual up to the beams, while the even numbered, dovetailing between them, are suspended lower by rods so arranged that during the day they swing up to the beams like an iron stanchion. These rods could be fixed by pins and the hammocks hang from the ends of them. Thus there would be rows high up alternating with rows further down. As to messing it is time the old custom of making the men squat about on the decks be abolished. Swinging or folding tables should be used, and thus the men would be better able to eat, feel better over it, and be under better control. Some tables should be left down after supper, and the men allowed to read or write at them.
Lieut. Strong. I think that it would be difficult to place one hammock under another in our wooden ships, as proposed by Mr. Bassett, on account of the want of space between-decks. We all know how difficult it is to pass along a berth-deck under the hammocks after they are piped down. I agree with the remarks that have been made regarding the use of swinging tables and benches. They serve as a convenient place where men can read and write, as well as take their meals, and any comforts of this kind which can be furnished to a ship's crew have in my opinion a tendency to make the men more contented and, in consequence, more efficient.
Comd. Schley.—During my cruise recently concluded on the coast of Brazil, west coast of Africa and the Home Station, embracing about thirty-eight months of which nearly twenty-three months were spent actually at sea in weather that was boisterous and often severe, I observed large additions to the daily sick-list of persons suffering with catarrh, rheumatism and other diseases that could be attributed to the decks below. Consulting with my medical officer it was agreed to shellac the berth deck of the ship. It was discovered that a very large reduction took place in our sick-list. My impression now is in the neighborhood of fifty per cent. It seems only fair to infer that it was due to the precautions taken below. In single deck ships as the Essex was, it appears to me hardly fair to the men to deluge the berth-deck at sea while the spar-deck was kept constantly wet by the elements. I have always been a great advocate of sand and the holy stone, but my experience in the Essex convinced me that it was a mistake so far as decks, where men live, are concerned.
With respect to the effect of clean bilges, I would say that while in Rio de Janeiro, in the winter months of 1878, I had several cases of yellow fever on board the Essex. Every case could be traced to the shore, but the cleanliness of the vessel, the crew, and her bilges made it impossible for the disease to secure a lodgment. The employment of rods, spoken of by Lieut. Bassett is practically reached now by long laniards which the men have spliced into the rings of their hammock clews. By this means the men in port where decks are the most crowded are enabled to swing each alternate hammock below the first tier.
The great height between decks in the more recently constructed foreign vessels admits the plan mentioned by Lieut. Bassett, but in our ships would be a serious inconvenience on decks that are now only high enough to allow for passage, while this is not the case in all our vessels.