National Geographic : 1955 Dec
comfortable occasion and a most unpromising situation for enthusiasm. A stop watch keeps time as crew members dash from all parts of the ship, get aboard and lower the lifeboat, cast free of the davits, and row off. A few seconds can mean a life someday. After 20 minutes the red-nosed, shivering men are hoisted aboard again. "Have the doctor treat each man for chill and exposure." Commander Guill orders from the bridge, if the crew has done well. The lifeboat crew then troops down to sick bay where each man is solemnly given one ounce of bourbon. Standing deck watch is naturally unpleasant in January. despite abundant and advanced foul-weather gear. Parkas, face masks, lined gauntlets, and boots make it bearable, at least, but usually there is nothing to relieve the gray monotony of life at sea, except for the fulmars. These sea birds, resembling small alba trosses, stir up quite a bit of interest, apart from ornithology. Bets are made on which way the birds will turn after their ponderous take-off run. Wagers usually amount to a nickel: most of the men on deck, from the captain down. indulge in a little fulmar betting during quiet days on station. By the middle of the second week, some of the early moodiness aboard the Half Moon had dissipated and spirits were jauntier. Such obvious remarks as "We're over the hump" and "Got 'er back broke now" popped up in conversation. Things turned testy again in the third week. But the last night on station. when Commander Guill had the Half Moon pointed south and primed to run, there was enough high-pitched conversation escaping through the vents to float the ship two inches higher. Spirits Soar on Homeward Run Everybody aboard takes great interest in the engines, shafts, and propellers during the run home. Members of the oily clan below, engineering officer, chiefs, enginemen, and strikers included, become very important peo ple. Suddenly they are gentlemen with a guaranteed, sympathetic audience whenever they discuss their work. Inside the Ambrose Channel Lightship off New York Harbor, four sailing days away from Bravo, another change takes place. Channel fever, they call it, and it reaches its peak as the mooring lines are being secured. It isn't in the nature of seamen to feel reflec tive and full of lofty purpose when hurrying down the gangway for shore leave. Nor was it in the nature of our crew. Crowding one upon another, they whipped salutes at the quarter-deck, turned down the gangway and were gone, to forget for a while the life of wobbly bunks, smashed lifeboats, and malignant ice they had known for three weeks aboard the Half Moon.