National Geographic : 1943 Feb
Convoys to Victory TVr;' *::i."i:'' 205 Lives Depend upon Quick-acting Lifesaving Equipment Lifeboats, in time of war, are augmented with rafts. These cumbrous but effective devices are mounted on stands so they can be released by cutting a line. If the ship goes down before the rafts are loosed, they will float free. All lifeboats and rafts are stocked with food and water, warm clothing, medicine, lights, signal flares, navigating instruments, and fish lines (page 204). rations containing ten times the nourish ment of hardtack. One of these products is known as the "C ration" and tastes like a graham cracker. Another is a sort of pemmi can, made from dried meat, raisins, and sugar. There are also chocolate tablets (including some which won't melt in the sun) and milk tablets. Self-heating Foods One of the most interesting things in our boats was an assortment of self-heating foods. These foods are packed in a special can which, when punctured to admit air, will become piping hot in 15 minutes. Coffee can also be secured in these remarkable containers. We found it difficult, on our ship, to withstand the temptation to try one of these things just to see how they worked. In addition to boats, we also had several rafts on board. These were lashed to the rigging in such a way that they could be dropped into the sea merely by releasing a gripe. The rafts were equipped more or less the same as the boats. We kept double lookout throughout the voyage; one man on the bridge, another on the fo'c'sle head. In addition, the officers usually overstayed their watches, while the Old Man more or less lived on the bridge. Sometimes, with the officers and the quar termaster, we would have as many as six peo ple scanning the sea ahead. That would be people on duty. Those of us who weren't on duty also spent a great deal of time scanning the sea. Somehow, crossing the Atlantic in time of war, with TNT for company, makes one very conscious of the beauties of Nature! All ships naturally are blacked out. Port holes are painted over. Outside lights are re moved, while alleyway lights are replaced with blue bulbs. The dining saloon and a few other rooms on our ship were equipped with wooden shields which could be put over the portholes at night and then removed in the morning to admit light and air. Most of the portholes were painted over, however, so that if it was too cold to open them the men had to use artificial light day and night. The Commodore was very particular about the blackout. One morning he signaled: "The convoy was endangered last night by an unauthorized display of light. Be more careful in the future."