Captains Courageous

Chapter II

Notes on the text

(by Leonee Ormond)

page 1

[Page 29, line 13] Lobster-car truck for carrying lobsters on the railway.

[Page 29, line 14] car railway carriage.

[Page 29, line 16] Slatin Beeman the original of Slatin Beeman was Austin Corbin (d. 1896), a financier who owned the railway system of Long Island and set up a game park near Newport, New Hampshire. See W. S. Tower `Who was Slatin Beeman ?’, Kipling Journal 42 (Sept. 1975), 10-12.

[Page 29, line 18] hoggin’ her run Kipling explains this as ‘cleaning her windows’. John McGivering writes:

Funk and Wagnell’s Standard Dictionary of the English Language published in the US in 1894, says it refers to a brush on a pole used for cleaning the sides and bottoms of vessels, that we know as a “long tom”. The Oxford Companion to Ships and the Sea describes it as twigs lashed between two planks so forming a stiff brush hauled up by men with ropes on deck, and again on a long pole by men on the floor of the dock or whatever. So the men in the story are just cleaning the car with long toms !

[Page 29, line 20] Long Island off New York.

[Page 30, line 11] Jonah miraculously returned to life after spending three days in the belly of a whale: Jonah 1-3.

[Page 30, line 28] clear through thoroughly; the English expression would be `through and through’.

[Page 33, line 1] spile the catch spoil the joke. Dan naturally uses an expression drawn from fishing, as he does when he calls his father’s mistake `the top haul o’ the season’ (p. 33).

[Page 34, line 4] wharf-end crowd a contemptuous description of men hanging about the wharf looking for casual work.

[Page 34, line 10] fixin’s his property and occupation.

page 2

[Page 36, line 18] dip his colours to the British At the end of the 19th Century the British were still the dominant sea-going power in the world, despite the fact that the United States and Germany had overtaken them in industrial wealth. Ever since the War of Independence in the 1770s, surrender to the British – dipping one’s colours to them – was the last thing an American captain of spirit would ever contemplate.

[Page 36, line 28] She’s a daisy slang term of approbation, frequently used by Dan.

[Page 36, line 29] Wait till… all her salt wet when the schooner was anchored (and her dories fishing) the mainsail was removed and replaced by a small triangular sail the function of which was to keep the ship steady with her head to wind. When ready to proceed, before the anchor was raised, the riding sail was removed and the mainsail `bent on’ or fitted again. Dan means that Harvey must wait until the schooner is fully loaded with fish, i.e. all the salt has been used to preserve the catch and she is on her way home.

[Page 37, line 10] hogshead a large cask.

[Page 37, line 11] covered our dunnage to now dunnage is light and loose material, usually wood, used to protect a cargo from friction and to keep it from damaging the sides or the bottom of the vessel.

[Page 37, line 25] bulwarks the ship’s side on the open deck: the guardrail on a liner.

[Page 38, line 2] mackerel dappled or variable in colour.

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[Page 38, line 15] Portugoosey like a Portuguese.

[Page 38, line 16] Pennsylvania Pennsylvania Pratt, otherwise Jacob Boller, is based upon a former minister whom Kipling met in Beaver, Pennsylvania in 1889. On 31 May 1889 the breaking of a dam 12 miles outside Johnstown, Pennsylvania had destroyed the city and caused the deaths of about 2,000 people, both in Johnstown and in neighbouring towns and villages.

After the flood, the bodies of many of the drowned had been washed into Beaver (which Kipling calls Musquash):

`I saw one, only one, remnant of that terrible wreck. He had been a minister. House, church, congregation, wife and children had been swept away from him in one night of terror. He had no employment: he could have employed himself at nothing: but God had been very good to him. He sat in the sun and smiled a little weakly. It was in his poor blurred mind that something had happened. One could only pray that the light would never return’
(From Sea to Sea, Macmillan Edition de Luxe, XVII (1900), 60-1).

[Page 38, line 17] saleratus an impure bicarbonate of potash, used in baking powder. It may refer to the bread which Pennsylvania is carrying in his dory, but it was also a patent cure for indigestion.

[Page 38, line 20] Galway port on the west coast of Ireland.

[Page 38, line 24] Ohio United States warship, built in New York 1817-20, broken up in 1883.

[Page 38, line 25] the Horn Cape Horn at the tip of South America.

[Page 39, line 3] `Bring forth the chart … And naow to thee, O Capting.. .’ verses adapted from `The Sailor A Romaic Ballad’ by William Allingham (1824-89).

Now bring the chart, the doleful chart;
See, where these mountains meet –
The clouds are thick around their head,
The mists around their feet.
And now to thee, O captain,
Most earnestly I pray,In church or cloister gray.

Songs, Ballads and Stories (1877), 210-12.

[Page 39, line 15] the old Ohio The USS Ohio was the first launched of a new class of ships-of-the-line designed by naval constructor William Doughty. She was one of ‘nine ships to rate not less than 74 guns each’ authorized by Congress 29 April 1816. Her keel was laid in November 1817 and she was launched at the New York Navy Yard 30 May 1820. ‘A more splendid ship I never beheld,’ said an English naval officer who visited Ohio in 1826 while she lay in ordinary at New York. (Extract from American Ships of the Line, published by the USN Naval History Division).

The USS Ohio is listed in

The History of the American Sailing Navy

by Howard Chapelle, (New York, W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1949) at 74 guns. Ohio was sold to a private buyer in Boston on 27 September 1883 and broken up at some date after that.

The contemporary USS Ohio (SSBN 726) was commissioned in 1981. She was designed to carry 24 Trident 1 missiles; she is thought to be still in commission, and to carry 24 Trident C-4 missiles.
[We are indebted to Rear-Admiral Joe Callo, USNR (retd.) for the information in this item: Ed.]

[Page 39, line 24] Strawberries … Punkins … lemons an’ cucumbers none of these are plants! Sea cucumbers are members of the echinoderms (holothuroidea), a group of animals that includes starfish and sea urchins. Sea cucumbers are sack-like animals that creep along the bottom of the sea and have a set of short tentacles around their mouths with which they collect the sediment and the food it contains for them. Unlike starfish and sea urchins they are not spiny and they do not sting. Sea `punkin’ is presumably a local name for another species of sea cucumber. There are over 500 species of these and their form and size varies.

Sea lemons are a type of sea slug, molluscs without shells-like land slugs, but often much bigger. Many of these molluscs are brightly coloured, like the yellow sea lemons. The colour probably serves as a warning to predators that they are distasteful (an effect generated by acids produced from their glands). They do not, however, have any stinging cells or stinging organs.

Sea strawberries are the most mysterious of Kipling’s sea `fruits’. The only organisms which could produce the unpleasant stinging of the hands described here are the jellyfishes and related sea anemones. `Sea strawberry’ is presumably a local name for a red jellyfish or anemone from the area. There are hundreds of species, many of which would be capable of creating the stinging sensation described.
[I am very grateful to Dr Peter D. Moore, Reader in Ecology at King’s College, London, for this entry. Ed.]

[Page 39, line 27] take a-holt o’ the tackles an’ hist ’em in hoist the hooked-on dories inboard, using ropes and pulleys (blocks).

[Page 40, line 10] topping lift the rope supporting the other end of the boom and by which it is raised or lowered. The topping lift is unhooked once the sail is carrying the weight of the boom (and so can be used for other purposes). See also P. W. Inwood, `Seaman Kipling’, Kipling Journal, XXXII (Dec. 1965), 80-1.

[Page 40, line 19] stern-becket a bracket, loop, or hook for lifting, in this case in the stern of the dory.

[Page 40, line 23] cross-trees timbers above the lower sails, intended to support the tops and to spread the rigging.

[Page 41, line 1] There’s more trick to it in a sea-way it is more difficult (trickier) in a seaway, i.e. when there is a heavy sea running.

[Page 42, line 16] hatchway an opening in the deck through which the cargo is loaded, or which gives entry to a lower deck.

[Page 42, line 19] Discobolus antique statue of a man throwing a discus. Here a play on Disko Troop’s name.

[Page 42, line 20] slate ut write it up.

page 4

[Page 43, line 6] any end first an’ a slippery hitch over all unsystematic or sloppy practice of seamanship.

[Page 43, line 20] main-truck flat hardwood cap on top of the mast to prevent rainwater entering the end-grain and inducing rot.

[Page 43, line 24] supercargo usually the man who superintended the cargo, but here an extra cargo, Harvey.

[Page 43, line 27] Sou’ Boston clam-digger gatherer of shellfish and so inferior to a deep-sea fisherman.

[Page 44, line 24] Whale-hole an exceptionally deep area on the ocean bed of the Grand Banks, also known as the Whale Deep.

[Page 45, line 10] gunwale the wooden strip running round the top of the ship’s side.

[Page 46, line 20] dressing-down gutting and salting the fish. In those days before on-board refrigeration, the fish had to be salted and packed away as soon as they were caught.

[Page 47, line 3] Twenty-fife father 25 fathom, i.e. 150 feet.

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[Page 47, line 13] sounds `the air bladders of fish, especially cod’, Admiral W. H. Smyth, A Dictionary of Nautical Terms (1869).

[Page 48, line 2] humpy bad-tempered.

[Page 48, line 9] Cape Breton Cape Breton Island, north-eastern part of Nova Scotia, Canada. There were communities of immigrants from the Highlands of Scotland in Cape Breton in those days, still speaking their native Gaelic.

[Page 48, line 28] Anguille cape on the south-west of Newfoundland.

[Page 48, line 29] West Shore Frenchmen boats or men from the west coast of Newfoundland.

[Page 49, line 5] `Always more and never less. . .’ probably Kipling’s own lines.

page 6

[Page 52, line 4] Blood-ends juicy fragments of fish.

[Page 52, line 4] head-chowder stew made from fish-heads.

[Page 52, line 9] cleat in the hatch combing a shaped piece of wood with a single or double arm bolted to the raised border of the hatch; used for making fast ropes.

[Page 52, line 13] Scuttle-butt’s for’ard, an’ the dipper’s along-side a water butt kept on the foredeck for the use of the crew, its ladle being beside it.

[Page 53, line 11] quintal a hundredweight, 112 pounds (imp.) or 100 pounds

[Page 53, line 13] gurry-butt barrel for fish offal. oakum loose fibre from old ropes.

[Page 54, line 1] Grampus a spouting killer whale, or a dolphin.

[Page 54, line 16] anchor-light for safety reasons a vessel at anchor must show
a light.

[Page 55, line 8] windlass a capstan-like structure but with the barrel horizontal; used to work the cable when weighing anchor, and also for allowing the boat to ride at anchor.

[L. O.]