The Devil and the Deep Sea

Notes on the text

These notes, edited by Alastair Wilson, are partly new, and partly based on the notes on this tale in the ORG. The page and line numbers below refer to the Macmillan (London) Standard Edition of The Day’s Work, as published and frequently reprinted between 1898 and 1950.


[Heading] The title comes from the well-known phrase ‘There’s nothing between the Devil and the deep sea’ (not, as often said nowadays, ‘the deep blue sea’, which arises from a confusion with the students’ song ending with the lines ‘Mar-ri-ed to a mer-ma-id at the bottom of the deep blue sea’, to be found in the Scottish Student’s Song Book under the title “ ’Twas in the broad Atlantic”. The phrase now signifies being between two evils, equally hazardous: being between Scylla and Charybdis.

The phrase itself is of nautical origin. The devil, in this case, is the lowermost seam in the hull of a wooden ship (strictly, there are two ‘devils’ one on each side of the keel). These seams get their name from the fact that they are the most difficult to get at, whether from inside or outside the ship. It is a literal fact that there is ‘nothing between the devil and the deep sea’.

Similarly, the phrase ‘the devil to pay’ (meaning ‘you will be in trouble if …’) derives from the same source. The full expression was ‘the devil to pay, and no pitch hot’. When caulking a seam, a caulker would insert oakum (teased out old rope, which may be described as ‘hairy cotton wool’) into the seam and then ‘pay’ the seam with pitch (the word ‘pay’ deriving from ‘pour’). Thus if you had the ‘devil to pay and no pitch hot’, you would not be able to make the seam(s) watertight: it would leak, and being the lowest in the ship there was a strong probability that the ship would sink, and in any mariner’s book that means trouble!

[Page 148, Heading]. SAILING DIRECTIONS: these are a series of Admiralty (now UK Hydrographic Office) publications, known to seamen as the ‘Pilots’ (according to the area dealt with, e.g. “Channel Pilot”), covering the whole of the navigable part of the globe, issued supplementary to the Admiralty charts, which are published for the purpose of meeting the needs of the seaman in all parts of the world. The information in the Sailing Directions is remarkably comprehensive, and Captains of H.M. ships and Masters of merchant vessels are enjoined to submit information on any changes. The Sailing Directions are regularly updated, as are the charts, by the Admiralty Notices to Mariners. The great-grand-father of the editor of these notes was a Staff-Captain in the Hydrographic Department of the Admiralty at the time of this story, and spent some twenty years of his life compiling ‘Pilots’.

[Page 148, lines 1/2 ]. but you will not find her house-flag in the list of our mercantile marine Merchant ships used to, and by and large still do, fly their national ensign at sea and in harbour, from an ensign-staff right at the stern, or, when at sea, more usually from a gaff on the after mast. In the case of the British merchant marine, the flag flown is the Red Ensign, or occasionally, if the captain and a certain proportion of his officers belong to the Royal Naval Reserve, the Blue Ensign.

The Haliotis’ flag would have been the Red Ensign, which has been flown by British merchant ships for some four centuries. It is a red flag, with a union flag in the top canton nearest the ensign staff (A flag is divided into four quarters – cantons – and the edge nearest the ensign staff is the ‘hoist’, the opposite edge is the ‘fly’: readers who get bemused by nautical terminology will be relieved to know that the top and bottom edges are called the ‘top’ and the ‘bottom’.) Each ship-owning company would devise its own house-flag – sometimes simple, sometimes more complex, which was flown, usually only when in harbour, or when entering or leaving a port, to announce to whom she belonged. It was usually flown from the foremast, and quite frequently was reflected in the colours of her funnel.

Sometimes the house-flag gave the everyday name to the shipping line: e.g., there was an American firm which had a house-flag which was a black ball on a red swallowtail flag. Their ships were known universally as the ‘Black-Ball Line’, and the name became the legal name of the company itself. The house-flag of the Peninsular and Oriental Line was divided by diagonal lines into four quarters, yellow, red, blue and black. This happened to be the design chosen by the Federated Malay States (now Malaysia) as their national flag (but with the colours differently arranged) and when in action, the battleship HMS Malaya would always fly the Malayan flag (she had been largely financed by Malaya). During the bombardment of Genoa in 1940, as she opened fire, Admiral Somerville signalled to her ‘You look like an enraged P & O’.

There is not, nor ever has been, a recognised “list of our mercantile marine”, though the statistics are available through the Department of Transport. But Lloyd’s Register of Shipping is the nearest thing that there ever has been. Each vessel, down to the smallest yacht, used to be registered in the home port of its owner, or owning company, and the port appeared, painted on the stern, under the name of the ship.

Older readers of these notes may remember the title of a semi-documentary film made during World War 2, called San Demetrio, London, which was about the rescue of a crippled oil-tanker of that name and port. The port of registry gave the ship its nationality, and prescribed the regulations under which the ship was operated. Today, owners can and do register their ships more or less wherever they wish, usually to take advantage of a more favourable financial and/or regulatory regime. Other nations may not impose such stringent constructional requirements, nor such tough qualifications for the crews, enabling the owner to build and operate a ship more cheaply. The result has been that the apparent size of the British merchant marine, as given by the number and tonnage of ships flying the Red Ensign (jocularly known as the ‘red duster’), has drastically reduced. But the number of ships beneficially owned in the United Kingdom is substantially larger than might appear.

Lloyd’s Register is, first and foremost, a register of ships insured by Lloyd’s Insurance market, and so will include ships of other nationalities: but in 1890, virtually every ship registered in a British port was insured at Lloyd’s. Lloyd’s was, and remains, the world’s pre-eminent insurance market for marine insurance. As a corollary, regulations regarding the construction of ships were established under the aegis of Lloyd’s, as well as many other ancillary maritime matters.

Lloyd’s Register effectively provided a “list of our mercantile marine”. Any reader who passes a news-stand in the City of London may see a broad-sheet newspaper entitled Lloyd’s List: do not be confused, it is merely the shipping industry’s own newspaper (I say merely, but it is one of the oldest-established newspapers in the world, if not the oldest). The name Lloyd’s derives from Lloyd’s coffee house, in the City of London, where sea-captains and their insurers first started to meet at the end of the seventeenth century.

[Page 148, line 3] nine hundred ton nine hundred net tons. (See notes on ‘Tonnage’ in the NRG notes to “The Ship that Found Herself”.)

[Page 148, line 3] iron as steel was not introduced into shipbuilding until 1876, iron would be normal for a ship of this period. (See also the notes on “The Ship that Found Herself”, at page 82, line 3.)

[Page 148, line 3] schooner-rigged a schooner is a vessel with two or more masts of approximately equal size, all fore-and-aft rigged (as opposed to square-rigged). At the period of this story many ships were equipped for sail propulsion in case of an engine breakdown, most cargo-steamers having but one engine and screw. In fact, a few such were at sea as late as 1920.

[Page 148, line 5] tramp of the sea Strictly speaking, any ship sailing a recognised schedule between port and port is a liner, but at the time of the story, the term was usually confined to passenger ships. Prior to the introduction of steam power at sea, ‘liner’ was the recognised contraction of ‘line-of-battle-ship’: nowadays, with the demise of the passenger ship as a means of transport (as opposed to cruising), ‘liner’ has taken its previous general meaning, and refers to all ships running to fixed schedules, 99% of which are freighters. A tramp steamer, or plain ‘tramp’, was a cargo vessel picking up freight, or a charter, wherever it was offered.

[Page 148, line 7] sail extremely close to the wind For some reason, not easily discoverable, the landsman is prone to refer to questionable tactics, or sharp practice, as sailing close to the wind. The good helmsman, when tacking against the wind – i.e., trying to make progress in the direction from which the wind is blowing – sails as close to the wind as is possible, while getting the utmost speed out of his ship. This is called ‘sailing full-and-by’. He may have to ‘pinch her a bit’ to ‘fetch a mark’, but that is not sharp practice.

[Page 148, line 10] Aglaia literally, “The Bright One”. One of the three Graces, the others being Euphrosyne and Thalia, her sisters.

[Page 148, line 19] Admiralty Courts In England, at the time of the story, the Probate, Divorce and Admiralty Division of the High Court of Justice, responsible for dealing with maritime cases. Today (2006), the Admiralty Courts come under the Queen’s Bench Division of the High Court.

[Page 149, line 1] the mariner cannot tell or act a lie cf., “Poseidon’s Law”, the prefatory verses to “The Bonds of Discipline” (Traffics and Discoveries):

Behold a law immutable I lay on thee and thine,
That never shall ye act or tell a falsehood at my shrine.

This pleasant fancy was probably evolved by Kipling himself. Thus the ORG, but the editor of these notes would say that Kipling was merely giving poetic expression to what any seaman would say.

[Page 149, line 6] Mackinaw salvage case possibly a disguised reference to an actual, but now untraceable case.

[Page 149, line 11] entering harbour at full speed After colliding with two objects at full speed, it would be rash to go to sea without an inspection for damage, underwater and above. Entering harbour at full speed suggests that the master, or pilot, or both were drunk or maniac, or had some nefarious purpose depending on surprise.

[Page 149, line 17] Nouméa the capital of New Caledonia, a Pacific island to the east of northern Queenslandand today a French Overseas Territory. A penal colony was maintained at Nou Island in New Caledonia until 1896, and this explains the reference to “certain gentlemen”.

[Page 149, line 20] Shah-in-Shah an elaboration of the title of the King or Emperor of Persia (now Iran), meaning King of Kings. Iran is now a Republic.

[Page 149, lines 21-23] indecently full of the munitions of war, … an agitated Power at issue with its neighbour it would be interesting to know if Kipling had any nations in mind. The use of the word ‘indecently’ has a whiff of illegality about it, but, as between nations, there was no particular illegality in carrying munitions to any country, regardless of its relations with its neighbour, unless war had been declared, and a blockade declared in due form, and enforced. Carrying munitions to rebels would have been a different matter.

The only war at this time, outside Europe, of which this writer can think, was the Sino-Japanese war of 1894-5. [Did the Japanese formally blockade the Chinese coast? The present editor has been unable to discover whether or not they did so]

[Page 149, line 28] sparrow’s-egg blue earliest editions gave it as ‘robin’s-egg blue’, referring to the colour of the egg of the American robin, which is probably a large red-breasted thrush. The alteration was made to satisfy British readers.

[Page 149, line 29] Odessa Russian port on the Black Sea (now in the Ukraine).

The Odessa trade (or anyway, the legal Odessa trade) was largely in wheat, and it is not clear how the Martin Hunt might have transgressed, to be ‘warned off the course’. However, there was also a less salubrious trade in eastern European girls to the Middle East, and it seems possible that this is what Kipling was suggesting. [Plus ça change … It seems to be a regrettable and reprehensible fact that the inclusion of eastern European states in the European Union has revived this trade – except that the flow is westwards rather than south-eastward.]

[Page 149, line 33] Freights might drop out of sight The word ‘freight’ means not only the actual goods carried, but also the charges for carrying the goods. The implication of these three factors is that even though the shipping trade might be suffering a depression, compounded by labour problems ashore and afloat, a ship in the ‘no questions asked’ trade always did well.

[Page 150, line 2] stevedores the men who carried cargo on or off a ship (from the Spanish ‘estivare’, to load a ship). In strict terms they should not be described as ‘dockers’, who are merely dock labourers.

[Page 150, line 8] name changed as occasion called a ship on the British register, which this apparently was, in order to change its name legally, must have the intention notified by the owner to the Department of Transport, formerly the Board of Trade, and publish a notice to that effect in the principal newspapers, so that objections may be lodged if necessary. The mere obliteration of one name by another is quite another matter.

The insurers might have something to say on the matter, if they ever found out – but then the Aglaia (etc.) ‘never troubled the underwriters’

[Page 150, line 12]. the underwriters were the members of the appropriate syndicate of Lloyds who carried the insurance.

[Page 150, line 12] signal station at all principal ports abroad, signal stations used to be maintained by Lloyd’s for reporting the movements of ships, which reports were subsequently published in Lloyds’ List. In the days before the introduction of radio, once a ship left port, its whereabouts would be unknown until it turned up at its next port, or unless it ‘spoke’ another ship which it happened to meet. With modern communications, the need for such stations has gone, and the stations likewise.

[Page 150, line 30] Haliotis the widely distributed genus of molluscs called ‘ear-shells’ or ‘abalone’ or ‘ormers’. The shell yields mother-of-pearl, which might seem to have some bearing on the ship’s later employment.

[Page 151, line 3] trying-out the whaling term for the rendering down of blubber (whale-fat) to produce whale-oil. To say that it smelt vile is an understatement.

[Page 151, line 5] speed of the average London four-wheeler the reference is to the London four-wheeled, one horse, cab which complemented the Hansom cab. The latter could only carry one or two persons, with hand baggage. If one was going to the station (railway station understood – there was no other station!), with the copious quantities of baggage without which no Victorian would dream of travelling, one took a four-wheeler, or ‘growler’.

The ORG says “say eight knots, which was probably her” (the Haliotis’) “economic speed”. But eight knots is 9 m.p.h., and no cab would have had that as its average speed, which was more likely to be about 6 m.p.h. at the best, and that on a clear road (the congestion of London traffic in the 1890s was quite as bad as in the 1990s). cf. Jerome K. Jerome, Three Men in a Boat

‘…we started off at a shamble that would have done credit to the swiftest steamroller ever built, and all went as merry as a funeral bell, until we turned the corner. There, the wind carried a whiff from the cheeses full on to our steed. It woke him up, and with a snort of terror, he dashed off at three miles an hour …’

Jerome was being ironic, but he was not exaggerating much.

[Page 151, line 5] semi-inland sea it will be observed that the locality and nationality of this region is carefully hidden. Pyang-Watai is entirely fictional. That said, the suggestion is clearly that the events took place in south-east Asia, since pearling took place in those waters, and the name Pyang-Watai would seem to have Indonesian roots. At that time, the ‘foreign Powers’ in those waters were the Netherlands and Portugal. and – somewhat further north – Spain.

[Page 151, line 9] puss-in-the-corner a child’s game.

[Page 151, line 26] the Power that kept … the fact that ‘the Power’ had three gunboats in this area suggests that it was the Netherlands that Kipling had in mind – the Portuguese, being then only responsible for Timor, would have had a smaller squadron.

[Page 151, line 30] had newly brought up a third and a fourteen-knot boat … to the editor of these notes, the conjunction ‘and’ seems unnecessary, and even slightly misleading. There was a third patrol boat, which was capable of fourteen knots. The ‘and’ could make the sentence mean that there was a fourth boat. In fact, taking Kipling literally, neither the Dutch nor the Portuguese had, at that time, a gunboat capable of 14 knots (according to Conway’s All the World’s Fighting Ships, 1860-1905.) The best that one could do was a Dutch one which could make 13.2 knots.

[Page 152, line 1] an arrangement of four flags a hoist from the International Code of Signals. Until the very late 19th century, the only means of communicating between ships at sea (other than by closing to within vocal range) was by flag signals.

One of the earliest alphabetical codes of flags was that introduced by Admiral Lord Howe in the late 1770s. Various modifications were produced in the succeeding years, including that invented by Sir Home Popham (‘a damned cunning fellow’, according to a contemporary) whose code was that used by Nelson for his famous ‘England expects …’ signal at Trafalgar. This code in turn was modified for use by the Merchant Marine by Captain Frederick Maryatt, the author. There were some 40 flags of different colours and shapes, each one signifying a letter of the Roman alphabet and the ten basic numerals, plus some with a special meaning. Associated with the flags was a code book, such that the flags [ABCD] would mean [… … …], and so on.

In the middle 1800s, an international code was introduced for merchant shipping, which has since become adopted for universal use, and a copy of the code book, and a set of flags, is still part of the equipment of every vessel, whether merchant or warship. It is very little used today, but, as an example, if any reader should visit Portsmouth, or Plymouth, he/she will almost certainly see flying from some warship’s yard-arm, the following three flag hoist – International Code pendant (a longer, tapering flag with five alternating vertical red and white bars); letter ‘R’ (a square flag, with a yellow St. George’s cross on a red ground); letter ‘Y’ (a square flag with six alternating yellow and red diagonal stripes) – which means “Pass me slowly, I have men working over the side”.

[Page 152, line 8] some five inches in diameter “probably a shell of 4.7 inches diameter (11.94 cm) or thereabouts”. Thus the ORG. The 4.7″ was a peculiarly British calibre (usually we used whole, half-, or quarter- inch calibres for our guns), which descended from the Armstrong 40-pounder breech-loading gun of the very late 1850s.

This stayed in service for some 20 years, and the editor suspects that when the time came for it to be replaced, the Admiralty said, ‘Make the new gun of the same calibre, so that we can use up all the old ammunition.’ However, since the British sold (continue to sell) armaments to all and sundry, the fact that the gun might have been British is of little significance.

[Page 152, line 9] a practice, not a bursting charge in naval gunnery it is customary to give a practice shell no bursting charge, the space being filled with salt or sand to give the shell the same weight, and hence the same ballistic trajectory. There was all the less need for an explosive shell since the shot was aimed across the bows. The damage described in the next two pages could have been caused by fragmentation on impact with a heavy object. Kipling is probably not quite right here, though it is immaterial to the tale: the shell would not have “burst”.

[Page 152, line 16, et seq.] The 30-odd lines which follow are, in the editor’s opinion, a technical tour de force, since they describe, absolutely clearly and in the minimum amount of words, a relatively complex engineering situation. That said, it is probably not immediately obvious to the layman what had happened.
The propulsion unit of the Haliotis was a compound reciprocating steam engine. Barring sail, it could hardly have been otherwise in the year of grace 1895, since, although Sir Charles Parsons had introduced his compound steam turbine for use ashore in 1884, its first application to marine propulsion was in the Turbinia, which astonished the world at the Jubilee Fleet Review of 1897; while the turbo-electric drive and the Diesel internal combustion engine were still a distant dream.

From the details given in the story, the engine was a single unit driving a single shaft and propeller. A ship of this period, size, type and speed would not normally be twin-screw. The first Atlantic liners to have twin screws came in 1884, and it may be remarked that McAndrew’s ship, in the poem McAndrew’s Hymn, of virtually the same date as this tale, although much larger than the Haliotis, still had only one screw. The two cylinders were arranged one behind the other, on the fore-and-aft line of the ship, vertically above the crankshaft, and in line with the propeller-shaft.

It was a compound steam engine, as is clearly implied on page 169, the advantage of which is that it uses the expansive properties of steam in two stages or expansions, thereby producing more work from the heat input (see notes on “The Ship that Found Herself”, page 84, line 11). The two cylinder simple marine steam engine of the era from Watt to the middle-late 1850s used steam in one stage, thereby losing much heat or energy into the condenser circulating (cooling) water. Compound expansion was the most outstanding improvement in engines of the piston and cylinder type since the time of Richard Trevithick (1771-1833), who had first used high-pressure steam.

Until about 1960 it could be said that the great majority of marine reciprocating engines were steam, stage-expansion engines; that is, steam expands in stages from the highest-pressure cylinder, through the intermediate stages (cylinders) and finally exhausts into the condenser, and then returns to the boiler as feed-water. In a compound engine, there are two cylinders, the high and the low pressure: in a triple-expansion there are three stages (usually three cylinders, though sometimes, to avoid having an excessively large third cylinder, the third stage was divided into two smaller cylinders, each fed from the exhaust of the intermediate cylinder); and in a quadruple-expansion engine, there were four cylinders.

[Page 152, line 15/16] in front of the forward engine the ORG says that “In referring to the forward engine, Kipling departs from marine engineering practice, in which the whole unit by which a shaft is driven would be called an engine, and the individual cylinders described as the “forward (or H.P.) cylinder”.

That is fair enough, and certainly was the case by, say, 1910. But originally (and we are now talking about the period up to 1860/70), each cylinder was described as ‘an engine’, if only because, having its own valve gear, it could be controlled separately (as an example, see the engines of HMS Warrior at Portsmouth).

When the valve gear for each cylinder was linked, as was more-or-less universal from the 1870s onwards (as it had been in railway practice since the introduction of the Stephenson-Howe valve gear in the early 1840s), then, as the ORG rightly says, it became the practice to refer to the whole unit, whether of two, three or four cylinders as “the engine”. But older engineers would still refer to each cylinder as “an engine”. (Again, cf McAndrew’s Hymn, where McAndrew refers to “these my engines” (plural), “after ninety days o’ race an’ rack an’ strain”, in a single shaft ship). So Kipling’s use of the phrase, though incorrect in engineering terms, was possibly – even probably – correct in general usage.

[Page 152, line 16] where it burst an inaccurate use of the word “burst”, perhaps, since, as has been explained already (page 152, line 9, above), this was a practice shell with no bursting charge: “shattered” might be a better word. But the effect was much as if it had burst.

The notes which follow owe a great deal to Professor C.E. Moorhouse. AM, whose talk on ‘Kipling and Technology’ was printed in KJ 241 for March 1987. In particular, this editor has used Professor Moorhouse’s diagrams to illustrate the interpretation of Kipling’s words.

[Page 152, line 17] connecting rod … forward crank. The earliest ‘fire-engines’ of such engineers as Newcomen in the very early 18th century were usually used to drive lift pumps, and only required to produce a reciprocating motion parallel to their own, not circular motion. When it came to using the engine for other purposes, e.g., to drive machinery in a mill, and later to make it self-propelling, it became necessary to transform the reciprocating motion of the piston into rotary motion. The use of a crank for this purpose must have been known for centuries, but Watt managed to get a patent for its application to steam machinery, which gave him an effective monopoly of steam-engine manufacturing for many years. (There were some weird and wonderful devices produced to evade the patent).


(sketched by Professor Moorhouse)

In the case of the Haliotis’ engine (we will use the singular to refer to the whole unit), the reciprocating motion of each piston was transferred to rotary motion by a connecting-rod. At its upper end (known, because that is what it was, as ‘the little end’) it could waggle from side to side (good engineering phrase, that), on a pin through the cross-head. The cross-head, in broad terms, was shaped like an X (but in diagram 1, figure 2, above, it is shown as a solid block), with the pin going through the intersection of the X, while the piston rod was immovably fixed to the same X, in a straight line, thus: ——X.

The piston, inside the cylinder, was on the front end of the piston rod, thus: ||——X (but in the Haliotis’ case, it was vertically disposed – see diagram 1 above). So the piston moved back and forth as the steam was admitted successively to each end of the cylinder, and the crosshead moved with it, as did the upper end of the connecting-rod. The distance the piston moved, from one end of the cylinder to the other, is known as the stroke.

The other end of the connecting-rod, known logically as ‘the big end’, was connected to the appropriate crank-pin in the crank-shaft (see diagram 1, figure 3 above). Because the crank-shaft is rigidly held by bearings at each end (and usually in the middle as well, between each of the cranks – ‘main bearing’ in figure 1 – as the connecting rod goes back and forth, the lever effect on the crank turns the crank-shaft, so giving the rotary motion. The radius of that motion, the ‘throw’ of the crank, is half the stroke of the piston. The propeller is on the end of a shaft bolted by means of flanges to the after end of the engine’s crank-shaft.

The big end (see figure 3 in diagram 1) is in two halves, one being the bottom end of the connecting-rod, with an inverted semicircular ‘U’ shape to fit over the crank-pin and the other half having a similar shape in its top. These are held together by two bolts, one on each side, to the bottom of the connecting-rod. These are the “bolts that held the connecting-rod to the forward crank” which were fractured by the shell.

[Page 152, line 21] released piston-rod the piston was still moving backwards and forwards by the power of the steam, and carried the now uncontrolled piston-rod with it as far as the top of the cylinder. Normally, it would have been prevented from striking the top of the cylinder by the connecting-rod, the crankshaft, and the engine holding-down bolts. But since the connecting-rod is no longer connected to the crankshaft, the piston struck the cylinder top (the cylinder cover – line 23) with sufficient force to start (line 22) (to loosen) the nuts which held the top to the cylinder casting.

[Page 152, line 27/28] cast-iron supporting column the engine cylinders are supported by vertical columns which also act as guides for the cross-heads.(See diagram 1 figure 1 above)

[Page 152, line 32] after-engine meaning the after-cylinder, or low-pressure (L.P.) cylinder. (the right-hand one of the pair seen in diagram 1 figure 1)


(sketched by Professor Moorhouse)

In the above four figures, figure (1) shows the situation at the moment that the shell arrives. We are, as it were, looking forward from a position between the two cylinders. The bolts holding the two halves of the big-end together have just sheared.

In figure (2) the piston and connecting rod have driven up to the top of the cylinder, and the piston has struck the top cover and loosened (“started”) the bolts.

In figure (3) the piston has now descended and the connecting-rod has been knocked sideways into the starboard (right-hand) supporting column, fracturing it;

and in figure (4) the crank and its pin have wedged the connecting rod against the supporting column, pushing it outwards. At the same time, the uneven strain has jammed the crosshead in the guides, and caused the port (left-hand) column to break.

[Page 152, lines 32 to 33, and page 153, lines 1 to 4] The ORG inserted here:

‘Professional opinion says that strictly speaking this is not technically possible, but author’s licence must be permitted and it helps the story.’

This writer would have liked to be able to debate the point with the former editor. It is almost certainly correct that, under normal circumstances, the cross-head could not come far enough down for the connecting-rod, in ‘flinging-out’ to do so far enough down to be foul of the crank on its next rotation: but there are two additional factors: one is that normally there is additional space at the top and bottom of the cylinder, into which the piston never usually goes, called the clearance, or clearance volume. With nothing to stop it, the piston would have gone right down to the very bottom of the cylinder, striking the bottom in the same way as it had just struck the top. This additional downwards motion, although probably no more than an inch, might of itself be sufficient to cause the connecting-rod to foul the arc of rotation (the throw) of the crank and crank-pin.

Additionally, the crank would have had a counterbalance (not shown in Professor Moorhouse’s sketches, since it would have concealed other detail), which would have been of larger radius than the crank itself, and although normally its motion would not have been in the same plane as the motion of the connecting-rod, yet a fraction of an inch, caused by the arrival of the shell, might have been sufficient to cause it to foul the jammed connecting-rod.

As regards the bending of the connecting-rod [Page 153, line 4], this, although perhaps very slight, seems all too possible. The ‘bending’ (Kipling’s word), if taken literally, of the cross-head seems less likely, but that the cross-head was jammed out of true is entirely likely. It is suggested that the case against Kipling is not proven: and it is well-known that he took great pains to get his details right (though, it has to be said, not always totally so).

[Page 153, line 4] cross-head the ORG and Professor Moorhouse’s diagram explain it better than this writer has, in saying:

…the cross-head pins and bearings form a hinged joint between the piston-rod and the connecting-rod, so to speak an elbow-joint, since the piston moves upwards and downwards in the same line, but the connecting-rod fixed to the piston-rod at one end, must be free at the other to go round with the movement of the crank. The free reciprocating motion is maintained by the cross-head guide shoes (as it were the serifs of the X) at the joint, without which distortion of either the piston-rod or connecting-rod would be certain.

[Page 153, line 12] brought up all standing this phrase, in common use today meaning ‘abruptly stopped’, originally meant that a sailing ship whose way was arrested suddenly by grounding, collision or some other cause, was stopped with all her masts and spars and rigging ‘standing’, that is, intact.

[Page 153, line 22] upper grating the grated gallery round the upper part of the engine-room, from which the ladders to the machinery spaces and operating platform descend. The Chief Engineer would come out of his cabin, enter the engine room doorway just adjacent and stand on the grating, through and past which he could survey the engine-room. In this case, Mr. Wardrop is the last man out of the engine-room – he would undoubtedly have been in there during the pursuit by the gunboat, getting the last ounce of speed out of his engine.

[Page 153, line 24] knots an hour In today’s usage this is, and has been for some time, considered to be a solecism – the word “knot” in nautical terms being defined as one nautical mile per hour. But there is no doubt that in the 18th and 19th centuries, the knot (derived from the distance apart of two knots on the log-line by which the speed of a ship was measured) was purely a unit of distance, and the usage was still not uncommon in Kipling’s youth. It is considered likely that he heard the phrase used, quite probably on several occasions, and using it himself, was not corrected by any well-meaning busybody. (One may speculate that he picked it up from Captain Holloway in his childhood in Southsea.)

[Page 153, lines 31 and 32] Tanna Bank, Seahorse Bank, Amanala Sea none of these places can be traced, except that there is a Seahorse Bank near Palawan Island in the Philippines.

[Page 154, line 9] the stolid naval lieutenant another pointer to the setting being in the Netherlands East Indies (see notes on page 151, line 5, above): the adjective ‘stolid’ is one frequently associated in the British mind with the Dutch, but rarely with the Portuguese or Spanish.

[Page 154, line 18] strained her tubes this phrase should not be taken too literally. But in any boiler, whether water-tube or fire-tube (and both the Haliotis’ and “the man-of-war”’s boilers would have been of the latter type at the date of the story) sudden changes in the rate of generation of steam either increasing or decreasing, can result in leaks where the tubes terminate in one or other tubeplate, particularly where the tubes and tubeplate were of different materials, as they frequently were – the tubeplate of iron or steel, the tubes of brass, which have different coefficients of expansion.

The consequence of sudden changes of temperature could be that one contracted/expanded slightly more than the other, so that the tube fitted loosely into tubeplate, and water leaked out. Later, when the fires had been drawn, and the boiler cooled down, the engineer would enter the firebox, and re-expand the tube using a tube-expander, a conical hard steel plug which he would hammer into place with a heavy hammer, until the tube had become once more jammed into its hole in the tubeplate.

[Page 155, line 5] clanked off the boarding party have come armed to the teeth complete with cutlasses, now sheathed and hanging by their owners’ sides.

[Page 155, line 16] the perversity of inanimate things or another phrase in use at the turn of the 19th century, ‘the cussedness of inanimate objects, or butter side down’.

[Page 156, line 18] making steam this is not quite what is meant. ‘Making steam’ is solely a function of the boilers, and no indication is given that the boilers have been harmed (and see page 176, line 21). The correct phrase would have been ‘making her steam’, or ‘steaming’.

[Page 156, line 24] structure hull structure.
condenser tubes the tubes in the condenser, rather like the radiator of a car, or like the boiler-tubes in reverse (see p. 154, line 18 above). In the condenser, cold sea-water passes through tubes, over which the still hot steam passes after it has passed through the cylinder(s): the steam condenses back into water, and is pumped back into the boiler. The tubes can suffer the same expansion problems as in the boiler from sudden changes of temperature.

[Page 156, line 29] the donkey the ‘donkey-engine’, an auxiliary engine, on deck, for use in working winches and derricks. However, there has been no indication preciously given to suggest that any steam connections, other than in the vicinity of the main engine, might have been damaged by the one shell, nor is this a likely consequence of the engine being abruptly stopped. No matter.

[Page 157, line 13] keep her heavy on the tow see below at page 159, line 18.

[Page 157, line 21] baulks a baulk of timber is a “sided” log, one that has had four sectors sawn off, to leave a log, square in section.

[Page 157, line 26] butts the ends of the baulks.

[Page 158, line 3] escape valve a relief valve, whose function is to release the steam from the cylinder if required. More importantly, it is used to release any trapped condensed water which may have been carried over into the cylinders, particularly when the engine is started. Water is incompressible, and if sufficient water gets trapped in the cylinders, it can blow the cylinder cover off as effectively as the released piston has just done to the for’ard cylinder.
abolished Kipling is using the word in a slightly jocular, or ironic way – he merely means ‘removed’ (cf “The Bonds of Discipline” (Traffics and Discoveries)‘Cast out and abolish that cutter-cuddlin’ aborigine’s boots’ meaning, ‘Remove that stowaway’s boots’.)
flogging-hammer not another example of nautical brutality, but a type of hammer, usually called a club-hammer in today’s world of ‘Do-it-yourself’: a smaller version of a sledge-hammer.

[Page 158, line 12] tunnel between the engine room and the stern, in which the propeller shaft lies.

[Page 158, line 13] shaft coupling-bolts and nuts the fastenings between the crank-shaft and propeller shaft, or separate sections of the latter.

[Page 158, line 14] cylinder-bolts the bolts securing the cylinder head, or cover – on the for’ard cylinder, they have been ‘started’ by being struck by the piston.

[Page 158, line 17] bilge- and feed-pumps bilge-pumps are to free the bilges (lower spaces of the hull) of water. Feed-pumps supply water to the boilers.

[Page 158, line 18] cotton-waste in those days, an essential adjunct to any machinery. Cotton-waste consisted of pads of waste cotton threads, usually multi-coloured, from the cotton mills, supplied in large bales. It was used in the way one now uses rags or cleaning cloths. Today, in Great Britain, at least, it is more or less unobtainable, but to the editor of these notes, it brings back memories of polishing the brasswork on HMS Devonshire, where large quantities of cotton-waste were used.

So far, the results of Mr. Wardrop’s destructive activities might, at a pinch, be put down to damage caused by the gun-boat’s shell. But this would be recognised as blatant sabotage.

[Page 158, line 24] double bottom as the name implies, a second bottom inside the actual bottom of the ship: a precaution to prevent a minor leak in the outer shell-plating from flooding the ship. If no cargo is being carried, the space thus available is filled with sea-water as ballast.

[Page 159, line 1] collars of the thrust-block the multi-collar thrust-block, situated at the after end of the engine, or adjacent to the L.P. cylinder where the propeller shaft begins, takes the thrust of the propeller as it drives the ship forward. It is, in fact, an elaborate bearing with several collars impinging on the housing of the shaft in the after part of the engine room. The removal of the collars, which would probably be un-noticed by an engineer unfamiliar with the ship, would unbalance the thrust block and probably wreck the machinery if, somehow, the engine itself could be repaired. Mr. Wardrop was taking very good care that the Haliotis was going nowhere.

[Page 159, line 3] filled the boilers by hand a boiler not in use should always be left filled with water, to inhibit corrosion. Had Mr. Wardrop left the boilers with the normal ‘half-a-glass’ (water half-way up the boiler water-gauge glass), the water/air interface would have caused corrosion, so that the boilers might be unsafe when subsequently steamed. And ‘filling by hand’ probably implied using a hand-pump.

[Page 159, line 18] heavily weighted jib this was in effect a sea anchor, or drogue, used as a brake. A jib is a small triangular sail.

[Page 159, line 25] Chinese junks this does not necessarily imply that they were in Chinese waters, but is merely an indication of the type of craft.

[Page 159, line 27] philosophical Malay equally, this does not necessarily imply what was then called Malaya, but is a generic term for people of the race inhabiting much of the East Indies, today’s Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia.

[Page 162, line 11] nether to the upper millstone cf. Job 12,24.

[Page 162, lines 27/28] great words flashed over the sea-beds it should be remembered that these were the days before practical wireless: but the continents had been linked by the great deep-sea cables for some 30 years.

[Page 164, line 13] cuddy – see explanation in notes on “Bread upon the Waters”, page 295, line 27.

[Page 165, line 4] good Australian coal both Australia and New Zealand are blessed with workable reserves of good quality coal (cf. McAndrew’s Hymn ‘No, Welsh, Wangarti at the worst’ – a reference to a new Zealand coal which McAndrew considered to be the equivalent of best Welsh steam coal.) It is interesting to consider by how much the development of those two countries might have been delayed had they not found their own coal. The only other source in south-east Asia of which this editor knows was at Labuan, in what was Sarawak, now East Malaysia.

[Page 165, line 17] sheet anchor to windward a metaphor for ‘something put aside for a rainy day’. A sheet anchor is a spare bower anchor and, as suggested here, is laid out to windward in stress of weather or other emergency to prevent the drift of the ship to leeward.

[Page 165, line 18] clean Sovereigns the British gold sovereign, face value one pound sterling, or twenty shillings, was the ‘greenback’ of its day, accepted unhesitatingly worldwide. The coin had a long history, but the sovereign of this tale, which is still available as bullion, rather than as legal tender, was first minted in 1817, when it replaced the Guinea (so-called because it was minted from African gold). In the 1890s, there was relatively little paper money in circulation in Great Britain. The last ‘regular’ sovereigns were minted in 1925, and the forcing of Britain off the Gold Standard, at the height of the world economic crisis in 1931, marked the end of the sovereign as legal tender for value. Oh, and the word is the ‘exception that proves the rule’ to the spelling rule learned by millions of English-speaking children: ‘I before E, except after C’.

[Page 165, line 30] copper ventilators the reference is to ventilator cowls of copper, particularly those grouped round the funnel: most yacht-like and unusual in a merchant ship.

[Page 166, line 3] prized English spelling is ‘prised’, meaning ‘levered off’.

[Page 166, line 9] hatch-irons the iron bars which secure the tarpaulins and wooden covers of the cargo hatches. Also called hatch-bars, they are padlocked on to the hatch to prevent unauthorised entry. In eastern waters at this time, piracy was a real threat, particularly in Chinese waters. The pirates’ prize would be the saleable cargo, rather than the relatively small pickings offered by the crew’s belongings and the ship’s fittings. So padlocks were a real necessity. This inventory here is pretty complete; about the only thing not mentioned is the captain’s sextant – and it is realistic to suggest that it wasn’t taken, since the locals who have stripped her probably would not have had a use for it, nor understood its use and value.
funnel stays the iron wire ropes supporting the funnel.

[Page 166, line 11] squeegees rubber-bladed brooms for drying the decks after they have been washed down.
holy-stones blocks of sandstone used for cleaning the wooden decks. So called since one got down on hands and knees in an attitude of prayer to use them: small ones were called prayer books; larger ones, usually pushed on the end of a pole, ‘bibles’.

[Page 166, line 14] belfry read ‘bracket’. Thus the ORG, probably/possibly correctly. But Kipling was not necessarily wrong in describing the means of suspending the ship’s bell as ‘the belfry’. Some small ships would have had no more than a bracket somewhere to suspend the ship’s bell. But Haliotis has come down in the world (vide the copper ventilators), and it is possible that she would have had a quite elaborate carved wooden framework for her bell. In many ways, the ship’s bell might be said to represent the spirit of the ship, in the way that an older figurehead did. But iron and steel ships did not have figureheads, and so some shipowners gave their ships elaborate belfries, called just that.

[Page 167, line 4] convict hulk Until recent times it was customary at seaports to keep convicts in hulks, i.e.old sailing ships with their masts removed. Kipling is here drawing on his youthful memories of Portsmouth. [ORG}

The modern editor suggests that this is a trifle exaggerated. Captain Holloway, the retired mariner and husband of young Rudyard’s foster-mother at Southsea, may indeed have fed him with tales of the old hulks which had lain in the upper reaches of Portsmouth Harbour for French prisoners during the Napoleonic wars; but the use of hulks for convicts had ceased in 1857, when the last hulk, the Defence was burned at Woolwich. However Royal Navy sailors who were ‘between ships’, or whose ships were in dockyard hands, still lived in what were effectively hulks in Portsmouth Dockyard during Kipling’s childhood years, though conditions were somewhat better than those for convicts.

At the end of the 20th century and into the 21st, the British prison service had to make use of a modern version of the old hulks, a purpose-built ‘hotel(!)-barge’ to accommodate prisoners, moored at Portland, due to lack of capacity in the shore prisons.

[Page 167, line 6] barge in the Royal Navy a barge is a boat appropriated for the use of an admiral. It is also the name of a ceremonial craft for use on occasions of state. (cf. The Passing of Arthur (Tennyson): “Then slowly answered Arthur from the barge…” King Charles II’s state barge can still be seen in the Royal Naval Museum at Portsmouth. It was last used for the funeral of Lord Nelson, after Trafalgar.


In other senses it is a large flat-bottomed craft, usually without engines, for the conveyance of cargo. In this story it evidently means some sort of small rowing boat capable of being propelled by one man to ply between ship and shore.

[Page 168, line 13] Harland, Mackesy, … it seems that the engine-room staff, other than the Chief numbered eight. This complement might have consisted of second, third and fourth Engineers, two greasers and three stokers, not an excessive number if it was a three-watch ship – as engine-room departments nearly always were. Watch-and-watch in a stokehold would have been physically impossible for more than one or two days, especially in the tropics. As a variation, it might have consisted of second and third engineers, donkeyman and five stokers. It was fairly common in old compound-engined ships for the second and third Engineers to do their own greasing, and the Donkeyman stood the Chief’s watch, instead of a junior engineer.

[Page 168, line 32] bilges the bilge is the turn of the hull from the vertical towards the keel. However, it is more commonly used in the plural to mean the internal bottom spaces of the ship where water (‘bilge-water’) collects.

[Page 169, line 2] differential blocks a block is a sailor’s term for a pulley. In lifting an object, a single rope passing over a single sheave in a block (a ‘single whip’) gives no mechanical advantage – a weight of forty pounds (all right then, eighteen kilos if you must) requires a pull of forty pounds (or eighteen kilos). By attaching a single block to the weight to be lifted, and leading the hoisting rope from an anchorage on the upper block, through the lower block, and then through the sheave of the upper block to where the pull is being developed, a mechanical advantage of 2 is obtained: it only requires half the pull to lift the weight.

Very heavy weights can be moved by increasing the size of the pulleys and increasing the number of sheaves in each. In the Navy, a ‘deck tackle’, such as might be used for weighing an anchor by hand when the powered capstan has broken down, has three sheaves in each of the blocks, and has a mechanical advantage of 6. [My rudimentary mechanics is shaky, and I stand ready to be corrected].

However, all these larger tackles are bulky, and are not suitable for use in the confined space of a small ship’s engine-room, and Mr. Wardrop is using something similar to Weston’s differential purchase, where the pulleys are of iron: an upper one with two sheaves of differing diameter, and a lower, loose pulley in the bight of the chain which is attached to the load. Instead of a rope, an endless chain is used, and, depending on the respective diameters of the upper sheaves, a relatively small effort can lift heavy weights.

[Page 169, line 3] Kismet Fate, destiny. From the Turkish quismat meaning portion or lot.

[Page 169, line 9] shops workshops.

[Page 169, line 32] rod … fell away no indication has been given that the connecting rod had become detached from the piston-rod or crosshead, as it must have been if it fell into the crank-pit (underneath the crankshaft).

[Page 170, line 4] cargo-winch or donkey-engine. As is the case with many of Kipling’s stories with a mechanical/technical background, it does not do to enquire too closely into every minute detail, though the overall impression, and the language is absolutely right. Firstly, the cargo-winch would not have been ‘immediately forward of the engine-room hatch’. That is where the funnel would have been and, in front of that, the bridge. The donkeyman controlling the winch must be able to see the mouth of the hatch into or out of which he is handling cargo: had the winch been where Kipling puts it, the bridge will be in the way. The ‘dying hiccup’ [line 8] is really unlikely to have lifted the engine ‘bodily on its bolts’, but it makes its contribution to the impression of superhuman effort and ingenuity which is about to be unfolded: and the words ‘donkey-engine’ and ‘cargo-winch’ seem to be used interchangeably.
There seem to have been two donkey-engines (Kipling writes [line 23] of the ‘forward donkey-engine’): if so, one would have been adjacent to the fore-hatch, and the other the after-hatch. All in all, in going into considerable detail, apparently convincingly, Kipling leaves his ‘sons of Martha’ with many unanswered questions. One, for instance, is, in the absence of a cargo-derrick (Mr. Wardrop’s complaint at line 13), where was the point of suspension above the engine from which hung a block through which the wire rope was led to lift off the cylinder-cover? But enough of this iconoclasm!

[Page 170, line 9] the Malay from the boat-house by virtue of his office, quite clearly one of the arch-thieves, who may have tried to remove the donkey-engine, with the resulting disorganisation described. This suggestion from the ORG is a more likely reason for the cargo-winch being ‘set down inaccurately as regards its steam connections’ [line 11].

[Page 170, line 13] cargo-derrick a long boom fitted with blocks and lifting ropes/wires, whose base (nautically, ‘heel’) was usually at the foot of the mast. It usually plumbed the hatch, and power for lifting came from the cargo-winch, driven directly by the donkey-engine.

[Page 170, line 23] oakum loose fibre from old rope, used for caulking. Picking oakum was formerly a task given to convicts and paupers. It was very hard on the fingers (even more so if the warder/overseer had a down on the picker; he might then give the raw material to the cook to bake, thus rendering it even more difficult to tease out).

[Page 171, line 4] junk-ring studs the ‘junk-ring’ is situated at the top of the piston. Its function is to keep the piston ring in place. By removing two of the studs which secure it, screw holes are made available for the lifting eye-bolts.

[Page 172, line 1] boiler-plate, three-quarters of an inch thick Mr. Wardrop clearly believed in being prepared for every eventuality: normally such boiler-plate would not have formed part of a ship’s stores. The ORG remarked, justly:

‘this would present a heavy job for cutting by hand. Hacksaws would be out of the question and it would probably be necessary to cut it by chisels (hot-set) after its having been heated’.

However, the question must then be asked, how did they contrive a forge large enough to heat a large piece of boiler-plate? An alternative means would have been to drill a series of adjacent holes along the line of the desired cut, and then to knock out the remaining thin webs between the holes. We will see [line 14 below] that they had the equipment and capability to drill holes in the boiler-plate.

[Page 172, line 10] chalk-marks to show where the strengthening plate was to be applied, and also to make the cracks distinct.

[Page 172, line 18] ratchet-drill also called a ‘ratchet brace’. A workshop hand tool for heavy drilling. Its great advantage is that it can be used in a situation where a complete revolution cannot be made.

hand-forge a quite inadequate piece of equipment for the work involved in the structural repairs described in the following pages. Professional opinion says that the work might be done with the facilities available but that it would be little less than a miracle.

[Page 172, line 22] clouted patched (with the boiler-plate).

[Page 172, line 30] bow-anchor davits these are called ‘catting davits’ and their presence is an indication that the anchors were of the old type with a stock, or cross-piece, which prevented their being stowed in the hawse-pipes as is the case with a modern stockless anchor. To cut a three-inch davit with a file would be an almost superhuman performance. But the davit should have been fitted with its heel in a socket with a locking pin: this pin having been driven out, the davit is thereby released.

[Page 173, line 14] flattened from top to bottom the bars of iron would probably be from six to eight feet long, and to be beaten flat would have to be passed again and again for their whole length through the single small forge available, unless the Chief Engineer had managed to extemporize supplementary and larger forges, which is unlikely because of the need for an artificially produced draught. In the absence of a fully equipped smithery, the presence of a large anvil and a set of hand-forging tools – fullers, flatters, swages, hotsets and punches – must be assumed. These tools would be part of the engineer’s stores in a properly equipped ship.

In the context of the former career of the Haliotis, it is entirely probable that these tools would have been available on board. The ship’s activities meant that a stay in a ship-repair yard would have been too risky. But, in fact, Kipling has presented Mr. Wardrop and his men with an unnecessarily hard task in flattening these bars along their whole length. The air-pump levers would have been driven by, and attached to, the piston crosshead, and so their travel would have been no more than the two feet or so which was the length of travel of the crosshead. Thus, the clearance would have been required only at the upper two feet or so of the bars.

[Page 173, line 15] air-pump levers the air-pump was used to help to maintain a vacuum in the condenser, an essential part of the overall steam-circuit (boil water – use steam in engine – condense spent steam – pump condensate back into boiler – boil water, etc.) Thus, a steamship actually used very little fresh water in the circuit, when once the boilers had been filled – just enough to make good losses through leaking glands, etc. This editor would suggest that Mr. Wardrop might have considered doing without the air pump and condenser, since they were only going to go a short distance when they escaped. That being so, he could have taken the levers out altogether, and left the struts unflattened. But perhaps his professional soul revolted. They were his engines, and he would do the best he could for them.

[Page 173, line 24] the iron that had entered into their souls a play on words, now a commonplace phrase in English. From A Sentimental Journey, by Lawrence Sterne (1713-68), (The Captive – Paris): “He gave a deep sigh – I saw the iron enter into his soul”.

[Page 173, line 26] temperature of 85º Fahrenheit, equals 30º Centigrade (approx).

[Page 173, line 32] this was a job for a regular dockyard with every appliance a truer word was never spoken.

[Page 175, line 14] forge and shrink a wrought-iron collar … bolted into the crosshead a feasible, if difficult repair in the circumstances, but there is a considerable amount of licence here. The Y-piece, if bolted into the crosshead would weaken it.

[Page 176, line 22] scaling depending on the purity of the feedwater, a marine boiler will accumulate scale, e.g. limescale, and this in turn may cause the boiler to ‘prime’, that is, carry water over into the engine in the steam, which is not good for engines. Again, in this instance, it might not matter, since the machinery had only one more task to fulfil, but it is entirely consistent with Mr. Wardrop’s engineering amour propre.

[Page 177, line 2] condenser-tubes are started see the notes on page 152, line 18 above. Condenser-tubes can leak where they are seated in the tube-plate in the same manner as boiler tubes.

[Page 177, line 3] propeller-shaftin’ … out of true probably only a very few thousandths of an inch, but enough to cause excessive wear. But that won’t matter.

[Page 177, line 22] a trial trip he might, however, have given the engine a ‘basin trial’, as it is called in dockyards, i.e., a trial while the ship is moored. But this might have been observed from on shore, with awkward results.

[Page 177, line 30] sixty pound sixty pounds per square inch steam pressure. This would be about right for a compound – anything between 60 and 100.

[Page 178, line 11] half-seas-over drunken.

[Page 178, line 23] propeller needed re-keying the key is a wedge which fits into a slot cut into the end of the propeller shaft, with a corresponding slot inside the boss of the propeller: its effect is to lock the two together. It is so fitted that when driving ahead, the thrust of the propeller tends to jam it in ever tighter. Going astern will tend to loosen it, though unless a whole series of ahead and astern movements is carried out, not enough to loosen it.

[Page 179, line 11] proa (Malay: prau) the general Malay term for all vessels from the sampan, or canoe, to the square-rigged ship, but in Western usage the term is applied to the swift-sailing craft formerly used by pirates in the Indian Ocean, which has a large triangular sail and an outrigger to assist stability.

[Page 179, line 17] their own peculiar way ironic: piracy is being suggested.

[Page 179, line 25} tripang (or trepang): the edible seaslug used in China for soup. Perhaps the proa’s crew were honest, after all – they were carrying a legitimate cargo.

[Page 180, line 3] purchase more irony. This was piracy in reverse, with the biter bit.

[Page 180, line 8] well-decked so-called because the main, or cargo, decks are lower than the forecastle, poop and midship section.

[Page 180, line 21] opened up when approaching a harbour, gulf, bay, or other inlet of the sea, each feature is said to be opened up as it comes in sight of the approaching ship.

[Page 180, line 22] whitewashed coal countless jokes have been made, particularly about soldiers having to whitewash coal as a singularly pointless form of spit-and-polish. There was, in fact, some point to it, in some circumstances. A piebald effect in the coal heap would reveal that pilfering was going on, and the discovery of coal with traces of whitewash on it would indicate the pilferer.

[Page 180, line 25 to the end] The obvious explanation of the concluding words of the story is that the Haliotis, having towed the proa to Pygang-Watai, was scuttled by her crew at the mouth of the harbour that was the turning point of the gunboat’s patrol. The crew took to the proa and innocently watched, from a safe distance, the foundering of their former captor which had struck the sunken vessel.
The indication of the Master’s intention is given on page 178 with the words ‘We’ll break down at Pygang-Watai, where we can do good …’, and the words ‘opened up the coral beach’ suggest that the Master was placing his ship in the exact place for scuttling it. Kipling’s intention is quite clear.


©Alastair Wilson 2005 All rights reserved