shingle © 2011 . All rights reserved.

Sea life

The water was bad – so bad that few could drink it without disgust – but one drank no water aboard ship as long as the beer held out. The water was generally river water. We note that the river water ‘about London’ was reckoned especially good. It was carried to sea, not in iron tanks, as it is carried nowadays, but in wooden casks, not over clean. Sometimes the casks were found to be old oil casks. The water invariably became putrid after standing in cask for a few days. It then grew sweet again, and fit to drink, but after standing and working for several weeks in the hold it became thick and slimy, full of ‘green grassy things’, besides being stagnant and flat. At this stage in its development it was generally tapped for the ship’s company.

Sea Life in Nelson’s Time
John Masefield, 1905