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The Hard Life and Work of a Steamship Stoker

The Stoker at Work in a steamship circa 1910

Stoker Coaling one of the Furnaces in the Stokehold of a Steamship c 1910
The Scientific American | GG Archives Maritime Collection

A stoker works four hours at a stretch, and during that time the temperature of his surroundings varies from 120 degrees to 160 degrees Fahrenheit. One stoker usually has four furnaces to attend to, and while feeding one furnace a man has to be extremely careful or his arm may be burned by the furnace behind him.

As a rule a man is occupied about three minutes at each furnace, and directly he has finished he rushes to the air pipe and waits until his turn comes again. The intense heat of the furnaces has sometimes rendered stokers temporarily insane, and there are many cases on record where they have jumped overboard after having made their way to the deck.

John Colgate Hoyt, Compiler, "The Stoker." In Old Ocean's Ferry: The Log of the Modern Mariner, The Trans-Atlantic Traveler, and Quaint Facts of Neptune's Realm. A Collation of Odd and Useful Information for Nautical Travel and Strange Features of the Sea, for Landsman and Mariner, New York: Bonnell, Silver & Co., 1900, Page 121.

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