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Learning to Walk on a Steamship - 1910


Landsmen are oftcn ,joked by mariners, ancient and othcrwise, about their "sea legs," but with a little care, however, it is possible to find one's "sea legs :" in fact, it is much easier than learning to dance. Select some sheltered corner of the deck for practice, where there is an absence of breeze.

A long quiet roll is the simplest motion on the whole to overcome. When the ship rolls and pitches alternately the problem is vastly complicated. It will be readily understood that any permanent upright ohject on the deck of a vessel will be tilted or listed to an impossible angle as the ship rolls.

Naturally, the only way in which such an object can maintain its equilibrium is for it to change its position to remain perpendicular despite the position of its base.

The whole trick of keeping one's sea legs consists in keeping the body as nearly to a perpendicular position as possible, without any regard for the angle of the deck beneath.

When the ship rolls, as it were, away from one, the body must 'be thrown in the opposite direction to maintain the balance. As the ship comes back the hody should be swung over to the other side.

The body, in short, should swing like a reversed pendulum. As the ship's deck falls away from the horizontal, the tendency will he for the body to go in the same direction.

The ordinary land lubber who is taken off his guard by such a motion, involuntarily takes a step, or it may be a plunge, in the direction the ship takes.

The scientific thing to do is obviously to throw one's hody in exactly the opposite direction. There are several ways of doing this. One is to maintain his equilibrium hy bracing the body with either foot.

The beginner will brace himself hy sticking out his foot to the high part of the deck. The plan, however, is awkward and calls for more effort than any other. The old salt braces himself from the other side easily and without, as a rule, changing the position of his feet.

It will be well for the beginner to practice this single step like a figure in dancipg until it has heen quite mastered before making any more amhitious attempt. It will, of course, be found much easier to practice standing with the ship pitching before trying to walk.

The whole trick is in-maintaining one's balance easily and without effort. The rest will come naturally. The first lesson, it will be seen, seems ridiculously simple, but the difference between the theory and practice is great and is only to be mastercd with much practice. If the ship have much motion the exercise will be found to be downright hard work.

The sailor stands easily and firmly. His feet are braced against the motion of the ship, but from long practice he balances himself so easily that there is no suggestion of effort in his pose.

In maintaining his balance in this way the old salt rarely changes the position of his feet. An interesting object lesson may be had, for instance, when the officers take the sun or make other observations in rough weather. No matter how violently the ship rolls or pitches, a sailor will stand without moving his feet while he makes such a reading.

A sailor again will scorn to hold on to anything, and yet his position is absolutely secure. The explanation is very simple. The body is balanced entirely from the knees. This is, of course, an advapced stage of the art and comes only after long practice.

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1910 Travel Guide by Scientifc American

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