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Ref Engr Learning Curve


The first ship I sailed on in Aug ’58 was the SS Carthage (1931 vintage) and one of the ’tween deck refrigerated lockers was to be used for taking frozen food and ice cream out to Singapore. The 1st Ref Engr and I walked into the space and the feel and noise of crunching under my feet obviously made me look down. The deck was covered with dead 3” leathery brown flying creatures. My 1st Ref‘s comment was “we call them Bombay Canaries and if a live one hits you it’s like be poked in the face with a finger”. The locker stank of oranges and his next comment was “we’ll have to get rid of that stench, otherwise we’ll get a cross taint to our outward bound cargo.

This was my introduction to a device called an “ozonator”. A small portable plug in device that produced O3 and after just 24 Hours in the space the air smelt fresh. The spare O atom oxidizes the source of the taint. With a good sweep out the locker was ready for use.


The Tourist Lounge Bar beer cooling unit was accessible from the deck outside and was found to be short of “gas” (short of refrigerant). Leak detection then used a “Tilley” Lamp, a small blowlamp type device with a search tube burning methylated spirit. They were preheated like a paraffin blowlamp. The meth’s was contained in a large glass bottle with an ink pourer in the neck. Having tried to prime it as I thought without success and in strong sunshine, I decided to pour some more meths around the top of the lamp. My next view of the situation after the bang was my arms and hands were alight and the ink pourer was lying on the deck. The bottle must have been blasted into the sea as I never found it. In the strong light I just did not see any flame but after that I always used a bottle top to pour on the primer meths.


The main fridge machinery on the Carthage was two vertical twin cylinder J&E Hall Ltd CO2 Compressors and going across the Bay of Biscay my 1st Ref told me he wanted clearance leads from the four big ends of the above compressors. I don’t know if he was a sadist or was just testing me. What I should have done was rolled eight leads out with an Allsopps bottle to 0.006/7” on the slide of a vice.

The above type of compressor had to be watched when taking on fresh water as a severe list as the “chippy” seemed to like could uncover the suction of the oil pump and starve the machine of oil.

This vessel had no Malone long distance or electric cargo thermometers. Temperature readings were achieved by unscrewing brass caps in the deck in the tourist accommodation and pulling up wooden thermometers on a cord from the various spaces. Occasionally the thermometer would freeze to the bottom of the tube and you would end up with nothing on the cord and it would then be replaced with another thermometer. After cargo discharge you could unscrew a cover at the bottom of the thermometer tube and retrieve a number of thermometers.

The Fridge Flat and Brine Room were situated aft of the engine room off the port tunnel walkway. Being an open tank brine system, if you lost the “gennies” and you weren’t near the brine pump valves the brine would drain down and overflow into the bilges. It was strange to see the pumps running backwards with no power due to the head of brine. The next job was mixing up water and calcium chloride to the replace the brine.

Happy Days

Roger Monk Carthage, Surat, Perim, Strathmore, Himalaya, Somali