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Unloading cargo from tall ships


achuck49
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Sea ports were a much more crowded beast, with individual lines and merchants owning their own pier to recieve cargo. While some may have had cargo handling gear, most did not. When in port, some spars and blocks could be used to hoist cargo, with the occassional temporary spar fitted. The ship needed to be self sufficient as possible, so they had ways to do it.

 

Will do some checking in Crothers, Clark and Lubbock to see what I can find.

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Here are a couple of additional places to check for information:

 

Biddlecombe, G. 1848. The Art of Rigging. http://books.google.com/books?id=9RkEAAAAQAAJ.
Lever, D. 1853. The Young Sea Officer’s Sheet Anchor; Or, A Key to the Leading of Rigging, and to Practical Seamanship (American Edition). E. & G.W. Blunt. https://books.google.com/books?id=HmJJAAAAYAAJ.

Kipping, R. 1853. Rudimentary Treatise on Masting, Mast-Making, and Rigging of Ships. John Weale.
———. 1864. Rudimentary Treatise on Masting, Mast-Making, and Rigging of Ships. Virtue Bros.

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Many cargo carrying sailing ships did indeed have a dedicated spar for slinging cargo into and out of the hold. Located on the forward side of the main mast and folded vertically stowed parallel to the mast when not in use, hinged on a collar-sometimes sharing the spider band-around the mast at its base- and long enough so that when lowered into position its peak was directly over the main hatch. Vangs on either side controlled its port and starboard motion and conventional tackle lifted and lowered the loads of cargo. This was a slow and messy job, often taking weeks and done by the ships crew, not special cargo handlers. More often than not this took place at anchor, not at a dock, and cargo was discharged into lighters alongside.

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Liberty Ship SS Stephen Hopkins by schooner posted yesterday has a link ' http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/library/policy/army/fm/55-17/ch3.htm', showing cargo rigging. Illustration 3-17, Strain Angle of Falls is well worth studying. The physics has never changed from the early days of sail until today, some of the forces probably will come as a shock to some.

jud 

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I had wondered about how they unloaded cargo as well. I knew that they used cranes to do it but I wasn't sure if they were dock side or ship side cranes. Having a crane on the ship makes a lot of sense for the reasons stated of many ports not having the equipment to unload or for areas where a ship could not pull alongside a dock. I would imagine that ship to boat transfers were far more common as there were probably many more trading cities and ports that did not have a deep enough harbor for a large ship to dock at than those that did. Granted the largest of vessels probably only traded with large cities with good ports but smaller vessels still have deeper drafts than what could be found at many smaller towns and villages. 

 

I would think that having a crane on board would be useful even when at sea for moving supplies between decks instead of carrying it up or down the ladders.

 

This is yet another thing that movies and television do not show of life aboard ships. This was not the fun, adventurous or "romanticized" life that is most commonly shown. There are reasons why you rarely saw a fat sailor. The harsh living conditions and never ending work that took place aboard a ship was more than most people could handle.

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Normal work on a square-rigger took some 4-5,000 calories a day.  That's better than many ashore could get.  (c. 1800 or so)

Stuff needing to be moved on board would be brought to the hatch below the hoisting gear and lifted from there.  Even mounting a gun barrel onto its carriage might be done with the gear midships.

As shown in the sheet (on the link I posted) loads needing to go outboard, the hoisting gear would get it up in the air, then tackles from the main and fore yards would be used to swing it outboard and lower into boats.  Reverse to load something inboard.

 

On a model, you could certainly show a ship's boat being hoisted in- or outboard using the yards.  If you definitively knew there was a crane aboard you could show that.  The 'crane' has a diagonal spar with tackle on the end, this is the 'jib' and jib cranes are still in use everywhere.

Edited by jbshan
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  • 5 months later...
  • 4 years later...

Greetings,

Hope this is the right place to ask. I was looking at photos on a history site for my hometown of Sheboygan Wisconsin and saw these unloading cranes in the background. The dates seem to be the mid to late 1800's, unloading sailing ships, probably lumber transports. I was interested in more information on them, possibly for model building. Any help would be appreciated.

 

Anchor's A Weigh!

John Fox III

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John,

 

The following are suppositions based on my knowledge of late Nineteenth Century Great Lakes trade, not the Port of Sheboygan in particular.

 

Lumber was a “Downbound” cargo.  It was loaded in small backwater ports in undeveloped areas of the Northwoods and unloaded in growing midwestern cities like Chicago and Detroit.  It was usually unloaded by hand.  It is therefore, unlikely that a small port like Sheboygan would have had mechanized ship unloaders to unload lumber.

 

The machinery in your photos are Brown Hoists, mechanized ship unloaders patented in 1884, Patent 300,689.  These were designed to unload cargos of Iron Ore.  So, what is happening in your pictures?

 

1.  Would there be any reason to be unloading Iron Ore in Sheboygan?  Was there a basic steel industry nearby?  It would seem that the answer to these questions is no.

 

2.  Coal was in 1884, an upbound cargo, loaded in Lake Erie ports and unloaded in upper lake ports.  It was especially required to fuel the growing network of Railroads.  There is no apparent reason why Brown Hoists could not be used to unload coal.  Was Sheboygan a major coal unloading port?

 

3.  In my experience, while old photographs accurately record the scene, notations regarding their provenance can be remarkably inaccurate.  Is it possible that your pictures are not of Sheboygan?

 

It would seem that the answer to your question lies in the history of Sheboygan itself.  What major bulk cargos were handled by the port in 1884?  Brown Hoist ship unloaders would have represented a major capital investment in 1884.  To warrant this a major, regular, bulk cargo into the port would be required.

 

Roger

 

 

Edited by Roger Pellett
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Greetings Roger,

The C. Reiss coal company was situated in Sheboygan, so perhaps they were used to unload coal there. There was still active coal unloading at least until I was a kid there, 1950's. There were huge piles of coal and a modern unloading crane system then. Not sure what the coal was used for, perhaps heating. Sheboygan was a very active port for Lake Michigan for many years in it's earlier history.

Thanks for the reply, at least I can look for something specific, i.e. Brown Hoists. BTW, there were several high end furniture manufacturers in Sheboygan very early and again until I was a teen in Sheboygan. Also, at least one of the photos is accurate in location, other buildings in photo supply this information.

Thanks again!

Anchor's A Weigh!

John Fox III

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The current network of natural gas pipelines was a latecomer to many parts of the upper Midwest; I believe 1960’s.  The whaleback steamship, SS Meteor spent the Post War Years as a member of the Cleveland Tankers Fleet delivering refined petroleum around the lakes.  This job is now performed by pipelines and tanker trucks.

 

So, coal used to have many uses.  The railroads burned huge amounts of coal.  Many towns had synthetic gas plants that gasified coal for domestic uses.  Coal was also burnt directly as a heating fuel.  In the Twentieth Century, coal was the principal fuel used to generate electricity.  Coal was also the dominate fuel used for steamships on the Great Lakes.  The last coal fired bulk carriers retired around 1990, and the ferry SS Badger that sails from Manitowoc to Luddington, MI still burns coal.

 

C. Reiss used to be a major coal distributor on the Great Lakes.  The massive coal loading docks capable of turning an entire Railroad hopper car upside down to dump its load into a ship still exist at Sandusky, and Ashtabula, Ohio.  Since they maintained a dock at Sheboygan the Brown Hoists are probably theirs.

 

Great quantities of coal are still shipped over the lakes but the pattern has changed from East to West to West to East.  The Coal loading terminal in Superior Wisconsin annually ships coal delivered by dedicated unit train from Wyoming to customers along the lower lakes.

 

Roger

 

 

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