A slight diversion to stave off incipient boredom:-
Otherwise known as “The Bridge” or “The Ivory Tower”.
The photo that should accompany this post somewhere or another is more or less typical of a “Bridge” aboard a 1940s/50s cargo-liner. This one happens to be a “Blue Flue”, but could equally well be on a P&O, Ben Line, British India, Clan Line or anyone elses ships operating then.
But there are a few things to notice here……..
1. The unpanelled deckhead. Not unusual as generally the deck over was wood sheathed.
2. Many modern ships have sealed bridge windows, but before the advent of air-con getting some air into the wheelhouse was a “must have”. Early methods of opening these windows involved the use of a leather strap much as the railway carriages of the time used. The windows shown are probably about ¾” thick and so very heavy. They are held at the desired level by the polished brass clamps as shown in the pic. Also shown is one (of 2) “Kent Clear View” units. Just a simple spinning disc set into a window.
3. The rudder indicator at the upper left and the Engine rev. counter at the upper right. The Engine Telegraph(s) are there but out of sight.
4. You may well notice the absence of the traditional magnetic compass and it’s wooden binnacle. I can’t imagine why the practice of having 2 pretty expensive things fitted so close together was so common. The “Standard” compass would almost universally be mounted on the “Monkey Island”, directly above a similar unit within the wheelhouse. Shipowners were (and are) notoriously parsimonious, so why they were conned into having 2 of these things when one would do beats me. However, this particular owner has done the sensible thing and fitted a periscope compass. All this really means is that via an “upside-down” periscope projecting into a space visible to the helmsman the “standard” compass could also be used as a steering compass. Still fitted, even in these days of so-called infallible electronics.
5. Then we must have a look at the sheer awkwardness of the steering gear. Personally I never saw a layout quite as poorly designed as this one…but it does show the various components. From the wheel (adorned with a mechanical rudder indicator) the brass rod passes through a casting whose sole job is to support a gyro compass repeater. The actual gyro compass could be anywhere within the ship. Early ones were pretty big things and often had a cabin to themselves….which is more than most of the crew had. But until the advent of the titchy little things we now have that can be placed just about anywhere (a small cupboard under the chart table comes to mind) such was the case.
A slight sidebar to the above. The arrival of the gyro-compass gave, apart from steering and positioning accuracy, another boon to the navigator. The arrival of the Bridge Wing repeater compass. This was the long awaited end of the hated but indispensable “Pelorus”.
Using a pelorus……well, for a start, a Pelorus is not a compass, although at first glance it looks like one. But when mounted on a wing pedestal before taking a bearing the “heading point” has to be aligned pretty carefully to the ship fore and aft line. So that’s “fixed”. When taking a bearing of anything the helmsman would have to be ready to sing out his exact compass heading when the bearing taker yelled “mark”. The bearing taker would then know how much to add or subtract from his bearing to give him a compass bearing. And remember that these bearings were not in “degrees”, but in all likelihood in “quarter points”. Pretty long winded. Now, the bearing taker just nips outside, lines up the azimuth mirror and reads the bearing in degrees of the gyro compass card. Seemples.