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Saturday, January 22, 2011

Where (on the boat) am I? An introduction to shipboard life...



One of the most important narratives on any shipboard type (e.g. surface ship, submersible, or even airship), is the organization onboard said vessel.  Interesting enough, this is perhaps one of the most important parts of a ship, but one of the least understood by those without a Naval background.

Its likely that the most exposure that those in the Steampunk (and Science Fiction) realms have to any kind of shipboard organization (also known in military circles as the “Chain of Command”) is via the Star Trek series.  The officers, who generally comprise the main characters, are easily identified on this series, albeit with a few modifications as compared to current day crews (aka, there is no such thing as a “councilor” of any sort!  Back in the day, the Navy wasn’t “touchy-feely” as it is now, but that is a different topic entirely!)  Still, the overall basics of the chain of command can be easily reflected by a brief overview of some of the more frequented compartments of a submersible.


(It always helps to do a bit of research on a topic... and it would be the Officer of the Deck instructing the Diving Officer to conduct a dive, btw).

I’ll simply touch on a few highlights regarding shipboard design and organization.  Most of the specific details of shipboard life would be academic for translation to a Steampunk setting (aka – explaining how shifts rotate onboard would probably be a relatively boring topic to the average reader, though of immense importance on a real ship), but there are some basic narratives that are essential for being on a boat.


The control room of the USS Becuna (SS-319), in a "rigged for red" lighting arrangement, commonly used for "Battle Stations".  Its very cramped, and in RL, very crowded.  

The Bridge
The “Control Center” of the ship (and better known as “Control”) – the location where the ship is controlled, is historically most of the “action” onboard takes place.  This location in itself merits its own entry, which I will follow up with in time  – but for now, suffice to say, the Bridge (or known more commonly as “Control” on the subs), is where the major decisions take place.  Usually on US subs, there will be an officer in charge (aka, “Officer of the Deck”), a senior ranking individual responsible for submerging operations (aka, the “Diving Officer”), a senior enlisted individual manning a control panel responsible for a vast quantity of ship systems (the “Chief of the Watch”), two junior enlisted personnel “driving” the ship (one helmsman, one planesman), and a rotating number of radiomen (for communications), quartermasters & electronics technicians (for navigation duties).  This is the proverbial “tip of the iceberg”, as every watch on the ship interacts with Control in one way or another.

Steampunk note – A good amount of interaction onboard a submersible will include the control room.  This would include where the Captain (or in his absence, the Officer of the Deck) would take charge of directing the ship.  Major decisions would require the Captain’s presence, though other individuals may or may not be present for ship’s operations.
There are many variations on how a Steampunk control room might appear, but I’d say that the biggest issue would be the number of personnel in the room.  In Hollywood productions, there are at most a handful (four to six) people in the control room.  In real life, its not uncommon to have at least ten people during regular operations, and the number can double, depending on circumstances.   Again, I’ll touch on that in a later entry.



Maneuvering / Engineering Spaces
The second most important location on the submersible (arguably if you speak with the engineering individuals), this location is where commands from control are received for the propulsion of the ship, and from there are acted upon.  The most common image of this (and I’ll be making these references as they are likely the most visible comparison that non-seagoing individuals might have) is in Star Trek, when the Captain implores Engineering to magically fix things in an emergency or somehow “provide more power” to the ship.  In real life, the engineering individuals are exceptionally bright sailors, and enjoy the extra training their field provides them – though they don’t always work miracles on a daily (or episodic) basis.

Steampunk note – Unless there is something which involves engineering spaces, it tends to be overlooked in general Steampunk narratives.  Aside from explaining propulsion systems (say, how “cavorite” works), involvement in some kind of shipboard operations, or someone being in this area without permission, this part of a ship likely to be minimal.

The Wardroom
The Wardroom is both a location and informal title for the officers aboard a ship.  The physical location relates to a space where the commissioned officers eat and study, and is usually considered to be “off-limits” to enlisted personnel, unless they have official business which needs to be addressed.  In reality, on a submersible, it is treated with more formality than most other spaces, but it is still accessible to the crew (especially when the acquisition of good coffee is concerned).  Additionally, the Wardroom can also refer to the officers (excluding the Commanding Officer and Executive Officer), in a general sense.

Steampunk note – In a Steampunk narrative, just about anyone “involved” with a ship (sea, air, or land) seems to be a ship’s Captain (I have yet to encounter any Steampunk Executive Officers or Chiefs, in Real or Virtual Steampunk worlds).  Portraying an individual with a commission is likely a tad more complex than the general media portrays it, so to provide a baseline, I’ve included a few general links on Wardrooms for your review…



Staterooms
This is where officers sleep and generally do (paper) work, two to a room (unless they are Junior officers, in which they may be set three to a room).  Some senior officers may have their own office somewhere else on a ship, but generally speaking, if they have business to attend to (e.g. copious amounts of paperwork), they’ll do it in the part of a stateroom.

Steampunk note – Fictional staterooms tend to be much more spacious than their real counterparts, which may be no larger than a typical bathroom (a small bathroom at that).  In 20,000 Leagues under the Sea, Captain Nemo had a sparse stateroom, so the choice would depend on the Steampunk narrative in question on the size and appearance of the officer-in-question’s stateroom.

The Goat Locker
The “Goat Locker” is the informal name (in the US Navy) for the senior enlisted personnel, the Chiefs, which range in rank from E-7 to E-9.  Though they live in bunk-room like setting as do the rest of the enlisted crew, they are is separated from the rest of the enlisted personnel (E-1 to E-6).  With their own head (bathroom) and meeting area, they attend to various middle managerial issues in this location.

Steampunk note - As with most fiction, enlisted personnel seem to be a somewhat overlooked necessity, with the bulk of interaction of with enlisted personnel taking place with the Chiefs, who then address any tasks to his department or division (e.g. the Navigator talking to the senior enlisted Quartermaster).  Again, I wouldn’t think that this area would have much play in any Steampunk fictional work… heck, I have yet to see any kind of Goat Locker mentioned in any of the Star Trek series, so I’d find it hard to see any fictional narrative unless there was a very good reason.

Berthing
Finally, berthing is where the bulk of the enlisted personnel reside.  Generally a darkened area with subdued lighting, it remains quiet, as the people in the bunkroom will have differing sleep schedules, depending on the watch they stand.  Bunkrooms can vary from being very clean to, well not so clean, but you’ll find most the crew there – watching movies, reading, listening to music… or sleeping.

Steampunk note – In a general narrative, no one really cares about a bunkroom, for enlisted personnel, since they aren’t main characters in a story!  Even in real life, its pretty boring – so unless someone is going to be woken up on watch, or something lost in going to be found, the berthing areas are yet another location which would be a non-issue in a Steampunk setting

Well, that’s it for now… I have enough for a second entry on this (which I’ll post later on), but I hope this is a small glimpse into how life on a submarine works… and how it might translate to a Steampunk narrative!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Kraken Spiced Rum


(This is a repeat of an article from the Steampunk Tribune last December, but I did want to ensure that it made a posting here!)

It isn't often that a I see a product which solicits a "WOW" reaction, but "The Kraken" rum is certainly one!  Just in time for the New Year, the Kraken spiced black rum ("Put a Beast in your Belly"), is unique, as I haven't indulged (or at least remember in indulging) in any black spiced rum, but the company's marketing department has done an outstanding job in extrapolating the mythos behind the Kraken of lore.


(Chapter One of Three)


(Chapter Two of Three)


(Chapter Three of Three)

In addition to these amazing works / informative videos, their website has a plethora of themed items, so I would certainly recommend a visit to it, and perhaps order a few of their beautiful items (along with a few bottles of rum)!  For more information, please visit: http://www.krakenrum.com/

(A thanks to IO9 for their heads up on this delicious beverage!)

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Virtual Ports of Call - The Lotus of the Sea (Vernian Sea, New Babbage)


The Lotus of the Sea, in "Full Bloom"

"Tucked away  deep in the Venian Sea Welcome You have entered  The Lotus of Sea. A Magical Build with a character and personality. Preserved and Kept by Breezy Carver   for all to experience , feel , see and enjoy.  Oct 08 2008." - Introduction to the Lotus of the Sea


"Inky" paying a visit to the Lotus!

Second Life, for those who may not be familiar with it, is replete with Steampunk locations, including a good number of Nautical Steampunk destinations.  One of the goals of the Steampunk Shipyard is to visit these "Ports of Call", and highlight their impressive construction.  One of the oldest Steam-esque bodies of water is the Vernian Sea, in the City-State of New Babbage, and in (under?) its, is the gem known as the Lotus of the Sea.


Standing in the tube-ways in the Vernian Sea

First, let me explain a bit about the Vernian Sea.  It is a series of locations connected by an underwater series of tubes (as shown above).  These tubes lead to differing builds, from personal abodes to laboratories.  They are exceptionally well done, but out of all, the Lotus of the Sea is arguably its pearl!


A snippet of the interior of the Lotus

The Lotus could be base-ly described as a flower, albeit one made of steel, and under the water.  Circular in shape, the "petals" open or shut - but when open, one can peer up though the glass enclosure to the sea above - a very picturesque view!


Peering out from the Lotus into the depths of the Vernian...

Thanks to the generosity of my partner Breezy, the Lotus will be the "home base" of the Steampunk Shipyard, so please do feel free to stop by, put your seabag down, and take a break in the Lotus of the Sea!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Nautical Steampunk Background - Voyages Extraodinaires


One of the nice things about Mssr. Verne, is since his work has been so long standing, there is plenty of resources reagarding it.  One of the best of these sources is Voyages Extraordinaire, a well established Scientific Romance Blog.  Mr. Cory Gross, who has been penning this endeavor since 2007, has authored a good number of articles on Mr. Jules Verne and 20,000 Leagues under the Sea.  I've provided a list of them below, but once you start reading his work, grab a cup of coffee, as you'll be there for awhile!...

Jules Verne and the Science of Prophecy
A review of the Mysterious Island, from 1929
A review of 20,000 Leagues under the Sea, from 1916
A review of A Journey to the Center of the Earth, from 1864
A review of 20,000 Leagues under the Sea, from 1870
A review of A Journey to the Center of the Earth, in 3D, from 2008
A review of Master of the World, from 1961
A review of 20,000 Leagues under the Sea, from 1954
A review of 20,000 Leagues under the Sea, from 1907
Jules Verne at Home (1894)

Needeless to say, his tireless efforts are certainly worth the visit, so do consider a trip to his main site, located at: http://voyagesextraordinaires.blogspot.com/

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Nautical Questions - What is it like being underwater (in a vessel, that is)?



I figured that I'd start the "Nautical Questions" series of the Steampunk Shipyard with one I encounter in non-Steampunk circles, that is "What is it like being underway"?  To best answer that, it really does depend on the weather, or the sea state.  Sea States dictate how calm (or not) the seas are, and are rated "1" through "9".  The higher the sea state, the more pitching and rolling one experiences on a vessel.  So if there is a large storm above the water, any submerged vessel below it will feel the effects of it.  The deeper a boat is, the less the sea state will affect it.  So, if you want to avoid the effects of a storm, a ship's Captain will (or the Officer of the Deck) have the ship dive deeper.

Now to answer the question, "what is it like under water"?  Sad to say, with a lower sea state (1-3 on the Douglas scale), which is usually the case, its like being in a building with florescent lights.  Not much "rocking or rolling", but its pretty level.  On occasions where evolutions take a ship to the surface, there may be some rocking, but generally, its pretty level.

Steampunk Note - Unless a ship is diving or conducting an "emergency blow", the crew won't notice a difference on their daily life.  There are exceptions, but its essentially "full steam ahead" for the boat!  

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Ahoy! The first entry



Welcome aboard!  This is the first official entry of the Steampunk Shipyard, my nautical offshoot of the Steampunk Tribune.  This site will be a bit different from the Steampunk Tribune for a number of reasons...

a) The Steampunk Shipyard will focus things are both Nautical and Steampunk.  A wide variety of sub-topics have emerged on Steampunk, but none have addressed how Steampunk and the sea interact, or at least on a regular basis.  I'm hoping to focus on that specifically with this little offshoot.

b) One of the seminal novels in the Steampunk cannon is Mssr. Jules Verne's Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea.  I thought it might be useful to consolidate not only what I could find of material related to the novel, but any additional websites and information regarding the crossroads of Steampunk and the sea.  Airships are one of the trademarks of the genre, but there are more than one way to get in the past!

c) "You write what you know", to quote the legendary American author, Mark Twain.  As most who arrive here might know, the Steampunk Tribune has been running for about three years and a half, but prior to my road to the Steampunk genre, I was on active Naval duty for twenty years, specifically on submarines.  As such, I am familiar with a wide variety of topics on both Naval service and submarines, and hope that I'll be able to do my small part to enhance that knowledge base to the general Steampunk enthuiast (as necessary, of course)!

d) Finally, one aspect I've attempted to maintain on the main blog is an attempt at impartiality on the Steampunk Tribune.  I try to choose topics which highlight the endeavors of other in the Steampunk genre, and focus the going-ons about it, in both real and second life.  This blog will be more of an outlet for my own views and opinions, on occasion.

With that monologue done, thanks for stopping by, and I'll be seeing you later!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

The Second Life Steampunk Sim of Nemo

Just a small place holder until I work out all the bugs here - please do enjoy!