Howdy folks, and welcome back to the good ol’ blog! Today’s tidbit about me is: I currently have three different books vying for my spare time, but after having watched the first two seasons of “Game of Thrones” on HBO, I am now thoroughly hooked on the “A Song of Ice and Fire” series: I’ve read up to the third book, and cannot stop until I’ve read them all.
Well, I’m sure all you fine folks are no doubt sweating in this sultry summer weather. My house was thankfully not hit by last weekend’s intense storms, but I am aware that some poor unfortunate souls (like my father in Alexandria and my aunt in Chantilly) are without power. In nasty, humid, exceedingly hot weather. My heart goes out to you all.
Now, during the Civil War, people couldn’t just go inside and turn on the A/C. There was no A/C. For soldiers and civilians alike, the only salvation from the heat was a nice, cool breeze – a fickle and uncommon respite, if you ask me. On board the USS Monitor, even this one mercy was unattainable. While the breeze would no doubt be stronger on the water than further inland, only those sailors standing on the ship’s top deck could feel it. As for the sailors who were INSIDE the USS Monitor, well…
… yea. It was miserable. That measurement is from June 28th 1862, and those temperature readings are for the early morning – before the heat of the day hit! Check out the temperatures for the previous day, June 27th.
Wow. Just… wow. Ok, you may be wondering why the heat was so intense below deck and so much less-so on the top of the ship. Well, there are three answers to that. The first answer is that the USS Monitor was made of iron. Metals like iron heat up perilously hot in the sun, and retain huge quantities of heat. This is because the physical properties of metal allows for much greater heat transfer than other shipbuilding materials, like wood. As a result, the USS Monitor would have physically absorbed a lot more of the sun’s heat than a wooden ship would have.
The second answer is that the USS Monitor’s engine was below decks. The engine was coal-fueled, which meant that men had to physically shovel coal into large boilers to create heat. Much of the heat was used to turn water into steam and thereby work the engines, but heat created by coal fires would also seep out into adjacent parts of the ship. The “galley” listed in the two above charts was another name for the crew’s living quarters, which were right next to the boiler room. This is probably why that area was the second hottest place on the ship.
The third answer is that the ventilation system for the lower decks was not NEARLY strong enough to deal with the high temperatures created by both the metal ship and the boiler/engine room. To be fair, though, the primary purpose of the blowers was to keep toxic fumes and gases out of the engine room, while providing fresh air to the coals so that the fires could burn well. Temperature control was not its primary function. The combination of this issue with the ship’s metal body and internal engine room created a hellish atmosphere inside the poor vessel.
Well, that about does it for today – tune in next time for coverage of the end of the Seven Days battles, and thank your lucky stars you didn’t have to serve on the USS Monitor 150 years ago today!