Fan of Full Fathom Five? Be sure to check it out at its new home!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

The Floggings Will Continue Until Moral Improves

There is no word more inherently maritime than Flogging. Just that word alone immediately brings to mind the image of a grand sailing vessel far out at sea with a sailor stripped to the waist and tied to the mast. Yes, its not PC. But honestly, there is a human fascination with this unique form of discipline. There is a story that I almost always tell to visiting groups that is met with great interest by both fifth graders and elderhostelers alike. When I first started working in the Manuscript Collection at Mystic Seaport (after arranging the Seawanhaka Yacht Club papers), one of my jobs was to read, index and catalog the logbooks. The first log was that of the Vesper, a whaler sailing from New London to the Pacific. For a few months of the entries recorded little more that lat, long, wind direction, sails set, sails lowered, etc. And then there was a flogging. I ran breathlessly around the Library telling everyone and anyone who would listen that here recorded in this weathered, very real volume was a real flogging. I was rather incredulous when they did not seem to share my enthusiasm, and soon returned to reading. In addition to two more floggings, an abduction of native women, a mutiny, and a knifing, there were lots of other interesting things that happened on the Vesper, and I came to understand why my colleagues were not so impressed with the flogging. "Oh yeah, another flogging. You're at sea, floggings happen." And while we have become immune, they still continue to fascinate the neophyte.

Which brings me to this photo which I took last month in Colorado. Hey, if they can do daily hangings, why can't maritime museums have a scheduled daily flogging. Aside from the serious issue that this activity would exclude the women interpreters/actors, there really shouldn't be any other obstacles. Its not like we would have to spend any addition funds building a gallows with a fake trap door mechanism. We already have a whale ship with masts. We don't even have to invent the episodes. There are plenty of recorded instances museum staff would merely have to reconstruct. And think of the publicity it would generate, as well as the gate numbers!

1 comment:

Jarrett said...

I'm reading Melville's White Jacket right now! In one of the essays I read about the novel I understand that the book helped ban flogging in the USN...

great blog you have here.