Ventilation in the boiler rooms

Arun Vajpey

I can imagine what conditions must have been like fo the "black gang" working in the boiler rooms, although probably far better on the Titanic than older ships. Since they were well below the waterline, what did they have in terms of ventilation facilities so that the crew could breathe at least some fresh air?


If you look next to the smoke stacks in the Titanic plans, you'll see air shafts and fan forward and aft of each stack. If I recall correctly, the fans pulled air down into the bottom of the ship for both the men and the furnaces. The expelled air would have risen with the heat and gone up the central smoke stack.

There's also another major opening in the roof above the reciprocating engine room which would have allowed air down there, and the 4th "dummy" funnel would have allowed air to circulate.
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As an aside, here's an interesting piece from Nathaniel Barnaby, a Head of British naval construction in the late c19th. He's describing conditions below the waterline in a steam-powered 'ironclad' warship:

Imagine in the engine rooms a temperature of 110 degrees despite two upcast shafts with fans sucking air out ... Imagine 120 stokers breathing thick black coal dust in the far bunkers shovelling coals into barrows, wheeling them to the stokeholes at either end of the engine rooms. Imagine the oven heat about the boilers, each fourteen feet high, the livid glare from the open furnace doors as Welsh nuggets are scattered in by grey-skinned men, their faces and arms chased with rivulets of black sweat.

There doesn't seem to have been any concern back then that breathing in thick black coal dust might be injurious to the health. And on top of that British matelots had to cope with the effects of smoking Capstan Full Strength!

Arun Vajpey

Yike! As a lifelong non-smoker ( I lie; had one on my 17th birthday and hated it) that makes me sick. I am always paranoid about good ventilation and once put in an official complaint when the newly constructed Duty Doctor's Room had no window (it was AC, mind). Whenever I read about a ship, I always think of the conditions for the crew working below. Guess they did not think of Health & Safety issues like we do these days.