Thursday, May 18, 2017

____________________ MEMORIES OF MAGGA DAN _____________________

This morning I helped Jeff the Diesel mechanic remove 'Mariners' propeller shaft. He arrived this morning with some good news about the motor (It's in good condition) and a truck full of tools.

This whole propeller shaft removal marlarkey wasn't easy. Before we had progressed very far the shaft got stuck in the strut bearing. We had to cut the upper part of the shaft to remove it. The lower part of the shaft that was frozen in the strut bearing was removed with a long steel shaft come battering ram and a sledge hammer. None of this work was a pretty sight to behold.

Jeff confessed to "a bit of a buggered shoulder" as he handed me the sledge hammer for my turn and after a lengthy session I confessed to "a bit of a 'tweaking' going on in my post quadruple heart bypass wired up sternum" and handed the sledge hammer back to him. But after us two old buggers had endured an exhausting time sharing the sledge hammer the work was completed and the offending piece of prop shaft fell out of the strut.

This afternoon I completed the cleaning of 'Mariners' oily bilge and wiped down every inch of the inside of the hull. When I arrived home my work clothes were only fit for the rubbish bin.

This cleaning job had me thinking today about the 'Magga Dan' and a holiday job I had one Christmas holiday period in the dry dock at the port of Lyttleton in Christchurch NZ in the late 1960s. Some of the work was down in the bowels of the dry dock scraping barnacles off ships, while other work (Which I found a bit scary) was in the bowels of the ships themselves cleaning out the bilges.

The bilge jobs required working in the cramped space between the ships floor and the bottom of the hull. It wasn't possible to sit up straight and as we pulled long electrical leads with our lights we shoveled oily sludge into a bucket. Crawling through the small holes in the ships web frames from one compartment of the bilge to the other was an unedifying and claustrophobic experience I never want to repeat. I remember the lights going out once for a brief time - not a good moment.

I can't picture in my minds eye any of the ships except for the 'Magga Dan'. When I found a photograph of her on the internet she looked pretty much as I remembered her. I probably remember her because we were told she was a "Russian" ship and this period of time was at the height of the Cold War in Europe. But when I looked up the 'Magga Dan' on the internet for this posting I see that she is in fact an Australian Antarctic supply ship!! Yikes! and here's me thinking all these years that I had almost been fraternizing with the KGB.

The 'Magga Dan' was on her way to Antarctica (At least that part of the story we were told was true). Our job was to clean out one of the 'Magga Dan's large boilers. This was a better job than bilge work as it was possible to stand up in the boiler when working and was a lot less claustrophobic. We spent a few days chipping rusting slag off the insides of the boiler returning home each night looking like Victorian chimney sweeps.

Memories shipmates, memories.


Barubi said...

The temporary lights in a ship under refit were notoriously unreliable, as I learnt as an apprentice in the early '70s In the bilges of HMAS Supply. For the next 25 years I never boarded a ship without a torch in my overalls' pocket.

Alden Smith said...

Thanks for your comment Barubi. The experiences of the school of hard knocks always teaches sobering lessons - I wish I had had a torch in my overalls' pocket at the time.