Hard Work

A whaleman's life was not an easy one. He needed all the strength he could gather for the hard work that filled his days and a good song could go a long way toward making that work just a little easier. Sea shanties were the work songs that lifted sailors' spirits and helped them combine their efforts to make the backbreaking tasks at hand go as smoothly and efficiently as possible.

Imagine yourself standing on the deck of the Roman. Looking up you can see the three masts with broad canvas sails hanging from the yards. Each of those sails is held secure by ropes that run down through pulleys to the deck. If you take a closer look at those ropes you can see how many different ones there are, hanging all over the ship like a giant web. You might also notice how thick and heavy some of them are. The sails themselves are big and heavy (the largest could cover a tennis court) and the only way to move them into place is by hauling on those ropes. Like all the other jobs on board the whaleship, raising and lowering sails depended on the strong arms of the sailors who manned the ship and all of those jobs required that the men work together in a coordinated way.

next page >

image of sail_above

Wikimedia Commons