Size of turn-of-the-century tramp steamers

I was working out in my gym’s cardio-theatre and they started showing Peter Jackson’s King Kong, which I had never considered watching on my own impetus, but I found myself quite enjoying.

In particular, I liked the first part of the movie, and, specifically, the scenes on the tramp steamer S.S. Venture (Surabaya). It was a fantastic setting, with the carved wood and everything.

The ship sailed from Manhattan to Skull Island, somewhere in the Dutch East Indies. I was wondering, though, whether the ship seemed kind of small for high seas shipping like that.

Realistically how small could a 1880s-1920s tramp steamer be to safely and reliable ply the high seas?

And another question. I’m a little confused by the deck name terminology set forth here. Is it possible that the main deck, the upper deck, the lower deck, the weather deck, the boat deck, the promenade deck, the spar deck, the boiler deck, the shelter deck, and the flush deck might all be referring to the same deck on a small ship?

Well it seems the vessel was originally the MANUIA and is 492grt. and 174’ 2" x 27’ 7" x 10’ 8"

Seethis pagefor all the details.

Amazing what you can find by googling.

And no way is that too small for the high seas. An ocean going yacht could be 30’.

I saw the Manuia with my own eyes when I went to Wellington. Apparently she sank a couple of times in low seas, delaying filming.

Interesting factoid about those tramp steamers of the 1880 - 1910 (or therebouts) vintage.

Most of them had Scotch boilers and triple expansion engines. Read in a book on steam power that a typical tramp steamer of that era could carry one ton of cargo one nautical mile using the energy contained in one sheet of standard notebook paper. They weren’t very fast, but were sure efficient.

No. If the ship is “too” small, then the specific deck simply does no exist. (This is not to say that a movie filmed on a smaller ship might not set different scenes on different locations of a single deck and pretend that all the different scenes were on different decks, but on an actual ship, each named deck has a specific function and one deck would not carry two names.

For example, the main deck is the deck at the water line of a ship (and on many freighters, it is not very large because most of the ships’ volume is composed of cargo holds that would go right through the location where a main deck would exist. One place that there would nearly always be a main deck would be the engine room. (It might actually be the only location on the ship with a main deck.)

The spar deck is typically the deck that marks the top of the cargo holds. It is the principle working deck for the deck crew.

On the other hand, weather deck does not specify a particular deck of the ship’s construction, but simply notes that the deck is exposed to the weather rather than being contained within the ship’s hull or any cabin.

:dubious: Are you sure you have remembered that right? I find it very hard to believe (the efficiency of Scottish engineering notwithstanding).

I would doubt that they were that efficient. Fire tube boilers were low pressure (below 300 psi) and wasted a lot of heat. Recips are not very efficient.
Steam turbines are more efficient.
High pressure boilers used on ships in the 1980’s were around 1000 psi and the steam was superheated to 1000 degrees. A high pressure turbine steam plant runs in the 30 to 40% efficient. In fact Diesels have replaced steam on new ships because of high efficiencies.

And from memory the main deck is the highest deck that runs from the bow stem to the stern. My class on decking naming were over 40 years ago so I could be wrong.

This may be or have been true at a place, at a time. However, IME in common international commercial shipping parlance , on a bulk carrier or tanker or container vessel, the external uppermost deck for the length of the cargo holds (ie 90% of the ship) is called the main deck in common parlance.

So then the main deck would be what a landlubber like me would consider to be down inside the ship and not visible from outside?

So is that deck, like the main deck, “down inside” the ship also?

So, wait, does that mean the main deck could be a deck well above the top edge of the hull?

What is the name of the lowest deck that you can see from outside the ship? I always thought that the main deck would be the deck that marks the top of the hull.

I’m having trouble understanding those dimensions. If 175 feet is the length of the ship, then I can’t imagine either the depth or the width being less than 11 feet.

In each of the King Kong movies, I think they neglected to show how they actually got that damned big ape into the cargo hold.

I hadn’t noticed that: it’s what the website I linked to says, but I agree that it has to be wrong. Even looking at the photo, which has people in it to give scale, it is obvious that there is no way it is only ten feet in any dimension. Typo, I guess.

Well, notice that all the other ships on that page also have as the last measurement a figure between 8 and 13 feet. They can’t all be in error? I think we just don’t understand what they’re measuring.

That might be the depth below the waterline. I forget, is that the draft?

I thought they kept him in a cage strapped on top. :wink:

Anyway, how the heck could a tramp steamer have been economical, carrying only a relatively small amount of cargo and a few passengers a long distance slowly? Were other means of transport just even slower and more inefficient? No wonder they died out.

Yes could well be draft.

They haven’t died out, they have just got bigger and are no longer steam. And for their day they carried more, further, than anything else available.

Yep, remember vividly reading that. In fact, I still think the book is somewhere around here. Will try to dredge it up and verify what I remember. I’ll be sure and let you guys know if I find it.

I suppose that nomenclature for salties may differ from that of lakers. I’d have thought that mariners were sufficiently conservative that they would tend to keep the same names, but I cannot insist that that is true.

On a laker (on the Great Lakes), my nomenclature is accurate, but I guess it could differ on ocean-going bulk freighters.