Lead

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aggie80

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Lead

A lead weight on the end of a rope measured off in fathoms with knots and colored strings. The bottom was often hollow and could be filled with tallow to bring up a sample of the bottom sediment.

A leadsman would be placed at the bows and drop the lead into the water. By counting the number of knots he could determine the depth of water. Critical in shallow waters, the leadsman was often exposed to enemy fire while trying to prevent the ship from running aground.
 

ole

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aggie80 said:
Lead

A lead weight on the end of a rope measured off in fathoms with knots and colored strings. The bottom was often hollow and could be filled with tallow to bring up a sample of the bottom sediment.

A leadsman would be placed at the bows and drop the lead into the water. By counting the number of knots he could determine the depth of water. Critical in shallow waters, the leadsman was often exposed to enemy fire while trying to prevent the ship from running aground.
And one of the depths called out was "Mark Twain."
 

aggie80

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"Mark Twain" was two fathoms, typically the bare minimum for most river boats. And as a river boat pilot, Samuel Clemens heard it often and adapted it for his most famous nom de plume. Sergeant Fathom and Josh were two others.
 
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Calicoboy

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fathoms

aggie80 said:
"Mark Twain" was two fathoms, typically the bare minimum for most river boats. And as a river boat pilot, Samuel Clemens heard it often and adapted it for his most famous nom de plume. Sergeant Fathom and Josh were two others.
I was always under the impression that the call of "mark twain" was a call of relief. The Mississippi (and other major rivers) were notorious for unexpected shoaling. As river boats bumped bottom on these shoals, apprehension would rise among the crew. The cry of mark twain was a moment they all listened for. That meant that there was twelve feet of water as all was well (until the next shoal emerged).

Calicoboy
 

ole

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Ever wonder about those riverboat pilots? It wasn't so much remembering where and how to navigate that stream -- it changed from day to day -- it was more like they could read the changes that were coming. A remarkable skill, eh?
 

Calicoboy

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indeed

ole said:
Ever wonder about those riverboat pilots? It wasn't so much remembering where and how to navigate that stream -- it changed from day to day -- it was more like they could read the changes that were coming. A remarkable skill, eh?
Right on, Ole. We took our sailboat down the Mississippi in 2002. Our 32 footer was like a woodchip in a maelstrom. We hit something on two occasions while in the channel. We saw debris as big as the boat. Got caught in whirlpools; and had to anchor off the channel because there are no accommodations south of Greenville, Mississippi. The anchor rode (there are NO "ropes" on a boat) quivered like a bass string in the current; and we went in July and August. We have always had great respect for those brave souls who preceded us. Now days there are charts and the Corps of Engineers keeps the channel relatively clear. Yet one must respect the "Big Muddy". The Mississippi River will kill you if you give it half a chance. I must add, it was a rush to go around the double bend west of Vicksburg. We anchored a couple of miles up the Yazoo that night. I could have swore I heard the ironclad CSS Arkansas clanging down the river in the middle of the night. Must have been something I took in the 60's....ha!

Calicoboy
 
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The end of the lead was hallow and would scoop up some of the bottom to let them know what the bottom was. I knew those Patrick O'brian and C.S. Foristier books would come in handy.
 
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