Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Digging for Gold at the Library: Abandon ship!

(by Gina Bardi, Reference Librarian)

Books can save your life. I don’t just mean those YouTube videos showing how to use a book as a weapon of self-defense (Helpful hint- a book spine can break a nose).  That’s a pretty concrete example. I’m thinking of books that are written to help you survive an extreme situation.  Are you wondering if we have an example in our collection? Has your eye already caught the book jacket pictured below? Well then let’s get to it.  This is a gem from our collection, How to Abandon Ship by Phil Richards and John J Banigan.

Cover of the book, Abandon Ship

Published by Cornell Maritime Press in 1942 and reprinted by the Infantry Journal in 1943, this slim, thin beauty of a book gives concise advice on how to survive a shipwreck, most likely a ship being torpedoed.  Banigan, a naval officer, was a victim of a shipwreck and managed to bring his crew of ten safely home after 19 grueling days at sea. The book includes information on what to do before, during and after an accident, how you prepare yourself the minute you step aboard ship from drills to becoming familiar with life boats, making sure adequate supplies are on hand, what to do once you are hit (Don’t panic. Easier said than done, yes?) The strongest part of the book is what to do once you are in a lifeboat, including information on keeping morale up and rationing.   For instance, I found this advice on how to divide rations called formally enough “Who is to have this” most illuminating:

One person turns his back on the object that is to be divided; another then points separately to the portions, at each of them asking aloud ‘Who shall have this?” to which the first answers by naming somebody. This impartial method of divisions gives every man equal chance at the best share (105).

I’ll be sure to use this method next time there’s a birthday cake. We’ll let fairness decides who gets the corner pieces.   The book also includes chapters on medical advice, issues with food and hunger, water and thirst and weather.  I sincerely hope you never need to rely on anything in this book, but it’s good information to have (and there are some interesting recipes).

If you’d like to see this book or any of the others we have on survival, safety or harrowing tales of shipwreck survivors and the not so fortunate, come into the library. If I’m not eating a corner piece of cake, I’ll be happy to help.

Richards, Phil and John J Banigan. How to Abandon Ship. New York: Cornell Maritime Press, 1942. Print.

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