The Nautical World...

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Cats and the Sea, Unsinkable Sam and others...

Cats and the Sea? What the heck does that mean? Well, I'll tell you, but first, let me ramble...

I had two cats growing up, Cleo and Cally. They were great but once a I moved away from home I started to be influenced by the "Dogs are so much better than cats" movement. Did I really feel this way? I mean, I doubt I really even thought about it, but nonetheless, I acquiesced.

This all changed a bit when my girlfriend moved in with me and brought her personal hair ball machine, Spiffy.

Now, the first time I ever met Spiffy was when I stayed at Kelly's house and I woke up at 2 in the morning to her sitting on my chest staring at me. As I refrained from making any sudden movements and she glared me down in the darkness of the night I realized that my interview process had begun. (Meanwhile Kelly's other cat Felix spent the next 5 visits pooping on my socks. His interview methods were slightly unorthodox.) Now, a few years later, I think I can safely say I was accepted. 

Dogs are very loyal and very open about it, but thats not to say that cats aren't either. And if you don't believe me, let me tell you about a cat named "Unsinkable Sam"...

Unsinkable Sam (originally Oscar) was a cat on board the German vessel Bismarck. When the Bismarck was sunk, Sam was picked up by the HMS Cossack. When the Cossack was sunk, he was picked up by HMS Ark Royal. When The HMS Ark Royal was sunk he lived with the Governor of Gibraltar and then eventually made his way back to England and lived in a sailor house. This cat survived 3 ship attacks and multiple battles. And he isn't the only one, there are tons of others!

Cats were treated like crew members on board. They were given rank, their own kit, entered in the Ship's Log, and even given their own hammocks to sleep in. Don't believe me? Check em out:

Unknown of the HMAS Nizam
Saipan of the USS New Mexico
Unknown of the HMS Eagle
Sarah of the HMS Shropshire
Convoy of the HMS Hermione
Unknown of the HMAS Kanimbla

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is what we call overwhelming evidence. Adorable evidence at that. All of these pictures come from the Imperial War Museum and I got them from a cool website called Purr n' Fur. Check them out for a very complete history of cats during wartime.

Sailors aboard war vessels always traditionally had cats on board. In fact, it used to be a requirement for French vessels to carry two cats at all times. Cats were used for rodent control in the stores and also for companionship. Cats and seafarers have always had a strong connection and they continue to do so. Pick up a few books about people sailing through the Caribbean or Pacific, I can almost guarantee they have a feline pilot aboard. 

Do you have any cool stories? Email me or post something in the comments below.

Water is Life.


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