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banner - notes on discipline at sea

In 1930, Captain Francis H. Hardy, USC&GS, then Commanding Officer of the ship SURVEYOR, chose to include in his season's report a section on DISCIPLINE. In reality, this was a small essay on maintaining an effective working relationship with the crew that is as true today as it was nearly seventy years ago. Captain Hardy understood his business as he had eleven sea tours under his belt at this time, including three as executive officer and six as commanding officer. He had served two junior officer tours as well and had been raised on a ship in a maritime family. The following are excerpts from Captain Hardy's Season's Report covering the year 1930:

"Discipline is an extremely relative term. Under Captains Sobieralski and Lukens I considered the SURVEYOR had an excellently disciplined crew, and I considered that the same was true during last season.

"Having spent a great deal of my boyhood days at sea with my Father, it is interesting to compare the type of seamen of thirty-five years ago with those in 1910 and 1930 in our Service. The sailing ship sailors that I remember were almost all of foreign birth, mostly illiterate, a hard lot of men, many with prison records, but thorough seamen and under the right leadership loyal and very capable. From 1908 to the period of the war the crews on the west coast were mostly of foreign birth, but of a higher class than the sailing ship crews. The crew of 1930 was entirely different, almost all U.S. citizens, not an illiterate among them, and many of them high school graduates, or college students.

"The same fundamental principles of discipline that my Father taught me, however, hold good. He maintained that no officer could be efficient unless he knew his business; that he could not control men unless he could control himself. The profane, boastful officer was, in his opinion, almost without exception a poor one. He stressed the point that an officer must know his crew. For the latter reason he said no man who had not served in the forecastle could know the sailors and their type of mind and could never expect to be an exceptional officer. For this reason he told me in 1908, when I was to join the EXPLORER, that I was serving under a big handicap; that whatever I did, not to think of the sailors as ignorant fools, and that an officer who referred to them as such or to any junior officer under him in the same way reflected discredit on himself more than the men. He said that the sailors he served with before the mast in the clipper ship days were a hard lot, but many of them had a lot of good, hard, common sense and as a class were exceptional in their judgment of human nature, especially of the strength and weakness of their officers. The same holds true today with the exception that as a result of the policy of universal education in this country, a Coast Survey officer can know his men much better than the former type which followed the sea.

"In my opinion if a Commanding Officer can build up among his crew a pride in the vessel, he will find it comparatively easy to have a smart ship and an efficient survey party....

"With the average intelligence of the crews of the vessels working out of Seattle there is no place for 'the officer who gives an order for the pleasure it may bring him and the humiliation it brings to the man to whom it is given', if there ever was a place on any ship or in the Service for such an officer. It is such a type which destroys respect, which in the last analysis is the fundamental upon which good discipline rests. I am glad to state that I know none of this type of officers in our Service."


Publication of the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), NOAA Central Library.

Last Updated: June 8, 2006 9:24 AM

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