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'going down with the ship'

Posted by Al on July 15, 2004

In Reply to: 'going down with the ship' posted by Lewis the Lubber on July 15, 2004

: : Since I'm about to leave on a cruise, nautical phrases are on my mind. One that I hope not to hear relates to the Captain 'going down with the ship'. This is a really motivational kind of tradition for ship captains to keep the boat on top of the water rather than let the ship go down. Can any of our experts tell when and where the tradition and the phrase might have originated?

: In the military, it is a tradition that once kit has been issued, if the serviceman loses it, the cost gets deducted from his pay.

: It must be better for a captain to go down with the ship, so that he knows exactly where it is and can't be said to have lost it.

: PS
: It is a naval tradition that even after ordering 'abandon ship' the captain does not leave whilst any of the crew remain on board. this has often led to captains 'going down' (i.e. drowning) when their ships sink. one reason is that if one waits too long to abandon, with a ship of any large size, there is a very strong current that sucks the surface back towards the point of sinking and leaving evacuation too late can leave the captain too close to the ship as it sinks and so he gets sucked down with it.

On often reads that in the great days of exploration the captan suffered if he did not return with wealth or stories of wealth to be had. These stories cause one to wonder if it might not sometimes been better to die at sea than to return with no ship.