till it came to the stern

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Senior Member
Hi people
this is cited from a novel Wellingborough Redburn by Herman Melville (in 1849)
(you can find whole text from Guttenberg.org)

In the first place, the vessel's heading was stopt; then, coiled away in a tub, like a whale-rope, the line was placed toward the after part of the quarter-deck; and one of the sailors carried the lead outside of the ship, away along to the end of the jib-boom, and at the word of command, far ahead and overboard it went, with a plunge; scraping by the side, till it came to the stern, when the line ran out of the tub like light.

My ouestion: after this line (deep sea lead which is used to sound the water) was heaved by only one sailor, did it go to the back of the ship called stern? Because Jib boom is placed on the front end of the ship as far as I know. When a lead is thrown away to the sea, it must go ahead and then sink into sea owing to its weight right?
  • Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    The ship was moving forwards, but the line needs to be vertical to the bottom for an accurate reading, so the weighted end is taken to the extreme front (the end of the jib-boom), outside all the rigging, so that after it has been released, by the time it hits the bottom, the ship will have moved forwards so it is the stern of the ship that is directly overhead.

    The scraping is from the line, not the weight itself. It might take tens of seconds for the weight to hit the bottom, maybe minutes (I have never used a deep sea leadline, so I dont know how long it takes). Most of the rope was at the back of the boat all the time (the after part of the quarterdeck).
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