As a point of perspective, a United States nuclear powered aircraft carrier requires a crew of more than 6,000 people to successfully carry out its mission. Men and women alike fulfill a number of essential duties, from maintenance of the ship to the administrative support of those 6,000 people. That makes the aircraft carrier a floating city with a military mission.
Compare this to the wooden masted ship with sails that was the standard ocean going vessel of just a few hundred years ago. When there was no wind, members of the crew would row their way to their destination. Beer was stored in place of water because the water would go bad during the journey. Women were passengers and were not considered to be an essential part of the crew of the ship.
The most prominent person on a ship is the captain. But it has been said that a captain without a crew is really not a captain at all. Likewise, a crew without a captain is likely to go of course. When it comes to how a ship’s crew works, it is clear that both captain and crew need each other for survival. If you are wondering why mutiny aboard any ship is such a serious offense, you now have your answer.
Whether you are talking about sailing ships or nuclear powered vessels, it is clear that there need to be people who steer the ship, keep the ship safely powered, cook the food, clean up the messes, and generally keep the ship safe. Everyone must believe themselves to be a part of the team that will get them to arrive safely to their destination.
The captain of a ship must have a knowledge of the weather dangers, how to navigate the direction of the ship, and how to manage the crew that he is responsible for. The idea of a captain going down with his ship comes from the idea that everything that happens under him is his responsibility, and that his lack of preparedness to foresee situations that would endanger the ship is morally punishable by his death. The iceberg that sank the infamous Titanic is easily seen in retrospect, but it can be asked whether the captain should have seen it coming.
Every member of a ship’s crew has a specific responsibility and duty to perform. Failure to perform that duty can result in an endangered ship. Many positions of a crew member are learned by other crew members in the event something goes wrong, such as a crew member unexpectedly dying. Everyone knows these realities before coming aboard a ship. If you don’t have a function on the ship, then you are a passenger.
Those who sign on to become a member of a ship’s crew knows that the worst case scenario is being lost at sea with a limited food supply. The entire crew does everything to avoid this from ever happening. If you believe this is something that is relegated to the days of wooden masted ships, think again. Only a few years ago a Carnival cruise ship lost power and the most critical concern was – food. The toilets backed up and the passengers were miserable, but the crew continued performing their duties. It’s always about teamwork and each crew member performing their agreed responsibilities to the best of their ability.
When we think of history we most often think about lots and lots of books, letters, and oral traditions that have been passed down and finally recorded for future generations. Then there are the artifacts, and determining whether they are genuine or are frauds intended to deceive people from the truth.
The problem with history in general is that determining the truth itself can be very challenging. All history actually comes from people, whose memories, customs, and traditions have changed over the years. The further you are from the time of a historical event, the more difficult it is to find the truth simply because of the amount of time that has passed. Memories fade and events recorded in the mind are rearranged based on any of 100 or more factors.
Then there are the socioeconomic issues that have us understanding history from a historical bias. The issue of literacy 500 or 100 or more years ago is huge because there was a time when only royalty in many cultures were able to read and write. This does not mean they were recording their perspectives for history in a diary, so history often reflects the life and culture of a people from the perspective of the upper class members of society.
These realities mean that even when we think we have the whole story to an event, we need to see if the facts have been accurately recorded from all members of the social and economic cultures in a society, not just one. Many times the artifacts speak to us without a single letter inscribed on the object. Scientific investigation and technology have allowed historians to gather important information that confirms or clouds the lessons of history.
All this requires a true historical to constantly challenge their views until all the evidence has been gathered. But usually there is new evidence that appears that changes the meaning of the current evidence. One of the misunderstandings about history is that it is less about people, and more about events. But it is the people who made those events possible. Documentation from eyewitnesses and documents that were thought never to have existed turn up regularly. We can never be sure what box of letters may be found on an unknown island or what someone uncovers from going through that old trunk in the attic.
Perhaps the greatest challenge of learning history is that we can never be certain to have the complete story. In days gone by, history was taught as a facts and figures discipline. Names, dates, places, and events were what most people learned in school. Fortunately, there has been a shift to focusing on the people who made history possible, and those who were recording it. History has become somewhat of a moving target to learn about, as it changes with every new discovery. History has been ignored in favor of technology and the latest Internet viral video, and the challenge may be to realize how relevant history is to our lives and to those around the world.