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.