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Writing Workshop: Why “Snipe Wife”?

April 27, 2011

6.) Tell us the story behind the title of your blog. What is it? What inspired it? What other options did you consider? Are you happy with it?

Okay, I’m going to cheat. I don’t Vlog—would kind of go against being anonymous if people saw me—so I’ll just answer this and chalk it up to providing some more miscellaneous maritime information.

I honestly cannot remember where or when I heard of “snipe” in reference to DH’s job… could have been a former classmate of his that in such a small world I ran into at the school I attended saying something like “Oh, he’s a Snipe!”. I remember asking DH what a “snipe” was and he said that it was a derogatory term for an engineer. It’s one of those things where the engineers are proud of the moniker but no one else better call them that.

I asked him why engineers are called snipes and what’s so bad about it. “Think dwarf or troll like creature that lives underground and fixes thing. We engineers are down in the belly of the ship—often we don’t come up top.” I kind of like to think the part about “fixes things” makes them benevolent and nice rather than trollish. I know DH is.

According to the very little information on the web I could find, engineers were originally called snipes after a man named John Snipe. There is a huge rivalry between deck and engine—who gets to be in control, which is more important: the one who can navigate or the one that can kill the engine? When the age of sail died and the need for skilled men below decks keeping the fires burning became a quandary and challenge to authority, John Snipes stood up for his men and got them better treatment. The following is a link to the only story on the web that covers this account. It’s not even on Wikipedia so I don’t know if it is an embellished sea story or not.

http://www.fcgh.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=108:why-engineers-are-referred-to-as-snipes&catid=31:light-stations&Itemid=27

Just some more engineer information… in the civilian merchant marine it appears each company determines the order of seniority for command. DH’s company has the Chief Engineer directly under the Captain or Master. An engineer can obtain the rank of Master but only if he holds dual licenses. From what I’ve seen of Deadliest Catch the engineer is usually tagged as “engineer/deck hand” and I haven’t watched the show enough to know who is really second in command on those vessels. The chief engineer on the Maersk Alabama is the third in command, falling in line behind the Chief Mate. But he held an awful lot of power in his hands during the hijacking.

The Maersk Alabama was built with a redundant bridge down in the engineering compartments. This system allowed the chief to take control of the vessel from the hijackers. I asked DH about this and his ships. “I don’t have a second bridge but I can cut the power and make the ship dead in the water.” Isn’t that the lesson John Snipes was trying to teach his captain? (see above link)

It kind of gives you new respect for Scotty and Geordie LaForge, doesn’t it? I asked a Trekker friend of mine (who has given up his Klingon ways for piracy, btw) to confirm that I had seen this secondary bridge in action on the famed futuristic vessel Enterprise. He said,

“There was a secondary bridge on the original Enterprise, as well as a battle bridge on Enterprise D but if necessary, Engineering could become a back-up bridge.

In theory, given that the control panels on Enterprise D and later incarnations are supposed to be immediately adaptable for any function, one could assume that one could control the ship from any control panel on the ship, or from a mock bridge on the holodeck (as the holo version of Moriarity was able to do).”

Engineers also were more likely to go down with the ship, being “in the hole.” I had a hard time watching Titanic for a few reasons (really people, we know how it is going to end and it’s not good nor will it ever change!). Prior to the movie I had done a quite a bit of online information gathering and had discovered that “All 30 engineer and electrical engineers perished. They were true heroes who stayed down below until almost the end trying to keep the ship afloat and the electrical system working.” http://www.ithaca.edu/staff/jhenderson/titanic.html

The movie had only been released in 1997 and I was still a relative newlywed. I did not like thinking of how doomed DH would be in such a situation.

This is a great anonymous poem about the Snipes, the men who sail below. http://salamonie.homestead.com/snipes.html

I am proud of my engineer. I’ve used Snipe Wife as my alter ego for a while. I also would like to write about being The Mariner’s Wife. I haven’t seen too much out there with either usage so hopefully I’ll be ahead of the game. My blog name seems to be unique (I have found a Navy site for Snipe Moms but nothing much else has come up on a random search). I hope it makes me stand out and as time goes by my posts and unique name will draw in more readers.

Writing Prompts:

1.) Describe a time you spoke up for someone who couldn’t speak up for themselves.
2.) The Royal Wedding…ten gift ideas.
3.) What is going on in the bedroom? Describe a memorable sleeper.
4.) Photo Story: Take a walk through your neighborhood this week and share some pictures of what Spring looks like where you live.
5.) Something embarrassing that happened at school.

Bonus Vlog Option!
Sometimes it’s hard to put yourself out there on video, but it’s a fun and different option for a post and a great way for your readers to get to know you better. The problem is many of us don’t know what to vlog about…this bonus prompt option will give you the inspiration you need to create a short video for your blog. Now to drum up the courage…

6.) Tell us the story behind the title of your blog. What is it? What inspired it? What other options did you consider? Are you happy with it?

If you want to know more about Mama Kat’s Writing Workshop, click on that trophy over there….

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