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Tuesday 26 December 2017

What Is Wrong With This Steamer?

Having failed so miserably to identify the seventeen errors in What Is Wrong In This Room?, I need to try again, if only for my self-esteem. So here goes, another puzzle from my 1927 copy of Arthur Mee’s Children’s Encyclopedia: What Is Wrong With This Steamer?

Picture puzzle from Arthur Mee's Children's Encyclopedia

I am going to cruise through this because I know all about ships. I’ve got nautical blood. My great-grandpa was a master mariner and my dad used to take me to watch tide-time at Goole docks. We had books about ships, used to play with toy ships and went to see the Queen Mary sail. I’ve been on the cross channel ferry, sailed a model yacht across the West Park pond and circumnavigated Peasholm Park lake in a swan pedalo. My wife’s grandfather wrote books about sailing. It’s going to be a sea-breeze. I’m on course for a fleet of ten out of ten. So, full steam ahead Captain, all hands on deck, let’s cast off and get under way.

Just look at those Roman numerals on the bow. They are supposed to show how deep the ship is floating in the water so should obviously run from bottom to top. And while we’re looking at the bow, where is the ship’s name? As for those rope ladders up the mast, they have no rungs at the top. Easy! We’ve logged 3/3, a fair rate of knots.

Is this the calm before the storm? Sailing close to the wind, I sneak a look at the answers. I must have had only one oar in the water not to realise that portholes open inwards, not outwards, as should that square shaped hatch. Evidently it’s a scupper for draining water from the deck. That scuppered me. But is the marking scheme above board to tally these as two answers? If so, it’s only 3/5 now.

We’re into deep water. We’ll batten down the hatch and press on, but I can’t fathom out any more. The answers say that the foremast and funnels should lean backwards rather than forwards. Oh come on! You can hardly tell. It might help if the drawing was shipshape. And does it fit the bill to score these as yet another two. I’m all at sea with 3/7. 

The next ones leave us becalmed in the doldrums. The waste steam pipes should be in front of the funnels rather than at the sides – I didn’t even realise what they were – and you would really need to know the ropes to realise that ships do not lower their anchors in dock. The answers then say that the anchor-chain hole is the wrong way: presumably it should be more vertical than horizontal. All right, I didn’t spot these, but ahoy Arthur Mee, matey, don’t you know that an “anchor-chain hole” is correctly called a hawsehole? I’ll hazard that every nineteen-twenties child would have known that. I should get extra credit, even if I only remembered it because it sounds rude. I’m sunk with 3/10.

But what’s this – an eleventh answer, or is it thirteen? It said there were only ten. There are no ventilators (those sticking up tuba shaped things you see on ships). Nor are there any halyards or foretop-mast stays. No what? I’ve had to google those. It’s beginning to sound like a verse from What Shall We Do With A Drunken Sailor.

Well, I’m pooped. Shiver my timbers. That’s taken the wind out of my sails. But if Arthur Mee is going to take us aback with supernumerary answers, then I should get my extra hawsehole mark, so 4/11, or 36%. In my university days that would have been a refer grade. I demand another re-sit, to start again with a clean slate. I’m up in the crow’s nest on look out for another puzzle.

Answers to picture puzzle from Arthur Mee's Children's Encyclopedia


  1. I didn't think about the name. I thought something was amiss with that square "porthole" opening like that. I noticed the numbers reading the wrong way, as for the funnels I would have guessed they should lean back, but the picture's perspective doesn't give this away. I thought having masts and funnels was odd since the masts seem to be for sails, and I thought there was something wrong with the cabin.

    1. I think that ships like this had masts in order to anchor the derricks (crane-like lifting devices) but this ship has no derricks. The cabin does look odd but I think 1920s ships would have had fairly open cabins like this on the bridge. Perhaps by Volume 9 they were struggling for new puzzles. I'm planning to seek out an earlier one and have a go at that. Watch this space.


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