The ship's biscuit was well known for being infested with weevils and while some hardened sailors probably saw the weevils as extra nourishment, for some new chap on board it would be pretty revolting to find these things walking about on his food.
There were also some pretty horrendous punishments of which flogging with the cat- o'-nine-tails (above) was the most common. It had a wooden handle, attached to nine, twisted, rope strops with a knot at each end. This could be inflicted for something quite trivial including bad language, being late onto your watch or not getting up the rigging fast enough.
Today people see the surviving ships scrubbed and clean and they don't always realise the type of life the sailors led, how really terrible it could be.
Lesley Thomas is the Head of Exhibits for the Royal Naval Museum, HM Naval Base, Portsmouth (0705 733060)Reuse content