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Poop Decks: What Are They and Why Are They Called That?

If you’ve ever heard the phrase poop deck, you’ve probably wondered where it came from and what it means.

Although the phrase sounds quite amusing in English, the poop deck of a ship has nothing to do with poop. It was never used for any purpose relating to going to the bathroom but was a very important part of ship design.

What is a Poop Deck on a Ship?

A poop deck is a short, high deck of a ship, located in the aft (back) of a ship. It was traditionally used to provide a high point for observations and navigation. Most modern ships don’t have a poop deck, as it is no longer needed.

Below is a simple diagram of the poop deck of a ship.

poop deck ship

Where Does the Name Poop Deck Come From?

The name Poop Deck originated from the French word La Poupe, which means “the stern.” This refers to the Poop Deck’s location at the aft of the ship.

Many people wrongly assume that a poop deck is as the name suggests, is designed as some sort of a relief area. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

Did Sailors Poop off The Poop Deck?

Sailors didn’t poop off the poop deck. The deck’s purpose was for navigational and observation purposes and there were other locations for the sailors to use as toilets.

The poop deck would usually be occupied by officers/crew members in charge of the ship, this is the last place that the majority of crew would want to go to the toilet!

Poop Deck Name Theories

It is commonly accepted that the name originated from the French word La Poupe, meaning stern but there are often other reasons given as to why this deck is referred to as the poop deck.

One theory relates to the waves and the idea of the ship being ‘pooped’. Whether this is true in reality or just a coincidence is unclear.

When a wave comes from behind and hits the ship in such a way that water comes over the stern, the ship is said to have been pooped. But a poop deck raises the height of the stern, making it less likely that you’ll ship water from the following wave. The poop deck makes it harder to get pooped.

– source.

Below is a deck plan of a ship showing the poop deck clearly marked on the aft. This ship is the C.A. Thayer, built in California in 1895. The poop deck area is relatively small, compared to the rest of the ship.

poop deck plans
Schooner C.A. THAYER – Image: Anderson, Richard K. Jr., creator

What is The Poop Cabin on a Ship?

The cabin located under the poop deck was occasionally referred to as the poop cabin. It is located at the aft of the ship.

What is Meant by “Swabbing the Poop Deck?”

The phrase “swabbing the poop deck” relates to keeping the wood of the poop deck damp. This would help to slow decomposition and minimize the risk of fire caused by the guns, cannons, and gunpowder used onboard.

Swabbing the Poop Deck also gave the crew something to do to prevent boredom during long sailings.

Did Titanic Have a Poop Deck?

The Titanic had a poop deck which was located on deck B and was used by 3rd class passengers as outside recreational space. The Titanic’s poop deck was 128 feet long and because of its location, it was one of the last decks above the water as the Titanic went down.

On Titanic’s poop deck, there was a staircase down to the Steering Gear Room and a docking bridge.

Below is a photo of Titanic’s poop deck.

– source

titanic poop deck aft of ship
Photo: Thomas Barker from Cork Examiner

The Titanic was the last large ocean liner to be built with a Poop Deck. The Britannic which was already being built at the time of the Titanic was built without a poop deck.

What Is The Difference Between The Poop Deck and The Quarterdeck?

The Poop Deck is a smaller area than the Quarterdeck as it refers only to a specific small piece of deck located at the aft of a ship. The Quarterdeck refers to the upper deck of the ship located behind the mast of a ship, of which the Poop Deck is usually a part.

Do Modern Cruise Ships Have Poop Decks?

Modern ships are no longer built with poop decks in the traditional sense.

The poop deck used to be used as a way for superiors to watch over the ship’s crew and navigation, on modern cruise ships all navigation is done from the ship’s bridge.

As ships have increased in size the idea of having a raised deck to overview the ship became less practical and was no longer needed in the same way.

The bridge of a modern ship is located at the front of the ship, rather than the rear. Below is a photo taken from the bridge of the Royal Princess looking back at the rest of the ship.

View From The Bridge of Royal Princess
View From The Bridge of The Royal Princess

One Modern Cruise Line Has a ‘Poop Deck’ for Dogs!

Modern cruise ships don’t have poop decks in the traditional sense but you still may have heard this phrase used to describe an area of modern cruise ships.

Most cruise ships do not allow dogs or cats aboard the ship but there is one cruise line that does, Cunard Cruise Line. Cunard are a British cruise line and you can learn more about them in our recommended cruise lines post here:

On Cunard cruise ships there are “relief boxes” available for dogs to use, they are located on a service deck and are filled with mulch. Some relief boxes even come complete with a UK lampost or US fire hydrant.

Some passengers cruising with Cunard refer to this deck as the poop deck as it is where the dogs relieve themselves.

Even though most cruise lines don’t allow animals on board, they will allow service animals, so most ships have some sort of similar area. That said, this ‘poop deck’ is unlikely to be located at the aft of the ship high up, it’s more likely to be located near the promenade deck.

To Conclude

A poop deck is a high-up small deck that used to be used for navigational purposes. Modern cruise ships don’t have poop decks because they are no longer needed, the Titanic was one of the last ships to have a traditional poop deck.

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