Ship-board Diary of Thomas Reid
Courtesy of the Wallace Early Settlers Museum, Riverton
Diary of Thomas Reid who sailed to Bluff, New Zealand, in the
Robert Henderson; leaving Glasgow on the 10th of June, 1862, ending
his journey at Dunedin on the 17th of November, 1862.
Having decided to go to Otago, New Zealand, I took passage on board
the ship Robert Henderson of Glasgow, to sail from that port on the
10th of June 1862.
To wile away the listless, monstrous life on board, I conceived the
idea of keeping a short account of what passed on board, our daily
progress if possible, and anything worth narrating. Whatever interest
it may have to the reader I can assure her or him that it was a
pleasant way of passing a short time every day to write this: it
seemed as if an invisible link between myself and those I left
behind, thus to let them know something of what passed on board day
Before commencing my diary, I may mention that this is only a copy
of the original, which was written in pencil and owing to the rolling
of the vessel and the dim light ‘tween decks, is a prodigy in writing
which sometimes puzzles the writer to make sense of.
10th June - Sailed from the quay at Glasgow at a few minutes past
9am, punctual to time. Was accompanied to the ship’s side by my uncle
and other friends. Dropped down the river in tow of steamer, many of
our fellow passengers being left behind. The excitement of the scene
kept me from thinking much of those I had left behind, and I had
scarcely recovered from the bewilderment the bustle has caused me
when we came to an anchor off Greenock about 12 noon.
Shortly afterwards had our dinner served out to us, and such a
crush for a meal I never saw; it reminded one of a theatre door on a
Saturday night, everyone striving to be first served. It consisted of
preserved soup and was passable good. During the afternoon there were
some heavy showers. Those left behind found their way down during the
day, and we were expecting the visit of the Government Inspector,
whose duty it is to inspect everything and everybody on board;
however he did not make his appearance today.
Busy preparing for our nights rest. Our beds will be very awkward;
they are placed thwart ships - that is we lie with our head or feet
to the ships side. There are two ranges on each side, one above the
other. My bunk is on the lower range and between it and the one above
me I cannot sit up so that it requires a kind of sidling motion to
get in. Between each bed is one thin board only, so that when all are
in bed the berths look like one enormous bed stretching the whole
length of the ship, excepting where the divisions between the married
and single are.
11th June - Today it blows a gale of wind, but being at anchor it has
no effect on us. The rain pours in torrents; two steamers attempted
to come along-side but the heavy sea threatened to knock them to
pieces against our ship’s side, so they returned to Greenock and we
had no communication with the shore. No word of the Inspector today.
I find there is nobody on board that I have the least acquaintance
with, so I have the prospect of a three months voyage without one I
could call friend, but no doubt I will be able to make some
acquaintances. The passengers amoung the young men at least, appear
to be pretty equally divided between agreeable and disagreeable
12th June - Anchor was hove short this morning and about midday the
Inspector came; his work was a mere form - he never looked at any of
us. After he left us we got the anchor up and were towed out to sea.
When passing Millport Lighthouse a bag was hung up under the poop for
letters and with the words closed this evening at 11 o’clock. I
gladly availed myself of the last opportunity to write to my friends
for three very weary months.
13th June - Was aroused this morning with the intelligence that the
ROBERT HENDERSON was alone in his glory. During the night the pilot
and tug had left us, taking away our letters with them.
When I came on deck we were going under easy sail down the North
Channel with very little wind. During the day we were off the Isle of
Man, with the coast of Ireland also in sight on our starboard side.
The wind suddenly shifted and `bout ship` was the order and off back
we went. Sighted Ailsa Craig before 6pm, and sighted the Mull of
Cantyre right ahead; we left the Mull on the starboard quarter to go
round the north and west of Ireland, in hopes of catching better
winds. (we afterwards went back through the Channel, the wind
Today a great assortment of musicians made their first appearance -
namely 5 concertinas, 5 fiddles, 1 flute and bagpipes the owner of
which exquisite instrument posted himself on the top of the
deck-house, and discoursed anything but sweet music. The day was very
pleasant, and nobody has been sick yet that I can see or hear of.
14th June - Awoke this morning about one o’clock and found that the
ship was pitching heavily; several of my neighbours sick determined
to lie still and fell asleep. I woke again before daylight in a
wretched state, but lay quiet as I found I was best that way. We
begin to know what it means to be in a wet ship. Today we went a long
way but made little progress, the wind being ahead and blowing hard;
ship taking slight seas aboard which wet all who ventured on deck.
15th June - Very poorly today, I never would have thought that a few
hours sea-sickness would have weakened me so much. However I am glad
it is over, though I expect to have a return when it is rough weather
as I got too easy off.
This is the first Sabbath at sea, and in the afternoon we had a
service, or rather a prayer meeting conducted by one of the married
men. The day has been fine and calm, and most of the passengers were
engaged in reading: for myself I could scarcely hold up my head.
As night was closing we saw the last of our native land, and
launched out on the wide Atlantic, whose rough breast is to be our
home for the next six weeks if all be well.
16th June - Nearly better again this morning, but find it impossible
to take the ship’s meat. This is the time to prove the value of little
tit-bits brought from home; for my part I loathe everything made
aboard the ship. I have eaten nothing since Friday except a morsel of
scone that I brought from home. Today one of my messmates, a nice
young chap called Archy Whiteford brought me a scone he had baked with
the flour we get on board; it was hot, and I ate it like a hungry dog.
17th June - I feel very little better today.
We are going well about 9 knots an hour; that is rather more than 9
Spoke a French barque this morning.
18th June - This morning we are skirting the Bay of Biscay, with
nothing but the blue above and the blue below. Since we left the land
the water which was green has turned to a deep blue nearly indigo
colour. Nothing going on worth noting.
We spoke an English barque the JOHN PEARCE today.
I feel still out of sorts though not sea-sick. I have not cost the
ship a copper since Friday, till today, managed a bit of tough salt
beef, it is both steeped and boiled in salt-water, and our duff the
19th June - A shoal of porpoises passed us this morning; they are a
fish about six feet long and not unlike a pig about the head. When
moving about from place to place, they leap out of the water and chase
each other in a most laughable manner.
Passed a foreign barque, the SHANE and exchanged signals. We also
passed a ship called the SURPRISE bound from London to California,
during last night. There is but little wind today and the ship is
rolling about in a disagreeable way. I would like to know our
whereabouts every day or two, but we can place no dependance on
anything the crew say to us.
20th June - We have been running before a north wind for the last two
days with all square sails set, the fore and aft ones being useless.
The vessel rolls fearfully when the wind is following right after her;
her best and most comfortable sailing point being with the wind on the
quarter or more to one side.
The sun is getting much stronger and the days shorter than at home:
by the time we reach the line it will be dark from 6pm till 6am. I can
sleep 12 hours in a stretch on board ship. I suppose the reasons are
the rocking motion of the vessel, and the bad air which has a tendency
to make one sleep.
Today our steward, an old sailor, came down with a bucket of
Chloride of Lime and sprinkled the floor; its use is to keep down
smell and freshen the air, to keep away fevers and suchlike.
We have some very annoying rules on board here, we have to sit up,
two every night for four hours each, to watch that the lanterns burn
right, although if anything went wrong with them we are helpless to
set it right as they are padlocked. There are two in our place which
burn all night. We have also to clean out our place every day, each
mess taking day about, then we have to pump the fresh water from the
casks to the iron tanks. We are expected to be up and washed by 7am
and in bed by 10pm at night, like prisoners.
Our three quarts of water have come down to three pints too.
21st June - This morning broke dull and hazy, but it is a splendid
day. We have a good steady breeze on our port quarter and going about
8 knots. The breeze is cold when the sun is down. I spend most of my
time on the forecastle, reading, or sleeping if there is nobody to
speak to. There are generally about twenty stretched out on this part
of the vessel enjoying a snooze.
I tried oatmeal brose for breakfast, but it is sheer hunger that
makes me sup them, for the meal is very bad.
I have been thinking of the events of this day fortnight, and what
has happened since.
At night a few of us gathered on the forecastle and had a song
round, and afterwards it was agreed to form a singing party for our
22nd June - This morning (being Sabbath) we had service on the poop at
ten o’clock, and also at three, on deck.
We are within a short distance of the Madeira Islands in Lat 36’N,
Long 16’W. The heat is getting very oppressive as we go south,
especially between decks at night. Whatever objection we may have to
the crowded state of the ship we can say nothing against the Captain
who does what he can to keep us comfortable, and what is more
We are beating every ship we see, having passed a barque that left
Glasgow 13 days before us.
Today I relished my dinner better than usual, it was preserved fresh
beef and plum duff.
23rd June - I propose today to give a slight sketch of everyday life
on board ship.
Well, we rise in the morning at 7am, take a basin, soap and towel,
and go on deck to wash, a slow and unsatisfactory process when marine
soap is used. This operation finished, down we go and finish dressing,
a very easy affair this warm weather; my own dress is cap, shirt and
trousers, boots and stockings we are ignorant of since we came here.
As it draws near 8 o’clock we draw near our mess-man; there are ten
in each mess and we take week about looking after the grub, cooking,
etc. Whoever it is, he gives out the common stores to each what he
wants. Tea is made in a style that would fill tea drinking old-maids
with horror; a hand-full or two of tea is thrown into a big pitcher
and taken up to the galley, where hot water is poured over it to serve
ten, it is then brought down and commenced to at once, being generally
about two minutes from the time it is infused till it is drinking.
After breakfast we can do as we like, excepting on Monday and
Thursday when we have to take our beds on deck to air, or when it
happens to be the mess’s cleaning day. In that case the floor is
scraped and swept after breakfast, dinner and tea time. About 12
o’clock we get dinner, not many varieties; preserved meat and duff on
Sundays, salt beef and preserved potatoes on Monday, rice on Tuesday,
pea soup and pork on Wednesday and Saturday, salt beef and rice on
Thursday and Friday.
After dinner we dangle our heels over the side till tea time, or
anything else we fancy.
After tea the sailors do something to amuse themselves and us till
8pm when they go to bed, having to be up at 12 again. About 10pm we
disappear down the hatchway, though rather reluctantly, for the hot
sickening stench from 112 men cooped up in a place about 50 feet long
is very disagreeable, not to say unhealthy. We are not long in shaking
up our hard straw and shaving beds and creeping in. Rocked in the
cradle of the deep we speedily tumble off to sleep, and thus ends our
day, to be followed by another the same, unless when a passing vessel
causes a commotion and then I am nearly torn to pieces for my
telescope, everybody wanting it at once.
A meeting of the "Darkies" was held today and I enrolled myself to
help in the sport. There are twelve singers and two fiddles and a bass
one, so if we do not give good music we will at least make plenty of
noise. The Captain has given us sheep-skin to make woolly heads, brass
for cymbals, leather for a tambourine, and is to provide a place for
Passed Madiera this morning at a great distance so we did not see
much of it, what we saw appeared very hilly. We saw three ships, but
we passed them all as they were going the same road.
24th June - Today is the second week since we left Glasgow, and I must
say I have had enough of sea life, it is the idle aimless life we lead
on board that makes us weary so much.
We passed the brig SARAH of Newport, bound from there to Rio De
Janeiro in South America 24 days out.
Had a rehearsal today for Saturday’s concert, but as we have no
private place to practice, everyone knows our songs and the little
boys are singing them all over the ship.
The weather is fine though fearfully hot, with beautiful skies which
attract Scotch folks greatly.
In the afternoon an invitation was sent to our singing club to go
aft to the cabin and hear a concert given by the cabin passengers.
Along with a few more I got dressed and went; the concert was a very
poor affair, two young ladies, the Misses Wallace doing nearly the
whole of it, one of them playing the harmonium. After the concert was
over we had a refreshment and "a drop o’ the cratur". After presenting
thanks for the invitation we left.
On coming out of the cabin we were struck by the beauty of the
night; the countless stars were shining brilliantly and the cool
breeze was coming across the wide waters, making the evening so
pleasant that I stayed on deck till two.
25th June - Some of the passengers had a strange bath this morning,
the decks are washed every morning with a small fire engine, and they
got the water played on them. I prefer to go out to the night heads
after dark and get a few buckets of water thrown over me.
We have had very little wind and it has been hotter than ever today;
everybody is knocked up with the heat. As there is nothing going on I
will try to give some description of our ship.
The ROBERT HENDERSON, Captain Peter Logan, is a full rigged Aberdeen
clipper-ship of 552 tons register. She is now on her fourth voyage to
Otago and is famous for her quick (and I wish I could say comfortable)
passages of 79, 93, and 84 days, the usual time being 100 to 130 days.
Of cargo the ship has little or none besides passengers luggage. Of
course there is a great deal of water and provisions on board, which
take up a good deal of room. On deck in the bow of the ship is a
raised or top-gallant forecastle about 25 feet long; immediately
behind this is the fore-mast, and the entrance to our blackhole. It
will be almost impossible for me to give any idea of this fearful
place, but I will try.
Through one of the common cargo hatchways we go down a rickety
affair meant for a ladder; on getting to the bottom of it and looking
past the fore-mast which stands at the foot, is a great pile of chests
and a few bunks. Looking aft is the larger part of our den; in the
middle is a ricket of flooring boards meant for a table, which is
always piled with water cans, basins, pannikins and other lumber, down
the sides and below the table are rows of chests, and being every size
they don’t make a very straight line. In a line with the table, along
the sides of the vessel are the beds in fron of which are other rows
of chests, which serve for dressing table, dining, sitting room and
general stores to their owners. From the roof are hung all kinds of
tinware, dress etcetera; the deck beneath us is always slippery and
On deck immediately over us is a deck house, in which are the cook’s
galley, hospital, oil-room, and some of the crew also sleep there.
Through a hole or shaft in the house comes all the daylight we get,
except what comes from the hatchway, and two deadlights in the deck;
there are no sidelights. The married folks are no better than us; they
are between us and the young women, of whom there are 36; very so and
so pieces; excepting two or three of us, none take any notice of them.
26th June - Today we are in Lat.26’N, Long.21’W the sun almost above
our heads and fearfully hot, which makes us glad to stay below, bad as
it is. Had another rehearsal for Saturday, and I think we shall not do
so bad if we don’t stick.
27th June - Nothing going on but the ship. The heat is our great
trouble just now; after the sun is down we swarm the deck and have
pleasant singing parties to pass the evening.
This hot weather has completely knocked me up, I am not ill, but I
am not well, I can eat very little, and if any friends were to see me
now they would think I had risen from the grave. It is very hard to
keep up one’s heart in this listless kind of life, but I must just
keep up for the good times coming. It would take a man brought up a
beggar to relish this dog’s meat fare.
28th June - Another melting day. In the afternoon we held our concert
for which we had sketched some bills in ink. It passed off well, the
rigging was crowded with the crew and passengers. We were all mostly
dressed in white shirts and trousers, with a sash or belt and an
enormous straw hat, our faces blackened with burnt cork. I made a very
‘spectible nigga’ and was scarcely known by one, the question being at
all hands "who’s that?", for answer I made some comical face and from
the laughing I suppose I made a very complete fool of myself to amuse
other people. After it was done most of the choir made up their minds
to get drunk, which will spoil our concerts for the future.
29th June - Being Sabbath the usual service was held on the poop at 10
For the last two days we have seen some solitary flying fish, but
this morning the number is perfectly astonishing. They rush out from
the ship as she advances, whitening the water as they fly. They
generally fly about 40 yards, clear of the water and at great speed;
they are much like a herring but more "blae" in colour, and have two
long fins, or rather wings. Their great enemies are the bonita and the
dolphin from which they fly in great confusion. One of them flew on
board during the night and one of the sailors picked it up this
Saw two vessels at a great distance as the day was closing, we will
be far ahead of them in the morning.
Darkness falls directly the sun goes down, and that it does very
quickly, for we can see it visibly descending. We have now arrived in
the latitude of the trade winds which blow from the north-east all the
year round; it generally blows hardest during the night, we have never
had a dead calm yet.
30th June - All very quiet today, and seeking shady places under the
sails; multitudes of flying fish about. The thermometer stood at 80’
in our black hole today. A very heavy dew falls here at night, wetting
the deck like rain.
A strong breeze sprung up in the afternoon and is taking us along at
Author’s note. An awkward affair happened to me at this time in the
loss of my notebook; after nearly a month without it I found it in the
fold of a shirt in my trunk. For the short notes which follow I am
indebited to my friend Archy Whiteford.
1st July Nothing particular occurred this day: During the night was
running 12 knots.
2nd July In 10’N today, steering S.W. with a fair steady breeze.
Passed a ship at dusk which showed flashlights to prevent us running
foul in the dark.
3rd July - A sort of eventful day as we saw no less than six vessels:
One we passed in the morning and signaled in the usual way, she was
from Liverpool bound for Melbourne and 43 days at sea, we have been
only 21 days today.
In the evening the second cabin passengers entertained us with a
concert on the poop, but it was but thinly attended, somehow the
different classes do not "souther" well. There are no first cabin
passengers on board and these ones are in first class berths.
4th July - In 6’N. Passed a vessel far off, home-ward bound. Heat
oppressive, occasional showers.
5th July - Saw another homeward bound vessel, and about 9 o’clock a
barque passed close by called the HOMEWARD BOUND, from Callao to
Hamburg with guano. She passed so close that we spoke to them and they
promised to report us.
Sea very rough, and a good many sick; we were to have had a concert
today but it was postponed on that account.
6th July - 2’52"N.Lat, 25’49"W.Long. Sea much the same as yesterday:
Services as usual.
7th July - Almost a dead calm today, wind puffing from all quarters
but a light breeze sprung up after dark. We expect to catch the
South-East trade winds soon, and then we will make a fresh start.
The concert came off today but I was not as well as I could wish,
and did not offer my services. They are carried on in a very tame
manner and will die a natural death before long.
8th July - Caught a shark this afternoon with a large hook baited with
salt pork. When the ugly monster was hauled on deck of course the
women began to squeal; one in her fright fell down the poop stairs,
making anything but a graceful descent and to her horror closely
followed by madam shark rolling about in all directions and tripping
up the unfortunates whose curiosity had overcome their discretion.
After the tail was cut off she soon died, and on dissecting her we
found 5 young sharkies, 3 of which lived in a tub for some time after.
The backbone was claimed by the Captain for a walking stick, and in
two hours after, the very women who were so much afraid of it in life
were sitting eating great junks of it’s coarse flavoured flesh which
they had almost been fighting to get. The shark was about 9 feet long.
Ship rolling about helplessly, not exactly becalmed but next door to
it; the heat is intense without wind. We are now close to the line.
9th July - Saw a vessel ahead this morning, passed her in the
afternoon, proved to be the ship HANOVER bound from London to Auckland
N.Z. 34 days out. She is a large ship and has a large number of
passengers, part of 1000 who are going out to found a new colony in
New Zealand, called "Albertland". They are nonconformists.
Crossed the line about mid-day and so nice was the calculation that
we found we were two miles south and the HANOVER tow miles north of it
at twelve noon.
After dark the seamen performed a ceremony called throwing the "dead
horse" overboard. This is done on the night of the last day of the
month after leaving port. The only reason I can give for it is that
tomorrow their pay begins; they having got a month in advance before
sailing so that tonight all old scores are struck out, or in other
words they get rid of their "old horse". The first operation is haul a
sack filled with rubbish out of their sleeping place on to the main
deck, a line is then made fast to it and it is run up to the end of
the foreyard, an outlandish song being sung all the time. A smart pull
is given to the rope and the "old horse" drops into the waves and is
soon left far behind amid the cheers and cries of all on board.
Another performance commenced after, namely, shaving those who had
never crossed the line before. This the sailors did among themselves
at first, but running out of customers, they seized some of the
passengers, more especially those with big beards. Their lather was
tar and the razor a broken blade of an oar about 4 feet long. A
question was asked such as "where were you born?", If the unfortunate
opened his mouth to answer he got the tar brush therein.
10th July - Lat.4’14"S HANOVER far astern.
11th July - Today a raffle was held; the article being a gun, a very
coarse one, and of course it went off well. Much cooler; we are now a
little to the south of the sun at mid-day.
12th July - Nothing worth while going on. Dark at six but as the moon
is full the nights are beautiful.
We have now lost sight of the north pole-star, but the Plough is
still visible far behind.
13th July - Lat 10’s, Long 32’W. Services as usual.
14th July - Raffles are now the order of the day. Today, two watches,
gold and silver, gun, concertina, a pair of boots and a beaver hat
found ready competition.
15th July - Great scarcity of novelty now and of course of things
worth telling. Dark at half past five and scarcely daylight at six in
16th July - Ship passed us this morning at four o’clock.
Weather getting pleasantly cool; we are fast getting into the
Southern winter, which is the same months as the home summer.
17th July - Lat 23’S, today. We are bowling along first rate with a
stiff breeze. Vessel in sight at dusk for a few minutes.
18th July - Very rough and some sea-sick; I am glad to say I have got
over it. Lat 27’S.
19th July - Today we saw the first of the Cape Pigeons; a bird not
unlike a pigeon but larger and with webbed feet. The head is black,
black and white piebald wings with white breast and black legs and
The cold morning and night is getting disagreeable, especially as it
is not a fortnight since I have cross the line. Lat 30’S, Long 25’W.
20th July - This is the most disagreeable day we have had yet; a cold
drizzling rain fell all day, with squalls which give the sailors
plenty of work.
The sea-birds are thickening round us now; there now three kinds,
Cape Pigeon, Cape Hen, and another large one not unlike a Crow.
21st July - Found my notebook. Several fishing for birds, one caught a
pigeon; they caught with a piece of twine and a hook or bent pin,
baited with fat. When set down on the deck it was quite helpless owing
to the length of its wings, which beat on the deck when it attempted
Sharp frost in the morning but it is pleasanter than rain.
A ship in sight all day to windward, the first that has held it’s
ground against us since we sailed.
I can eat like a horse now.
22nd July - Yesterday and today the wind has been dead south and we
are tacking from east to west to make the most of it.
Some more pigeons caught today. Saw the same ship on our port bow on
the tack; signaled her and she turned out to be the RESULT, from
London to Melbourne, 37 days from Plymouth. As this ship is celebrated
for her extraordinary speed, it is likely she will beat us as the wind
is rising and ROBBY HENDERSON can’t stand wind of that strength
without taking in sail; that is one of her faults. Turned in expecting
to see the RESULT ahead tomorrow. Well there never was a good but what
there was a better.
23rd July - I rise pretty early, an accomplishment I never was
celebrated for at home, but here I manage generally to rise in time to
see sunrise, about 6am. Saw the RESULT this morning about 5 miles
astern; we packed on sail but in the afternoon the wind freshened and
we had to take in sail while the RESULT which is a heavy ship, was
setting top-gallant studding sails. The night closing in we lost sight
of her, when she was drawing away to leeward running free to beat us.
The day fine though cold. Lat 34’25", Long 11’W.
24th July - At daybreak this morning we made out the RESULT about 3
miles ahead; we have little chance to beat her now unless the breeze
falls a bit. There is a heavy sea running today, but anybody going to
sea expecting to meet with waves mountain high, will be disappointed,
perhaps agreeably. Our little ship rides over them like a duck. Wind
north and right astern; going 11 ˝ knots all day, and 9 ˝ at night. It
rained heavy all day and we soon lost the RESULT.
25th July - Roused about 12 last night, and found the ship flying from
side to side with a fearful swing, which was like to shy us out of our
bunks. To sleep was impossible and I lay rocking head up heels up till
morning, thinking it was a rough opening to my twenty-first birthday.
No rougher God knows than my life for the future is to be. I was very
dull all day and my thoughts were anything but pleasant, to think that
instead of having my own, I am out on the wide ocean, a homeless
wanderer. Well, there is enough of grumbling, lets hope there is a
good time coming.
Saw a ship ahead and thought it was the RESULT, however she steered
away to leeward going east.
26th July - Weather very cold, and to add to our discomfort the deck
is always in a swim with water, so that it is impossible to keep our
feet dry; if we wish to walk for exercise she rolls so much that we
are thrown across the deck or against the bulwark every minute or two.
If you are inclined to think that we have not got our sea-legs, I can
only say she sometimes plays the same trick to our oldest sailors.
27th July - Another wild night and miserable day; rain and wind with
an occasional wave to wet us thoroughly and make us wish we had her
snug in N.Z., and out of her.
About 4pm they began to shorten sail, and before dark were hugging a
wild Cape gale with close-reefed topsails, fore staysail and main
spanker, the great waves rising on each side as if to meet over us and
swallow us up. In an instant we would be on the top of an immense wave
then down like an arrow into the next one. I thought the bed would be
the best place and popped off to it, but shortly after, the deck began
to leak above me, and the beds which are very slumly put up, began to
creak and groan as she rolled like a thousand old baskets.
28th July - Little better weather today but we scarcely shipped so
much water. A sail way to leeward at daybreak, popping up and down
like ourselves but we can scarcely see her rigging above the waves.
She gradually drifted away to leeward apparently unable to keep so
close to the wind as we do. Our position today is Lat 39’S, Long 1’E.
29th July - By our longitude yesterday it will be seen that we have
now crossed the meridian of Greenwich, and our time is the same as at
home, but sailing east and as it were, meeting the sun every day, by
the time we get to N.Z. there will be 11 ˝ hrs of difference, thus at
twelve noon on Monday there it is half past twelve on Sunday night at
When I woke this morning I was sensible of a great change for the
better in the motion of the ship. On going on deck I found the morning
clear and frosty with the breeze more favourable. It takes a good deal
of clothes to keep one warm here. The sea continues to run high
although the wind has fallen, and occasionally a sea hits our
broadside with a thump that sends us reeling. Lat 38’S, Long 7’E.
30th July - Today we are running before the wind at a rate. The sea
rising again and it is a grand sight to stand on the fore-castle and
look over the heaving wilderness of waters untenanted by aught but the
screaming wild seabirds and our little barque. From hill to valley,
valley to hill, we hold on our way. We are turning the last corner and
are now sailing direct for the land we are going to. Of course there
are many speculations as to how long we will be yet on the water. Lat
39’S, Long 11’E.
I am glad to be able to note down that there is no sickness on
board, and so little fear of it, that the hospital has been turned
into the carpenters shop. Instead of an decrease we expect to have an
increase in our number before we reach N.Z..
31st July - We were awakened last night by a tremendous shock which
made the ship tremble like a leaf; we soon found out the cause; a sea
had struck her. Anyone may fancy the painful sensation we felt on
being awakened out of our sleep by a sudden shock, and before
thoroughly wakened, to see the water pouring down the hatchway in a
solid body, and seemingly without end. Our first impression was that
she was sinking, but the sailors as soon as they could get, sung out
down the hatchway ‘all right’. It may have been so on deck, but it was
not, down with us for there is no place for the water to run, and it
runs backward and forward across the deck lashing up against our
chests. I am beginning to get afraid of the day mine will be opened
out to the bottom. After the sea came on board we passed a very
miserable night, some had got all their clothes wet, tins were flying
about, some with water in them, afraid to go on deck as the seas were
coming rolling on board wetting all on deck, the ship flying from side
to side at a fearful rate with only fore-sail and fore and main
top-sails set, running before the wind. We are very uncomfortable,
cooped up like sheep, wet on deck and wet below, the water dropping
from the roof above on our heads and into our plates as we sit at
dinner, and also into our beds, our feet always wet and the weather
very cold, like winter at home, continually at the risk of broken
limbs from the chests coming over the cleats placed before them, and
also from the rolling of the ship, which is quite common for her to do
till the bell which is nearly 18 inches across rings as she rolls. Lat
37’S, Long 16’E..
1st August - Today I have to note an occurrence which is that worst
that could befall us short of actual wreck, namely the mutiny of our
crew. This was an affair unexpected by any of us and arose from a very
trifling source. This morning the ship took on board two heavy seas
and as it appeared to be the fault of the man at the wheel the Captain
checked for it, and told him to mind his helm. The man, a saucy
discontented fellow named Robertson, told him that he had steered a
ship before he saw him; the Captain after some more words put him in
irons, a position he has held before, though not in this ship. As soon
as the crew heard this they refused to work, and remained in the
fore-castle all day playing cards. At night the Captain sent for them
and asked them if they intended to return to work, they refused unless
Robertson was liberated. This was refused and they were quietly put in
irons and confined in rooms in the deck-house, where they are now. We
are thus left as it were to the mercy of the winds, being without a
crew, all the able-bodied seamen (10) having stopped. There are now
left to take charge of the ship; 1 ordinary seaman, 2 apprentices,
carpenter, sailmaker, 2 mates and Captain, the boatswain having
revolted with the crew, though from a different cause, insolence from
the first mate being his complaint. This affair was settled however
and he returned to work at 12 midnight.
We sighted a vessel ahead in the morning and gained rapidly on her;
in the afternoon we signaled, when shen she proved to be the GLEN
MONARCH from Liverpool to Bombay? 75 days out, we being only 50 to the
same distance, and yet she is a fine American clipper. Lat 38’S, Long
2nd August - Rose after an anxious night to many of us, knowing how
unfit our slender crew are to manage the ship in the event of a squall
which are common here, coming on. The sailmaker who has been often
this way before, told me that he never saw a heavier sea than there
was yesterday; indeed when within a mile of the GLEN MONARCH we could
only see her for a second or two at a time, when a tremendous sea
would hide her from us as it rolled away before us like a hill.
The Captain got over the difficulty with the crew today and they all
returned to work. The ship rolls so much that I do not intend to go to
bed tonight as it only makes me unwell. Lat 38’S, Long 28’E..
3rd August - Passed a very pleasant night in taking occasional naps on
the chests lying the long way of the ship, so I rolled sideways, and
got up now and then to take a turn with the watch. The moon is in the
first quarter and gives a pleasant clear light on the sea. This has
been a fine day and we slipped along very quietly, going 8 knots, and
faster towards night. With the crew at work again we have been able to
take advantage of the wind; we are going with everything that will
draw except the fore and mizzen royals which were put down on deck
before we rounded the Cape.
Great flocks of birds flying about; we had the usual prayers today,
and altogether we enjoyed the warm breeze, sunny day, and nearly dry
deck in much the same way as our friends enjoy a pleasant Sunday at
home. How pleasant it is to think of home with its quiet Sabbath days
and old associations.
4th August - Last night passed very quietly and we enjoyed a good
sleep as the ship is making little motion. We have steered southeast
all day under a cloud of canvas, tearing on like a racehorse, speed
10-12 knots all day. The day clear and bracing Lat 37’S, Long 33’E.
5th August - This is what we call "starvation day" for we never have
any soft bread on Tuesdays. Instead of a "hunger and a burst", it is a
"hunger and a starve" here. But there is a good time coming; this is
the Captain’s birthday and there was there was a blowout in the cabin.
6th August - This morning broke cold and foggy and continued so all
day; at sunset it broke up and the sun set splendidly.
7th August - Nothing particular going on, but plenty of snow, for we
have no shelter except below in the darkness and vile smell.
I have bought a stone of flour from the ship stores, being fairly
starved out. They have just commenced selling it at 2/6 a stone.
All day it snowed hailed and rained, making us superlatively
miserable. Lat 43’S, Long 48’E..
8th August - After a wild night we are usher into a wild and more
miserable day, decks in a slush of water, wind right ahead and our
tight ship walking? Into it, though slowly. Miserably cold today; we
can pity the poor sailors now; this is the weather to try them: they
are four hours up and four down, hanging about, hauling on wet braces,
the spray dashing over them, and at times I daresay almost benumbed
9th August - This morning was a splendid one compared with the last
few days, and I enjoyed a sharp walk on deck which was frozen and dry
for once. At night I went up on the fore-castle, rolled my plaid
around me and sitting on a pile of sails, I watched the moon rise
right ahead. As I sat, the wearisome present was forgotten and
thoughts of doings and actions now gone by; of the farewell to all I
have left behind, God knows when to meet again. Such thoughts kept me
busy till roused by the clang of the bell to go below, and I went to
rest in enviable mood.
10th August - A fine morning broke on us and we anticipated a better
day than our Sabbaths have been lately, this being generally the worst
day of the week. As the day advanced the wind became squally and by
two o’clock sail was being taken in, this continued one by one till it
was dark when we found ourselves running to the southward close
hauled. Towards midnight the gale increased to a hurricane, and we
were compelled to take in everything but the last rag of the main
top-sail. The confusion and noise were fearful, the hoarse cries of
the sailors, the sudden shock and trembling of our gallant little tub
as the thundering seas struck her or dashed over the bows on deck,
chests flying about performing polkas between the beds and table,
water pouring through leaks and hatches in the deck above us, casks of
water in the hold below crashing and booming from one side to the
other as she rolled on the wild seas. The rolling increased towards
morning and I was sometimes actually standing upright in bed as she
rolled over to the opposite side; towards morning the wind moderated
and we rolled along striking one on the bell rather too often to be
pleasant as she rolled.
11th August - A pleasant warm morning; but for the broken casks, tubs,
and the fore-castle ???? strewed on deck no one would think we had had
such a night. The day was good and we had only one squall accompanied
with rain; after it passed the sea fell, the rain having laid it. Lat
43’S, Long 63’E..
12th August - Last night passed quietly and we had a fine day with
pleasant light winds today.
Our time is already 4 hours different from English, or 4 minutes for
every degree east. Lat 44’S, Long 68’E.
13th August - Broke pleasantly, but during the day we had heavy blasts
of hail; we have one comfort, a rattling breeze. Towards night the
wind freshened and to all appearances it would be advisable to take in
canvas but we carry on, though every mast and yard is groaning.
Saw a school of whales at a distance blowing the water up like a
fountain, from their nostrils.
About nine o’clock went on deck and during the 65 days we have been
on board I never saw Robby going so fast. Lat 45’S, Long 73’E..
14th August - A cold biting wind blew all day, with occasional blast
of hail as large as peas. A squall overtook us in the afternoon as we
were flying along with everything set, going about 12 knots.
Everything had to be let fly to save the masts. Everybody hauling and
tugging like mad to get the sails clewed up; the masts and ship
trembling all over as if it had a fit of the nerves. The hail pelted
like to knock our eyes out, but with all the danger of the towering
masses of canvas coming down mast and all, I could not help enjoying
the scene for its novelty while it lasted, we could not see many yards
from the side’s side, flying on through white foam at a nice rate
entirely. We lost our first spar today, a studding sail boom. Lat
45’S, Long 80’E..
15th August - This was a pleasant day, the wind having shifted from
S.W. to N.W.; the south winds are very cold here as they blow from the
lands of perpetual snow and ice, round the south pole. The breeze was
fresh and we went splendidly, on an average 12 knots. Today our Lat is
45’S, Long 85’E.
The pigeons are still following us as well as the other birds; we
have some sport every day at the fights they make for the refuse
thrown overboard. We are passing masses of seaweed, probably from the
Isle of Desolation, which we passed yesterday, though we did not see
16th August - The wind from the nor-west still continues; the day was
unpleasant, as it rained and we shipped a deal of water.
Nothing is spoken of but when we will reach the land.
17th August - Today the wind shifted to the west, and as we are
running east our good ship laboured from side to side in her usual
pleasant style. The day was dull and showery, with hail when the wind
went to the S.W..
The usual services were held but few go to them as we run the risk
of spoiling our clothes going aft to the cabin if a sea comes over.
18th August - There was a fair breeze this morning but it died away in
We are now as far south as N.Z. and 100’East Long.
19th August - We sailed pretty well today, having a stiff breeze,
going 11 ˝ knots.
We have now been two months or eight weeks out of sight of land; and
as I tread the deck of our lonely bark, how often the words of the
song occur to me.
While the waves are round me breaking,
As I pace the deck alone,
And my eye is vainly seeking,
Some green leaf to rest upon,
What would I not give to wander,
Where my old companions dwell.
Absence makes the heart grow fonder,
But what avails regretting: the die is cast and come out of it what
may, I will be landed (God willing) in a few days, in a strange land
from which for some time at least there will be no return for me. Only
the wanderer who leaves home and friends, breaking every tie of love
and friendship, can tell the lonely feeling of being alone in the
world, the sense of weariness of all things, and the constant craving
for something to love. But it is a long lane that has no turning. Lat
47’S, Long 105’E..
20th August - This morning the wind shifted from N.W. to N.E. and
drove us off our course for some hours; in the afternoon however the
wind returned to its duty and we went off at a spanking rate to our
It has been a dull wet day; some calculate that we will reach N.Z. by
next Thursday, but I doubt they are a little under the right time.
21st August - I have persevered pretty well with my diary, considering
the inconvenience of writing jammed up in a crooked position to avoid
being thrown forward on my face, with my knees for a writing table.
Well, it will soon be over if all be well, and I will gladly put the
finishing stroke to it in Dunedin.
During last night we went 11 knots, which speed we have continued
all day with a freshening breeze. But while writing I feel from the
swaying of the ship that the wind is going to the west or right
astern, and if it does not shift on to the quarter, we are in for a
sleepless night, and aching bones in the morning. Sail was taken in to
the three top-sails reefed and fore-sail. Long 115’E..
22nd August - As I anticipated, we had a disagreeable night and most
of us rose early, as it is better to be moving about than lying head
and heels up turn about in bed. The morning was dry and frosty, and
the sailors were busy setting more sail. The wind shifted to the south
and then to the nor-west, after which it was warmer. We are now
getting the warm wind from Australia which lies to the north of us.
A subscription was made today for the passenger’s cook, who does not
go back with the ship, the sailors have another cook.
We are now in Long 122’E, or only 1800 miles from N.Z.. Only, well
that looks queer, but if the reader had come across 14,000 miles as we
have done, I reckon 1800 miles would be considered a mere flea bite.
We were going 10 knots all last night and 9 knots today. This is my
night on watch and I am sitting writing this among my sleeping
shipmates, with no companions but the rats and m own thoughts, but
with the comfortable assurance that we are tearing along to our
destination. I have just been on deck and it is a splendid night,
every stitch of canvas set alow and aloft to catch the breeze. The
stars, of which there are great numbers in the Southern skies, are
shining brilliantly, and in the midst is the Southern Cross, a form of
four stars shaped like a cross, of which the four stars are the
points; the lowest and smallest of these is the south pole star round
which all the others revolve. Of course we have long lost sight of the
stars that shine over our native land; the Plough disappeared as we
went round the Cape and as I saw the last of it sink below the
horizon, I said to myself as I dare say many did, "there goes the last
of auld Scotland". I hope we will either be in Bluff Harbour or Otago
Bay by this day week, if only to let us see hills and land once more.
We are passing a great deal of seaweed again.
23rd August - At 4 o’clock this morning the wind died away to a mere
puff and continued so all day.
Having been up most of the previous night, I went early to bed; when
I turned in we were jogging slowly along, if we do not move sharper it
is a "blue lookout" for N.Z. next week. There is a story of some land
to be seen today but I cannot see any islands marked on the map in
24th August - The ship moved a little quicker for a few hours last
night, but before morning she was logging about again.
Today was fine and I went to the cabin to hear the service; the
sermon is always taken from a book, and is often anything but
appropriate to the occasion. One was read on the death of Prince
All very dull on account of the loss of the breeze, there being no
sign such as clouds on the horizon to give hopes of a breeze. Lat
48’S, Long 131’E. leaving 35’ to run.
25th August - Passed as the previous two did, without wind. This is
very disheartening as we expected to see the land about the end of the
week, and it now seems impossible.
26th August - During last night a breeze sprung up and before morning
it increased to a gale, and shifted to the eastward and right in our
teeth. The ship was stripped and lay to with only the fore topmast
stay-sail, main top-sail close reefed and main try-sail. As night
closed round with its gloom and darkness, the sea grew fearful to look
at, the great waves raising their white chrests above us as if to fall
on us and send our good ship to the bottom, rolling broadside on to us
in quick succession, the tremendous swing of the ship, and the howling
tempest sweeping through the rigging driving the rain and spray before
it like mist, shrieking and groaning past the strained masts like some
mad being. These were enough to appal the stoutest heart on board, but
no, they laughed and played below as if there was no storm and danger
above and around them, unless when a sea struck the side and sent the
water pouring down the broken hatchway, and even then they scarce
looked over their shoulders.
Before turning in I went on deck to see what was going on, though
the night was so dark it was almost impossible to see anything, and
the driving rain and foam dashed very obligingly in my face. On
getting under the boat on the leeside, I found the ship driving over
on her broadside till the toprail of the bulwarks was level with the
hissing surge. Sometimes I was standing on deck then as she surged I
had to plant my foot on the top of the bulwark to keep my balance till
she righted again.
Today we have been 11 weeks of 77 days on board, and wearily as the
days have passed, amid hunger, thirst, vermin big and small, and dirt
and discomfort of every description, the time does not look so long to
look back to. The day being stormy there were no observations.
27th August - Before daylight this morning the wind changed, but owing
to the heavy sea and continued high wind we kept under easy sail till
afternoon when the for-sail was loosed and sheeted home along with the
main top-mast stay-sail reefed and then we went scudding along, going
In the afternoon wishing to see the heavy rolling of the seas and
the movement of our ship to best effect, my friend Archie and I crept
on hands and knees across the forecastle deck, and managed by holding
on tooth and nail, as the saying is, to reach the forestays close
behind the figure-head, and there holding on by the chain rail, we
knelt and watched the tremendous seas come hurling after the ship,
like a lion after its prey. As they passed beneath her stern it went
up till it seemed to touch the sky, the man at the wheel standing out
in bold relief, then next instant our end went flying up and looking
up, the stern was seen sinking in the trough of the sea, as if about
to be swallowed up.
Without speaking of mountain waves, which are all humbug, there is
something grand and massive in movements of one of these heavy seas in
While on our elevated seat we saw an albatross, a gigantic fellow
apparently about 12 feet across the wings, though this is no unusual
size for this, the largest seabird. But while watching him we forgot
to keep our eye on the seas which might break on board at any time; I
felt a shock and sprung to my feet just in time to avoid a souser over
my head; as it was I got wet to the waist, and we beat a retreat to
the main deck. We are so much accustomed to that sort of thing that we
think it a good joke, and any unfortunate individual who happens to
get himself wet is sure of a laugh, if that will comfort him.
28th August - Today the seas were not so heavy, but the breeze being
strong we set no sail till afternoon when the top-gallant sails were
set. Going 12 knots with the wind right astern and the ship rolling a
This was my mess day of pumping fresh water, and owing to the heavy
seas and rolling of the ship we had the engine well made fast, but we
had enough to do to keep it and ourselves in our places. Suddenly I
saw a regular swamper come over the side, I sprung up the poop ladder
and so escaped, but my mess mates got wet to the waist. After
finishing they had a narrow escape of broken limbs; having cast off
the lashings of the engine to wheel it to it’s place another sea broke
aboard, and the pump went dashing across the deck and crashed against
the side, striking two or three of them as it went. At this movement
the Captain jumped out of his cabin and flinging his long pipe on deck
he ran forward and getting down on his knees among the water, he held
the engine to the side it had run to till he got assistance.
Today the names of the passengers who are to leave the ship at
Southland were taken down. Long 144’E.
I had almost forgot to record a most important event which took
place this morning, namely, the discovery of a young Kidd, who has
been under hatches all the voyage, though pretty generally known to be
on board. I saw his (un)fortunate papa busy on deck after dark,
washing those mysterious things that babies wear. He is a Glasgow
carter called Kidd; certainly he has one more than he wants.
29th August - Still bowling along; we have not gone so far or so fast
on one wind since sailing, and if anything our speed is increasing.
The fore-topmast studding sail yard broke today and brought down some
of our running rigging, but a mere trifle. Long 150’E, leaving 16’ to
run. If the wind holds we expect to see the land we have looked for so
long on Monday morning.
30th August - The sailors were busy today getting up the cable chains
from the hold, scrubbing paint and getting things made tidy for going
The breeze is till very strong, too strong to approach the land
unless it moderates. A very heavy sea running. Long 157’30" E..
31st August - A cold drizzly day; shipping water constantly. A little
girl was lifted off her feet and rolled back and forward across the
deck by a sea. Indeed, few escape a wetting of some sort, but these
are but trifles to people who expect to see land tomorrow. Long 162’E,
the land lies in 166’.
1st September - We were all on the alert this morning by grey dawn, to
get the first sight of the land, standing on the forecastle, shivering
in the mist and rain. About 8 o’clock we passed a great log of wood
and hailed it with a cheer, as if it had been the pilot boat;
immediately after made out a strange grey shadow which it was hard to
believe was land. By 9 o’clock we were close to it when we made it out
to be the Solander Islands; two barren rocks, 1200 feet high,
surrounded by rutting rocks rising above the water. They are situated
at the entrance to Foveaux or Favorite Straits, which divide Stewarts
Island from the mainland of N.Z.. In this strait, our first port,
Bluff Harbour lies. About ten, sighted Raggedy Point, the N.W. corner
of Stewarts Island, a fearfully rugged scene. Saw a barque hove to
near the point; as we neared her, she stood off before the wind as if
to try us a race, but we soon passed her and went up the strait
passing islands of all sizes, till about 12 noon when we made out a
high hill with low land stretching east and west from it. This was the
Bluff; on nearer approach we made out a flag-staff on the hill-top,
the sides covered with scrub and brown stunted bushes, anything but
inviting, no sign of inhabitants. Hoisted Union Jack at the fore for a
pilot, and ran the ensign to the peak. Had a narrow escape; by keeping
close to the land we were nearly on a reef of rocks, stood off and
waited for a pilot, but none came. We saw a vessel at anchor under the
lea of the hill where the entrance to the harbour was. The barque now
passed us apparently bound for Dunedin, she signaled her number to us.
After dark the Captain was forced to run leeward as the rocks and
islands were thick around us. After clearing them we again lay to,
intending to lie till morning, but a gale came up from the westward
which drifted us to the east of the port in spite of fate.
This may be said to finish our passage, and here we are off the
coast of N.Z. after a first rate passage as regards time, 80 days from
port to port.
2nd September - A thick day with showers of hail and rain; we had only
an occasional glimpse of land. We are far to leeward of the Bluff,
about 50 miles it is said; this is a long distance to beat back again
if the wind does not shift. All much disappointed.
3rd September - The wind moderated through the night and we beat back
a bit to windward today, in the afternoon it fell dead calm and we lay
once more at rest in green water. In the afternoon we saw a small
screw steamer coming down the straits; we hoisted signal and she came
alongside, she turned out to be the GUIDING STAR, a trader between
Otago and the Bluff. The Captain promised to come out in the morning,
and send the pilot.
4th September - Stood in for the harbour with a fair wind this
morning; got the pilot aboard and anchored in the entrance, which is
narrow and the tide ebbs at a tremendous rate through it, running like
a river. In the afternoon the steamer came from Invercargill, which is
situated on a river about 25 miles from Bluff; she towed us into the
harbour, going in we passed the ship we had seen the day we arrived
off the port. She was the FLYING MIST lying sunk by the crew to get
off to the gold diggings. She sailed from Greenock, with 1700 sheep,
one week before us; crossing the line the sheep suffered with the heat
and 700 died, so that some idea may be come to of what condition a
hundred human beings could be in, in our vessel, crammed into so
We also passed the remains of the celebrated ship OCEAN CHIEF of
Liverpool which was burnt to the water’s edge in the harbour some
Bluff harbour seems almost circular and about 30 or 40 miles round.
We lay till the 17th of Sept. in Bluff Harbour, and during that time
nothing occurred to break the dullness of lying in sight of land
without being able to get to it. The passengers for Southland, 130 in
number left the ship in a small steamer for Invercargill on the
Sabbath morning after we anchored. One of the sailors went off in her,
concealed among the luggage. Two others made their escape on two of
the lifeboat’s buoys one night after, and another two tried it but
were caught, and got 6 weeks in gaol for the attempt.
We had a great deal of bother getting out of the harbour, and were
two days about it, kedging bit by bit, and in the end we left our
anchor close by the stock, in Bluff Harbour; we were glad to see it
behind us on the night of the 17th. On the 18th at 9pm we were off
Otago Heads, and lay to till morning, when we were towed into Otago
Bay and anchored at Port Chalmers.
In an hour or two all had left the good ship that had brought us
through storm and sunshine for 14,000 miles. For myself I did not
leave her till the evening when I went ashore with my friend Robert
Wilson who had come down from Dunedin to meet me. My first experience
of N.Z. was a 9 miles walk over, or rather through, one of its roads
having had to walk from Port Chalmers to Dunedin, the last steamship
being off before we got to the shore.
Supplement on Ship-board Life
Having now arrived at the end of my voyage, and as a matter of course
at the end of my journal, if the reader is not already tired of the
monotony of every-day life on board ship and uninclined to read
further, I will finish with a few remarks on our voyage.
After all the ups and downs of a sea voyage, which is well expressed
in a few lines which I copy.
The brave buoyant boat down the watery abyss
Sweeps deeply and swiftly, then up to the white crest
Of the wave overhanging, she lifts her broad breast
And casts off the foam; like a sea-bird whose feather
Is made for the storming of hurricane weather.
Well, here I am safe in N.Z., and taking everything into
consideration I would not hesitate to return by the same ship; only
one condition I would sue for, and that is, that I may take a good
deal of "tucker" as it is called in N.Z., with me. In the first place
I will give a list of what I think necessary articles; 8 pecks of
flour, a cheese, 4 pounds baking soda, a ham, 2 pounds of coffee or 4
bottles of the essence, a little sugar, tartaric acid for baking
bread, an oven tin to bake in, a pair of India rubber galoshes to pull
on over the boots, two mattresses are better than one when they are so
hard, and this as my bones can testify, one may be the plain straw one
and the other cotton, though it is rather apt to get hard and lumpy.
I suppose it is the general rule that people are sea-sick, at least
it was so in our ship. I have heard a good few cures for sea-sickness,
or rather the preventives of it; one of them will be sufficient I
think, and I believe it is a good one. It is - as soon as the vessel
gets to sea, that is, when she begins to roll or rock however little,
take a good drink of brandy (a good thing to have) and lie down in bed
with the head low and let the body go with the ship in every motion;
in a little, you will be able to rise and have every chance of
After getting to sea the passengers are put into messes of ten, in
our mess each took a week in rotation of getting the provisions from
the Purser, this saved him the trouble of weighing out small
quantities. The whole voyage, my friend Archy and I baked for our
mess, many a time getting wet to the skin standing at the galley door,
waiting till the bread was fired. The smallness of the galley was a
great cause of discomfort; it’s size was about 4ft by 6ft. and it
cooked for 260 persons.
The greatest evil landsmen have to contend with on board ship, is a
want of something to do, which soon brings on a dullness of spirit,
and a disinclination to do anything when needed. I have seen many of
our number go with their faces unwashed for days for laziness to go on
deck and do it. Reading passes a good deal of time, and if the
passengers are agreeable mates, borrowing and lending books is a great
benefit to all. Of course everyone must follow his or her own taste as
to what they will like to do. For myself the number of ornamented
"spurtles" I have made aboard, to make the porridge, was wonderful;
these I gave away as fast as I made them and many took them ashore
with them so that my handy-work is to be found in many parts of Otago
and Southland. I have heard of a man who was emigrating, who took with
him a bundle of sticks, out of which he made walking sticks during the
voyage, carving them out in strange styles according to his fancy.
People aboard ship soon get tired of the hard biscuits, and that is
the reason why I put down so much flour, as necessary. One plan we
took with the biscuits made them more palatable; dip them a minute in
salt water, then put them in the ship’s oven till they split open,
when they will be found much better.
The less clothes one wears aboard ship the better and a little fresh
water can generally be got for washing. If I were going the same way
again I would have a small chest made with a division down the middle;
in one part I would keep my provisions, and in the other, two or three
changes of linen. Of course soap is needed, two pounds of marine soap
is quite enough, and the same of common soap, an article much prized
and sought after with us aboard.
During a voyage to N.Z. the extremes of heat and cold may be
experienced so that it is best to be prepared for both. The lasses
aboard our ship wore straw hats and light coloured dresses, most of
the men had duck trousers and wide-awakes. Leaving Scotland in the end
of spring, we reached the line about the height of summer; off the
Cape (of Good Hope) the climate was very cold, and when we landed in
Otago the spring again was just commencing, so that we may say we had
all the seasons in three months.
Cooking, beyond what is done by the ship is not an easy matter; a
small frying or stew pan would have been very handy. We had some
strange messes to avoid eating the biscuits. What would some of our
honest Scotch folk that can always get plenty of flour, think of a
mixture of flour, thick pea-soup and steeped biscuits, baked into
scones and without baking soda. Verily I may sing with a vengeance,
for I have good cause "Hard times come again no more".
Had I known more about shipping matters I would have sailed from
London, by one of the English Companies vessels; those that sail from
Glasgow are never fitted out nor ventilated as they ought to be,
between decks they have little, and in some cases no light but what
comes from the hatchway, and in the ROBERT HENDERSON I could not
stand upright. Of course there are good and bad in everything (though
it is said there is bad and worse in a county not a hundred miles from
Auld Reekie) and so there are in ships. As an instance I may mention
the GRASMERE which sailed from Glasgow on the 1st of May, 41 days
before us and did not arrive till the 15th of September, 5 days after
us, being about 130 days. She belongs to the same company as the
ROBERT HENDERSON. To balance against her is the VELORE which
sailed from London and was about 150 days or thereabouts, so that in
fact the only way to secure a comfortable, well-lighted ship is to see
her before taking passage, or get some experienced person to do it for
you. To finish about ships, I would rather sacrifice 20 days gain in
sailing to get a good roomy ship where I could walk about, say one of
Among things useful though not perhaps necessary are; a small
lantern either for oil or candle, for the ship allows but four lamps
at night, and I have often passed most uncomfortable nights for want
of light to get my bed made. The beds are very narrow; on the voyage I
made an agreement with my right hand neighbour and we took out the
board between us and made our two beds one, and we could then lie
easier. Of course it must not be told to everyone that you have a
lantern, as no lights bu t the ship’s are allowed. Wax matches too are
handy and are another article one needs to keep quiet about having.
Some of us had eggs and also preserved milk; the eggs were preserved
different ways, some rubbed them with fresh butter, others put them in
salt. Boots put in among clothes in a chest get mildewed, they require
to be rolled up in stout paper. Sago is a nice fresh tit-bit when one
is getting so much salt meat. The tinware that is sold in the places
about a shipping port are never good, but they are good enough to get
stolen unless kept under lock, but recommend to have tins made to
order. All that are needed are: a tin flask to hold about a gallon, a
middling sized pitcher with lid, a hook pot, a tinnie (tin mug) or
strong stone-ware mug which is more pleasant to drink out of, and
perhaps a canister to hold sugar etc. I had almost forgot to mention
preserves and butter which should rank among the necessities, barley
and dry onions are useful too.
I hope that those who have had the patience to read this through
will not think my work uninteresting. My reason for giving so many
instructions at the end is that I hope some day to hear of some of my
readers taking the road for N.Z., and I daresay that my observations
from experience will be found useful then; if so my work is well
And now, entrusting my charge to the care of the postman, I can only
in closing hope that all who trust to the ocean to come to N.Z. may
find as little to alarm them and more to please them than I did.
17th Nov. 1862.
Converted to electronic form by Corey Woodw@rd
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