Journal of George Hepburn
Part I - The Journal of George
Hepburn, 1850 - Chapter VI
Another month of storms at sea"The
mighty wonders of the deep"Death of another childThe Islands of St. Paul
and AmsterdamThe sinful sailmaker, sings profane songs on the Sabbath.
Monday, May 6th,
1850.Yesterday (Sabbath) fine weather. Had the usual morning service on
deck, private reading McDonalds Life during the day, and the evening
meeting. During the night a heavy storm of rain and lightning, a deal of
rain water came down on us by the main hatchway. To-day is again fine and
sailing rapid and beautiful. During the last 24 hours we have run over 240
miles, having now fairly caught the south-west trades which, if they
continue steady at this rate, will carry us to New Zealand in five weeks.
The days have now become considerably shorter, it being now quite dark by
half past 5 p.m., and no light in the morning until past 6 a.m.
Thursday, May 9th.On
Monday evening we went again on deck to see the vivid lightning, so
different from any we had witnessed in Scotland. It confined itself within
or between the clouds and the sky, bursting regularly at two given points
at about two miles distant, darting with the rapidity of lightning from
one point to the other behind the clouds, showing their transparency. It
was more like an exhibition of fireworks than otherwise, and continued
through the evening. To us it was quite a new display of the Creators
works, but since then we have paid for the sight, for in this southern
latitude, as well as in the northern, fire at night indicates broken
weather, so ere the next mornings dawn it rained heavily and continued to
do so throughout the entire day, keeping us under hatches. But that was
nothing compared to the following night when the rain and the wind
increased to a strong gale, raising the sea tremendously. We had to run
under close-reefed topsails. The mizzen sheet gave way, by which we nearly
lost two men; they were thrown over, but hung on by the rope and were
immediately restored. Through the night the ship both rolled and pitched
heavily, the sea frequently striking her broadside with great violence, so
sleep there was none but with the children. From 4 to 8 in the morning the
sea broke regularly across the main deck, pouring down upon us in
torrents, even though the hatches were on and covered with a tarpaulin
(observe the main hatch is only grated). Of course those of us nearest the
main hatch had to turn out of bed and gather up the water with all speed
to keep our berths from floating. Those next you never trouble themselves
though you were floating.
Happily the next day the
sun broke through brightly early in the forenoon, and a few of us got on
deck, and standing on the forecastle it was truly a fine sight to look
across the seas running mountains high and our gallant barque rising over
and skimming through these seas at the rate of ten knots an hour. It is
only now that we are seeing this "mighty wonders in the deep." In the
morning one of the good wives attacked the assistant for a glass of brandy
after getting so much wet, but he got off by saying he had none on board.
However, at about 12oclock, when a number of gentlemen were
standing on the poop, a tremendous sea unexpectedly broke over the stern
sweeping the poop, rushed into the cuddy, and in torrents down both the
fore and main hatches, giving us the same labour to do over again. Shortly
after the surgeon came down and said he would treat all the adults with a
glass of gin, from which we made a drop of warm toddy, which we felt did
us much good. Little or no more water came down after this; still the sea
is very high. I fear in writing this minute account of a bit storm that it
may deter others from following our path, but while it lasts we must be of
necessity very much alarmed. Let me assure those who may read this that
such is not the case. Fear never seems to enter the head of anyone, either
male or female. The general result is, when the sea gives some a good
ducking, a hearty laugh. However, it is far from being comfortable.
It is once again my painful
duty to record the death of another child, viz., one of the twins of Dr.
Coward, our superintendent surgeon, being the stoutest of the two. It was
weaned before coming on board, while the other was still nursed by the
mother. I am not at liberty to hazard any observations, but we would not
have liked to see any of ours nursed in the same way. What we have seen of
the English here exhibit great want of skill in nursing young children.
This child, however, got a coffin made, lined with white and covered with
black cloth and a quantity of sand at its feet to carry it down. It was
cast over privately from the captains cabin window in the stern. This is
the third childs death, besides poor Donald.
Friday, May 10th.Since
writing the above we have been sailing at a very rapid rate at about ten
knots an hour over a heavy sea and strong favourable breeze with a good
deal of rain.
Tuesday, May 14th.Latitude
39 degrees east longitude 61 degrees.--During the last seven days we have
sailed 1,240 miles, good work, and still running nine to ten knots.
Yesterday forenoon we were doing twelve knots, but it came on to rain by
12 oclock and continued so all day, keeping us in darkness, and hence an
uncomfortable and weary day; but to-day is dry and sailing very pleasant.
We expect to see the Island of St. Paul by Saturday lying in 78 east
Ever since rounding the
Cape we have a goodly company of flying fowls attending the ship. The
largest of these is the albatross, about the size of a good swan or goose,
with wings extended from nine to 12 feet, a beautiful bird, of which two
have been caught with a simple bait and thread line by some of the young
gents. Mrs. H. would very fain have got the entire skin of one or two of
them to send home to certain gentlemen in the Lang Toon for being stuffed,
but the birds were foolishly dissected. The next largest are Cape Hens - a
brown bird with a short tail, about the size of a common hen at home. Next
are the Cape pigeons, a beautiful bird, with speckled wings and white
breast, about the size of home pigeons. Then there is Mother Careys
chickens and stormy petrels smaller birds like water crows and swallows.
Tuesday, May 21st.After a
few days of fine weather last week it came to blow very hard on Friday
evening, bringing us down to reefed topsails. At same time a watch is kept
all night on the outlook for the island of Amsterdam lying in our direct
course. On Saturday the wind moderated considerably, and about half past
twelve noon we heard the cry of land ahead, which was first observed by
Mr. Archibald, late of Burnt Island. We were soon all on deck, at which
hour we fancied we could see in the distant horizon a hazy cloud which was
called land. However, every hour brought it more distinctly in view.
By 3 oclock we were so
near it as to see the nakedness of that desolate isle, rearing its rocky
head in the midst of those waste waters. Passing it about two miles off,
or even less, we could not discern the smallest vestige of either bush or
shrub. It is a bold precipitous rock to the westward, sloping gradually
into the sea towards the east, on which side only a little greenness was
to be seen. To my judgment it appeared about the size of Inch Keith, but
it is said to be five miles broad and 15 miles in circumference, without
possessing a single inhabitant. Still it is said wild goats are to be
found on it, and the South Sea whalers lounge about for a few months in
summer. Barren as it was, it is surprising how much interest was exhibited
in it among the passengers, chiefly from the circumstance of having been
entirely shut out from such a sight for the last three months and a half.
I should think we will all give three cheers when we first see the high
lands of New Zealand, barren though they should be.
By 5 oclock we were
quite past it, and very glad we were so by daylight, for very shortly
afterwards again began to blow very hard, and continued to blow a strong
gale for 36 hours, during which time the wind carried away our bomb yard
foresheet and split the main top gallant. At last we ran for some time
with almost bare poles, at most only one sheet on the fore and mainmast.
The sea of course rose very high, and the vessel both rolled and pitched
heavily. The sea often broke across midships and poured down the water on
us in volumes, chiefly through the night; but during the time of a storm
the water also comes oozing through the sides of the ship or drops down by
the beams from the deck so as to wet our bedclothes in the cabin to such a
degree that they are unfit to sleep on, but we have been more fortunate
than some of our neighbours for, when we had only a few drops, it was
running out of their cabin door.
Sabbath was again a silent
one, hatch closed on us and no light to see to read even though we could.
The company allows no oil to burn through the day; so what with one thing
and another it was a very uncomfortable and unprofitable day.
Monday forenoon it still
blew as hard as ever, but towards afternoon it fell down to almost a calm;
but before 8 oclock in the evening the breeze freshened so much as to
hurry us on at 11 to 12 knots an hour. The wind being favourable we moved
on steadily, so we passed a tolerably good nightthe first for the last
Tuesday, May 21st.To-day
is fine. The wind and sea both fallen. The hatches off again, and all is
bustle again on deck refitting the sails, etc. We are to-day in east
longitude 90 degrees; all well.
Tuesday, May 28th.We have
had another week of wretched weather, heavy rains and strong winds. Before
Saturday last the fore topsail had been split through several times, and
that a strong new sail. Between Saturday night and Sabbath morning it blew
a regular gale and no mistake, by far the heaviest we had yet encountered.
The sea rose very high and tossed our gallant barque like a piece of cork
upon the waters, the rolling and tumbling were very uncomfortable, but
nothing to the quantities of water that found its way down upon us from
the seas which continued to break over the ship both fore and aft (and the
poor bull on deck was nearly washed away). It took us most of the night
gathering up the water to keep ourselves from being flooded, and yet could
scarcely keep our feet without holding on; but Sabbath morning brought a
change, even almost a calm, with sails flapping in the wind. Still a very
heavy swell in the water, causing the vessel to roll from side to side
like a cradle. It was next to impossible to walk the deck, and everything
both above and below was so miserably wet that we could do nothing but
keep the children in bed all day, and again it was a poor Sabbath. The
sailmaker sat near our cabin door, below the main hatch, for a little
light, repairing the fore topsail all day Sabbath, and at times singing
profane songs, and he a Scotchman, an old man from the north, but has been
out of it for 30 yearspoor old sinner.
Monday and Tuesday were
both nearly calm, but Wednesday and Thursday rained again throughout, with
a strong head wind, so we did little good on our journey; but yesterday
morning it changed quite favourable, and a smart breeze sprang up in the
evening, sea calm, and sleeping soundly again, but still everything so
damp that the general complaint is weariness to get to our journeys end.
This comment system requires
you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an
account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or
Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these
companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All
comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator
has approved your comment.