Round Cape Horn :
voyage of the passenger-ship James W. Paige, from Maine to California in the year 1852;
BY J. LAMSON.
PRESS OF O. F. & W. H. KNOWLES.
AUGUST 24. Our voyage is becoming prolonged to an excessively wearisome duration. More than a month ago we calculated on arriving at San Francisco in ten days; and with a fair wind we could have performed the voyage in that time. Now, after having trebled it, we seem as far from port as ever. During the last fortnight the winds have been blowing from the northeast, and we have sailed sharp on the wind, in expectation of falling in with the north-west trades, which are said to prevail in these latitudes. But we have not yet found them. We are now about nine hundred miles west of the coast of California, and in a latitude only four degrees north of that of San Francisco. We have not seen a sail for six weeks, and we begin to feel that we are
"Alone, alone, all, all alone,
Alone on the wide, wide sea."
And yet, we are not quite alone. A small number of my friends, the birds, still hover around us, and accompany us in our wanderings over the deep, even at this great distance from the land. A few days since an albatross was seen flying near us. I watched it and soon saw that it was the Dusky Albratross, (Diomedia fusca,) figured by Audubon from a specimen obtained by Dr. Townsend on the coast of Oregon. It was soon joined by another and another, and to-day, six or eight of them are following us.
We suffer much weariness, lassitude, and drowsiness, consequent on our long voyage and almost total inactivity. One circumstance has operated very favorably for our comfort. After less than a week of the hot weather of which I have spoken, there came a sudden and most agreeable change. The sky became obscured with clouds, and has remained so the greater part of the time since, and the air grew cooler, so much so that our overcoats became necessary, and the passengers, who had been driven from the main cabin, were enabled to return to their berths again.
August 27. Our first inquiry this morning was the same we have often and anxiously made of late, "How does she head?" And the same answer we have received for the last fortnight was given, "About north-west." The wind, however, was light, and we were not quite hopeless of a change. An hour or two was passed in watching the signs, for the weather had become very unsteady--when we heard from the captain, who had taken the helm, the order, "Ready, 'bout." The sound was most cheering. We had been standing on one course for a long time without making any approach towards our destined port, but rather going farther from it, and striving the while to gain a position, or rather, a wind, that would carry us in. And this intention of tacking ship was an indication of the captain's opinion, that the favorable moment had arrived. The sailors stationed themselves at the proper ropes, and the mate responded, "All ready, sir." "Hard a-lee!" sung out the captain, as he put down the helm, and brought the ship into the wind, the sails shivering and flapping with considerable violence.
Presently they began to fill on the other side, when he gave the order, "Maintop sail haul," and instantly the ropes rattled through the blocks, and the main sail, main-top sail and maintop-gallant sail swung steadily and at once round the masts to the other side of the ship. Soon the order, "Let go and haul," was given, when the foresails were swung into their proper positions, and we were sailing on our course for San Francisco.
Tacking ship is a beautiful evolution, and it is for that reason that I have described it, using in this instance the necessary nautical terms, though I have generally endeavored to avoid them. It is also a performance requiring some little skill and practice. Our mate on one occasion made three attempts to tack, and failed, and was obliged at last to "wear ship," that is, to turn the ship round with the wind, thereby losing considerable ground. This is considered an unseamanlike maneuver, and it subjected our mate to some ridicule among the sailors.
The indications of a favorable wind did not continue long, and in less than half an hour we were obliged to put about again, and stand on our old course. In this manner it continued for several days, veering from point to point, between north-east and south-west, and forcing us continually to change the course of the ship, while we made very little progress towards port.
The Dusky Albatrosses became very familiar, and Sherman drew one of them on deck, but the captain followed it closely round the ship, and at last ordered it to be thrown overboard.
For the information of those who are not familiar with the science of ornithology, and who may be curious to know how we could draw large birds into the ship with it hook and line without injuring them, I will say, that the upper mandible of many of these birds is recurved or bent downwards beyond the lower mandible, forming a hook sufficiently strong to hold the weight of the bird, and the fish-hook catches it by this curved beak as it seizes the bait. The hook does not penetrate the beak, but its sharp point prevents it slipping off so long as the bird holds back.
Our mate amuses himself with drawing coarse caricatures of the passengers; and they in turn retaliate by writing doggerel verses on the mate. This leads me to say that one of our sailors has turned out to be a poet, and if there is any thing in a name that entitles a man to this honor, his claim is certainly good. His name is James Montgomery. His verses, though not quite equal to those by the author of the "Wanderer of Switzerland," are not altogether destitute of poetic merit; and had he an opportunity to cultivate his talent, he would probably learn to write poetry. The mate, unable to write himself, offered Montgomery a dollar to write a lampoon on one of the passengers. But he scorned to do so dirty a job for such a paltry bribe, or for so low a fellow.
September 1. We have at last got a fair wind, and during the whole day sailed directly on our course without tacking. Our spirits begin to revive, and we are not quite hopeless of reaching port.
September 3. Fair winds continue to favor us, and we are within four hundred miles of California. A very few days will, in all probability, find us on terra firma again, when we shall part, many of us to meet no more. I would that these few remaining days might be spent in peace and harmony among us. But fate orders it otherwise. My enemies, the captain and mate, since the treacherous disclosure made by the chaplain, have been growing more and more acrimonious in their hatred, and they seldom omit an opportunity to insult me. An instance occurred this evening. But I forbear.
Sherman caught a porpoise last night, and cooked a portion of it to-day. We ate it rather greedily, and all thought it excellent. Our long voyage, coarse fare, and frequent hunger, have relieved us of many fastidious whims about food, and we have learned to eat and to relish some things, which it would be difficult for us to swallow at home. These porpoises throw out a sort of phosphorescent light, by which they are readily seen in the night. This one was taken at nine o'clock of a cloudy evening.
September 4. A fight occurred at breakfast in the main cabin between an Irishman of fifty-nine, the oldest man in the ship, and an American, not much his junior. The Yankee received a cut on the ear with a case-knife, and he knocked down his antagonist and gave him some severe bruises. Our ship is becoming a miniature pandemonium.
My journal has become a source of much disquietude to Captain J. and Mrs. L---t. It has excited some interest among the passengers, and I have been repeatedly requested to publish an account of the voyage. I refused at first, but after many solicitations I so far yielded as to promise that if I had time to revise my journal after our arrival at San Francisco, I would publish it. A subscription was immediately got up, and one hundred and twenty copies subscribed for. The captain and Mr. Johnson exerted all their influence to prevent the passengers from putting their names to the paper, but they had the mortification to find that their opposition only tended to increase the subscription. Mr. Johnson made himself particularly busy in the matter. He urged me to read my manuscript to the ship's company. Not that he felt any personal interest in it, O, no! But he thought that justice to Captain Jackson, whose character I had assailed, and to the passengers, who knew not what they were subscribing for, required me to read it. I did not.
Hints had been repeatedly given me, that the captain intended to seize the obnoxious manuscript. Consultations had been held upon the subject, and it was stated--and I have no doubt of the fact--that Mr. Johnson had expressed the opinion, that the captain was fully authorized by law to break open my trunk, and seize it. Uncertain as to what these ignorant madmen might be tempted to do, I deposited the journal with a friend in the main cabin, where it remained till I left the ship.
September 5. This is the last Sabbath we expect to spend on board the bark, and as we expect to separate in two or three days, a meeting was held in the main cabin, the object of which was to settle disputes And restore harmony between the officers and passengers.
It proved, however, a failure. Several short addresses were made, one by the captain in a spirit of defiance, and one by Mr. Johnson, defending his career on board the bark; a prayer was offered, and a parting hymn sung, and we broke up with very little change of feeling.
Immense schools of porpoises passed to-day, and Sherman struck and secured one of the largest we have seen. Many of the men have employed themselves in preparing the skin for belts. A whale passed us in the afternoon, coming close along-side the bark. And to keep up the excitement, a sail was discovered on our starboard bow, the only one we have seen for fifty-three days.
September 6. We were aroused this morning at four o'clock by the startling cry of "breakers." Our ship instantly became a scene of confusion, and the passengers rushed on deck from every quarter. I arose at the first cry and went out. And there, within fifteen or twenty rods lay the land, the sea roaring loudly, and breaking in foaming surges on the shore. The helm had been put down, and fortunately the ship came round in season to escape.
A minute's delay would have wrecked us. Or had the ship missed coming in stays, as she has often done during the voyage, nothing could have saved her. There was at the time a thick fog, which accounts for our near approach to the breakers before they were discovered. The sailor on the lookout heard the roaring of the breakers for some time before he discovered them, but attributed it to some other cause; for according to the captain's reckoning we were still far from land. Nothing could be more cheering after our long voyage than to behold the land of our destination, but this sudden introduction to it was any thing but agreeable.
And now having escaped the perils of shipwreck, and hoping to arrive in port to-day, we are closing our voyage with an act of charity to our fellow-passenger, Dolliff, who, though convalescent, is still unable to support himself. A considerable sum, is being raised for him.
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