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.
WE did not weigh anchor until 2 P. M. As we were beating out of the harbor, we met the Portuguese brig, which we had spoken on the fourteenth instant, coming in. After getting out and passing the lighthouse and the islands, we squared away and stood on our course with a fair and moderate breeze.
We were now much improved in health, and all the hard-ships, privations, annoyances, and disappointments of the former part of our voyage were forgotten. We were now supplied with a rich fund of new and interesting subjects for conversation, we looked forward to a speedy and prosperous passage round Cape Horn, and we were in the very best of spirits. We had seen Rio Janeiro.
I had, as the reader may well suppose, but slight opportunity to acquire a knowledge of the institutions of the country, or the manners and customs of its inhabitants during my very short stay in Rio, and will not insult the reader with a long essay on subjects of which I know nothing. But I noticed a few traits in their character, with which I was much pleased. I found them very kind, polite and hospitable. In all my walks through the city, which I generally took alone, I did not meet with an instance of rudeness or incivility. It was the same whether I was crowding through the market or other public places, which were thronged by multitudes of people of all classes and complexions, white, brown and black, or threading the solitary and narrow streets and crooked by-lanes which, in many would seem to offer every facility and inducement for the safe perpetration of deeds of violence. I one day passed some barracks, where several companies of soldiers were drilling. The gate was open, but guarded by a soldier. I stopped and looked in. "Passe," said the sentinel, and I walked in, saw the evolutions of the soldiers on drill, and passed through several groups of others off duty. Everything was conducted without disorder, and I was as secure from any insult or annoyance as I should have been in the midst of a party of friends at home. There were many dark complexions, among them, and I thought that quite half of them, officers as well as privates, were black.
There are a great many restaurants, cafes, and other drinking establishments in Rio and one would expect to see a great amount of intemperance among the people; and yet the only instances of drunkenness I saw there were those which occurred among the passengers and crew of our bark.
May 25. Our latitude to-day is 24 45' south, longitude 44 west. We have passed the Tropic of Capricorn, and are sailing in the southern temperate zone.
May 28. I have had an unpleasant altercation with Capt. Jackson to-day. The occasion was this: Some pretty birds--Cape Pigeons--have been flying round the ship, and as I was desirous of preserving one or two specimens of their skins, one of the passengers caught one with a hook and line for me. As Mr. Johnson was desirous of showing it to the ladies in the cabin, I let him take it. When he returned it, he brought an order to me from the captain, who was then in the cabin, to throw the bird overboard. I resisted the order. The parson pleaded for the life of the bird as though it was a matter of the utmost consequence. I told him I had procured the bird for the purpose of preserving the skin, and I knew of no reason why I should not do it. In a few minutes the direful deed was done, and the body of the murdered bird lay stretched upon the deck skinless. The captain came up in great wrath, and a warm discussion ensued, during which he declared his fixed determination to protect the birds, and forbade the killing of another one during the voyage. I told him I was aware that he had the power to enforce his order, and that I should be obliged to submit, but I protested against it as an infringement of my rights, and an unjustifiable exercise of arbitrary power. I hinted to him that he had better bestow a little of his compassion upon his passengers, and told him that I had already suffered more from bad food, filthy water and want of proper nourishment during my sickness on this voyage, than all the birds I wished to kill would suffer by their deaths. So we parted, and in less than an hour my friends caught me another bird, which I skinned and preserved.
June 1. Winter is upon us. At least it is fast approaching, this being the first winter month in this hemisphere. It is not to be expected that we shall find very cold weather in this low latitude--34 28'-- but for some time past the cold has been sensibly increasing. We have left the sun far to the north, that is, in our position on the globe, we see it at the north instead of the south, as it appears to us on the other side of the equator. He has thrown down his rays vertically upon us as he passed, drawing the melting pitch from the seams of the ship, and filling the cabins with an insupportable heat. The North Star has long since disappeared, and the Great Bear and other constellations with which we are, or ought to be, familiar, have settled down in the north, and new constellations have taken their places. The awning, which we had placed over our house, as a protection from the heat, has been removed. The passengers no longer lodge there, and their beds have been returned to their berths. A fair wind is driving us onward, and a few days will find us in the regions of storms, snows, and perhaps of icebergs. May our second winter in 1852 prove a short and fortunate one. A week has elapsed since we left Rio, our company are generally in good health, and our fears of an attack of yellow fever have vanished.
We are attended by multitudes of Cape Pigeons, which are so gentle and unsuspicious of danger, that they alight on the water directly under our stern. There are other birds with them, but none so tame. A large bird about the size of a goose was caught with a baited hook by a passenger, who obtained permission from our humane captain to hook up the bird on condition that he should set it at liberty again. To-day for the first time I have seen an albatross.
June 2. There have been some important changes made in our cooking department. I have already hinted that we have suffered severely from the wretched preparation of our food. The cooks are filthy in the extreme, and exceedingly careless. But before I proceed, let me describe our kitchen establishment. The duty of the first steward is to keep the ship's stores, and deal them out to the cooks. He also kneads up the bread, or "soft-tack," as it is called in contradistinction to the ship-bread, which is called "hard-tack." We have three other stewards or waiters, two for the main cabin, and one for our room in the after house. Our stewards also take their meals to the mates, who have a small room in the forward house. There is also a stewardess for the ladies' cabin. Two cooks prepare the food and deliver it to the stewards, who have charge of the tables in their respective cabins.
One day the chief steward, while kneading his bread saw a dirty hen escape from her cage; and leaving his dough, he caught the hen, restored her to the cage, and returned to his dough with an accumulation of material upon his hands, which it was far from agreeable to witness, and which diminished the demand for soft tack very essentially. Little things of this sort were of everyday occurrence. Messes of filthy trash were often set before us, which the most hungry among us could not swallow. We had a mess called "scouse," made up of a mixture of all the scraps of the salt beef and pork left of our dinner, and broken pieces of ship-bread boiled together. This was served up repeatedly; but the pans of scouse were so often sent back full to the cooks' galley, that they desisted for several weeks from forcing it upon us. But this morning they made another attempt, doubtless by the captain's order, and added to the mess by way of improvement several condiments, which we had not before discovered, such as bits of orange peel and cheese and mirabile of tobacco. We called the captain, and requested him to inspect the pan of scouse. He looked at it and passed on without any remark. He was met at the door by a deputation from the main cabin, bearing another pan of the delectable mixture. The captain by this time began to think that the matter was assuming rather a serious aspect, and he condescended to order an inspection of the cooks' galley, when the mischief was traced to an old fellow by the name of Draper, who was in the habit of drying his quids on a shelf directly over the boiler. Mr. Draper was accordingly degraded from the post of cook, and another gentleman appointed in his place. The passengers testified their satisfaction at this arrangement by three hearty cheers.
Some of our wags played off a joke on the chief steward by tapping the heels of his boots in the night with some very heavy cakes which he had made. He complained of the indignity to the second mate, who advised him to give his taps a fair trial, for in his opinion the bread would prove an excellent substitute for leather.
June 3. Last night we had a smart gale, which drove us forward at the rate of twelve knots; and this morning we were threatened with one of those squalls that often occur in the vicinity of the mouth of the Rio de la Plata., which we have just passed. The sky was overcast with dark clouds that were often illuminated with brilliant flashes of lightning. All hands were called and most of the sails furled. The squall burst upon us in a fine shower of rain, but the wind proved only a pleasant breeze, that helped up to make up a good day's reckoning.
June 6. There has been an unpleasant altercation on this holy Sabbath between our worthy captain, (who, by the way is a religious man and a member of a church,) and some of his lady passengers. The quarrel originated at the time of our visit at Rio. For several weeks prior to this visit, he had been very lavish of his attentions to Mrs. L---t, who had been ill during the voyage to Rio, and seemed to require a great deal of brandy and bitters, wine and gruel, and herb drinks. The captain was very assiduous in supplying the wants of Mrs. L---t, and his assiduities certainly entitled him to her warmest gratitude. But his intercourse with Mrs. L---t did not consist solely in administering drinks and doses. Among other little manifestations of friendliness, they united their fortunes in the purchase of a ticket in a lottery, which one of the passengers made of an article of jewelry. They drew the prize, and the captain became sole owner of the bauble by purchasing Mrs. L---t's share. Matters continued in this friendly way between them, till we arrived at Rio. Here, after inquiring into the health of the city, he cautioned his passengers against stopping on shore at night where they would be liable to take the yellow fever. The next morning he accompanied Mrs. L---t on shore, where they tarried day and night until the afternoon previous to our sailing. As a matter of course this, together with their previous intimacy, was a subject of much remark and some sport among the passengers. Their jokes reached Captain Jackson's ears and enraged him. He declared that there should be a stop put to the talk. The passengers thought otherwise. A smart little quarrel grew out of it, the women took it in hand, and nourished it, and today a discussion remarkable for its warmth and length, took place between Capt J. and Mrs. L---t on one side, and Miss Julia S---g on the other. The battle raged till the middle of the afternoon, when the captain left in a very wrathful frame of mind to join in a religious service on deck, and to worship the God of peace and purity. Capt J. has a wife in Maine and Mrs. L---t a husband in San Francisco.
June 8. Latitude 47 6', longitude 59 8'. We have cold weather, strong winds, squalls, snow, hail and rain. Great numbers of sea birds, chiefly Cape Pigeons, follow the ship. They bite very readily at a hook baited with pork, and are easily caught. They are pretty birds, and fly with great ease and gracefulness, and their wings seem never to tire. They alight on the water, on which they swim with great agility, and I have seen them dive several feet into the water in pursuit of food that had been thrown to them from the ship. There is considerable difference both in the size and color of these birds, and perhaps a skillful ornithologist might determine them to consist of several species, though I am inclined to consider them as varieties of the same species. One of the passengers caught two of them for me, but owing to cold weather and a slight seasickness at this time, I lost them.
June 10. Caught two more Cape Pigeons, and it being cold on deck, I was glad to accept the invitation from some of the passengers in the main cabin to skin the birds there. Their beaks were of a delicate light ash or lead color, and their breasts white. There were some dark spots on the wings. They were seventeen inches long, and forty-two and a half inches in the stretch of their wings. Two spotted ones, whose skins I have preserved, are smaller, being only thirty-four inches in alar extent.
Our oranges have nearly disappeared. Having been kept in close boxes and chests, they have decayed very rapidly. I have found them very beneficial to my health, and should be glad to keep them till we arrive at the next port, but they will be used up before we reach Cape Horn.
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