Two Years Before the Mast
Richard Henry Dana

Part 6 out of 8

them on ox-carts to the landing-place, whence they were taken on
board by the crew with boats. This being all done with, we gave
one day to bending our sails, and at night every sail, from the
courses to the skysails, was bent, and every studding-sail ready
for setting.

Before our sailing an unsuccessful attempt was made by one of the
crew of the California to effect an exchange with one of our
number. It was a lad, between fifteen and sixteen years of age,
who went by the name of the ``reefer,'' having been a midshipman
in an East India Company's ship. His singular character and story
had excited our interest ever since the ship came into the port.
He was a delicate, slender little fellow, with a beautiful pearly
complexion, regular features; forehead as white as marble, black
hair curling beautifully round it; tapering, delicate fingers;
small feet, soft voice, gentle manners, and, in fact, every sign
of having been well born and bred. At the same time there was
something in his expression which showed a slight deficiency of
intellect. How great the deficiency was, or what it resulted from;
whether he was born so; whether it was the result of disease or
accident; or whether, as some said, it was brought on by his
distress of mind during the voyage,-- I cannot say. From his
account of himself, and from many circumstances which were known
in connection with his story, he must have been the son of a man
of wealth. His mother was an Italian. He was probably a natural
son, for in scarcely any other way could the incidents of his
early life be accounted for. He said that his parents did not live
together, and he seemed to have been ill treated by his father.
Though he had been delicately brought up, and indulged in every
way (and he had then with him trinkets which had been given him at
home), yet his education had been sadly neglected; and when only
twelve years old, he was sent as midshipman in the Company's
service. His own story was, that he afterwards ran away from home,
upon a difficulty which he had with his father, and went to
Liverpool, whence he sailed in the ship Rialto, Captain Holmes,
for Boston. Captain Holmes endeavored to get him a passage back,
but, there being no vessel to sail for some time, the boy left
him, and went to board at a common sailor's boarding-house in Ann
Street, where he supported himself for a few weeks by selling some
of his valuables. At length, according to his own account, being
desirous of returning home, he went to a shipping-office, where
the shipping articles of the California were open. Upon asking
where the ship was going, he was told by the shipping-master that
she was bound to California. Not knowing where that was, he told
him that he wanted to go to Europe, and asked if California was in
Europe. The shipping-master answered him in a way which the boy
did not understand, and advised him to ship. The boy signed the
articles, received his advance, laid out a little of it in
clothes, and spent the rest, and was ready to go on board, when,
upon the morning of sailing, he heard that the ship was bound upon
the Northwest Coast, on a two or three years' voyage, and was not
going to Europe. Frightened at this prospect, he slipped away when
the crew were going aboard, wandered up into another part of the
town, and spent all the forenoon in straying about the Common, and
the neighboring streets. Having no money, and all his clothes and
other things being in his chest on board, and being a stranger, he
became tired and hungry, and ventured down toward the shipping, to
see if the vessel had sailed. He was just turning the corner of a
street, when the shipping-master, who had been in search of him,
popped upon him, seized him, and carried him on board. He cried
and struggled, and said he did not wish to go in the ship; but the
topsails were at the mast-head, the fasts just ready to be cast
off, and everything in the hurry and confusion of departure, so
that he was hardly noticed; and the few who did inquire about the
matter were told that it was merely a boy who had spent his
advance and tried to run away. Had the owners of the vessel known
anything of the matter, they would doubtless have interfered; but
they either knew nothing of it, or heard, like the rest, that it
was only an unruly boy who was sick of his bargain. As soon as the
boy found himself actually at sea, and upon a voyage of two or
three years in length, his spirits failed him; he refused to work,
and became so miserable that Captain Arthur took him into the
cabin, where he assisted the steward, and occasionally pulled and
hauled about decks. He was in this capacity when we saw him; and
though it was much better for him than the life in a forecastle,
and the hard work, watching, and exposure, which his delicate
frame could not have borne, yet, to be joined with a black fellow
in waiting upon a man whom he probably looked upon as but little,
in point of education and manners, above one of his father's
servants, was almost too much for his spirit to bear. Had he
entered upon this situation of his own free will, he could have
endured it; but to have been deceived, and, in addition to that,
forced into it, was intolerable. He made every effort to go home
in our ship, but his captain refused to part with him except in
the way of exchange, and that he could not effect. If this account
of the whole matter, which we had from the boy, and which was
confirmed by the crew, be correct, I cannot understand why Captain
Arthur should have refused to let him go, especially as he had the
name, not only with that crew, but with all he had ever commanded,
of an unusually kind-hearted man. The truth is, the unlimited
power which merchant captains have upon long voyages on strange
coasts takes away the sense of responsibility, and too often, even
in men otherwise well disposed, gives growth to a disregard for
the rights and feelings of others. The lad was sent on shore to
join the gang at the hide-house, from whence, I was afterwards
rejoiced to hear, he effected his escape, and went down to Callao
in a small Spanish schooner; and from Callao he probably returned
to England.

Soon after the arrival of the California, I spoke to Captain
Arthur about Hope, the Kanaka; and as he had known him on the
voyage before, and liked him, he immediately went to see him, gave
him proper medicines, and, under such care, he began rapidly to
recover. The Saturday night before our sailing I spent an hour in
the oven, and took leave of my Kanaka friends; and, really, this
was the only thing connected with leaving California which was in
any way unpleasant. I felt an interest and affection for many of
these simple, true-hearted men, such as I never felt before but
for a near relation. Hope shook me by the hand; said he should
soon be well again, and ready to work for me when I came upon the
coast, next voyage, as officer of the ship; and told me not to
forget, when I became captain, how to be kind to the sick. Old
``Mr. Bingham'' and ``King Mannini'' went down to the boat with
me, shook me heartily by the hand, wished us a good voyage, and
went back to the oven, chanting one of their deep, monotonous,
improvised songs, the burden of which I gathered to be about us
and our voyage.

Sunday, May 8th, 1836. This promised to be our last day in
California. Our forty thousand hides and thirty thousand horns,
besides several barrels of otter and beaver skins, were all stowed
below, and the hatches calked down.[3] All our spare spars were
taken on board and lashed, our water-casks secured, and our live
stock, consisting of four bullocks, a dozen sheep, a dozen or more
pigs, and three or four dozens of poultry, were all stowed away in
their different quarters; the bullocks in the long-boat, the sheep
in a pen on the fore hatch, the pigs in a sty under the bows of
the long-boat, and the poultry in their proper coop, and the
jolly-boat was full of hay for the sheep and bullocks. Our
unusually large cargo, together with the stores for a five months'
voyage, brought the ship channels down into the water. In addition
to this, she had been steeved so thoroughly, and was so bound by
the compression of her cargo, forced into her by machinery so
powerful, that she was like a man in a strait-jacket, and would be
but a dull sailer until she had worked herself loose.

The California had finished discharging her cargo, and was to get
under way at the same time with us. Having washed down decks and
got breakfast, the two vessels lay side by side, in complete
readiness for sea, our ensigns hanging from the peaks, and our
tall spars reflected from the glassy surface of the river, which,
since sunrise, had been unbroken by a ripple. At length a few
whiffs came across the water, and, by eleven o'clock the regular
northwest wind set steadily in. There was no need of calling all
hands, for we had all been hanging about the forecastle the whole
forenoon, and were ready for a start upon the first sign of a
breeze. Often we turned our eyes aft upon the captain, who was
walking the deck, with every now and then a look to windward. He
made a sign to the mate, who came forward, took his station
deliberately between the knight-heads, cast a glance aloft, and
called out ``All hands, lay aloft and loose the sails!'' We were
half in the rigging before the order came, and never since we left
Boston were the gaskets off the yards, and the rigging overhauled,
in a shorter time. ``All ready forward, sir!''-- ``All ready the
main!''-- ``Cross-jack yards all ready, sir!''-- ``Lay down, all
hands but one on each yard!'' The yard-arm and bunt gaskets were
cast off; and each sail hung by the jigger, with one man standing
by the tie to let it go. At the same moment that we sprang aloft,
a dozen hands sprang into the rigging of the California, and in an
instant were all over her yards; and her sails, too, were ready to
be dropped at the word. In the mean time our bow gun had been
loaded and run out, and its discharge was to be the signal for
dropping the sails. A cloud of smoke came out of our bows; the
echoes of the gun rattled our farewell among the hills of
California, and the two ships were covered, from head to foot,
with their white canvas. For a few minutes all was uproar and
apparent confusion; men jumping about like monkeys in the rigging;
ropes and blocks flying, orders given and answered amid the
confused noises of men singing out at the ropes. The topsails came
to the mast-heads with ``Cheerly, men!'' and, in a few minutes,
every sail was set, for the wind was light. The head sails were
backed, the windlass came round ``slip-- slap'' to the cry of the
sailors;-- ``Hove short, sir,'' said the mate;-- ``Up with him!''--
``Aye, aye, sir.'' A few hearty and long heaves, and the anchor
showed its head. ``Hook cat!'' The fall was stretched along the
decks; all hands laid hold;-- ``Hurrah, for the last time,'' said
the mate; and the anchor came to the cat-head to the tune of
``Time for us to go,'' with a rollicking chorus. Everything was
done quick, as though it was for the last time. The head yards
were filled away, and our ship began to move through the water on
her homeward-bound course.

The California had got under way at the same moment, and we sailed
down the narrow bay abreast, and were just off the mouth, and,
gradually drawing ahead of her, were on the point of giving her
three parting cheers, when suddenly we found ourselves stopped
short, and the California ranging fast ahead of us. A bar
stretches across the mouth of the harbor, with water enough to
float common vessels, but, being low in the water, and having kept
well to leeward, as we were bound to the southward, we had stuck
fast, while the California, being light, had floated over.

We kept all sail on, in the hope of forcing over, but, failing in
this, we hove aback, and lay waiting for the tide, which was on
the flood, to take us back into the channel. This was something of
a damper to us, and the captain looked not a little mortified and
vexed. ``This is the same place where the Rosa got ashore, sir,''
observed our red-headed second mate, most malapropos. A
malediction on the Rosa, and him too, was all the answer he got,
and he slunk off to leeward. In a few minutes the force of the
wind and the rising of the tide backed us into the stream, and we
were on our way to our old anchoring-place, the tide setting
swiftly up, and the ship barely manageable in the light breeze. We
came-to in our old berth opposite the hide-house, whose inmates
were not a little surprised to see us return. We felt as though we
were tied to California; and some of the crew swore that they
never should get clear of the bloody[4] coast.

In about half an hour, which was near high water, the order was
given to man the windlass, and again the anchor was catted; but
there was no song, and not a word was said about the last time.
The California had come back on finding that we had returned, and
was hove-to, waiting for us, off the point. This time we passed
the bar safely, and were soon up with the California, who filled
away, and kept us company. She seemed desirous of a trial of
speed, and our captain accepted the challenge, although we were
loaded down to the bolts of our chain-plates, as deep as a
sand-barge, and bound so taut with our cargo that we were no more
fit for a race than a man in fetters; while our antagonist was in
her best trim. Being clear of the point, the breeze became stiff,
and the royal-masts bent under our sails, but we would not take
them in until we saw three boys spring aloft into the rigging of
the California; when they were all furled at once, but with orders
to our boys to stay aloft at the top-gallant mast-heads and loose
them again at the word. It was my duty to furl the fore royal;
and, while standing by to loose it again, I had a fine view of the
scene. From where I stood, the two vessels seemed nothing but
spars and sails, while their narrow decks, far below, slanting
over by the force of the wind aloft, appeared hardly capable of
supporting the great fabrics raised upon them. The California was
to windward of us, and had every advantage; yet, while the breeze
was stiff, we held our own. As soon as it began to slacken, she
ranged a little ahead, and the order was given to loose the
royals. In an instant the gaskets were off and the bunt dropped.
``Sheet home the fore royal!-- Weather sheet's home!''-- ``Lee
sheet's home!''-- ``Hoist away, sir!'' is bawled from aloft.
``Overhaul your clew-lines!'' shouts the mate. ``Aye, aye, sir!
all clear!''-- ``Taut leech! belay! Well the lee brace; haul taut
to windward,''-- and the royals are set. These brought us up
again; but, the wind continuing light, the California set hers,
and it was soon evident that she was walking away from us. Our
captain then hailed, and said that he should keep off to his
course; adding, ``She isn't the Alert now. If I had her in your
trim she would have been out of sight by this time.'' This was
good-naturedly answered from the California, and she braced sharp
up, and stood close upon the wind up the coast; while we squared
away our yards, and stood before the wind to the south-southwest.
The California's crew manned her weather rigging, waved their hats
in the air, and gave us three hearty cheers, which we answered as
heartily, and the customary single cheer came back to us from over
the water. She stood on her way, doomed to eighteen months' or two
years' hard service upon that hated coast, while we were making
our way to our home, to which every hour and every mile was
bringing us nearer.

As soon as we parted company with the California, all hands were
sent aloft to set the studding-sails. Booms were rigged out, tacks
and halyards rove, sail after sail packed upon her, until every
available inch of canvas was spread, that we might not lose a
breath of the fair wind. We could now see how much she was cramped
and deadened by her cargo; for with a good breeze on her quarter,
and every stitch of canvas spread, we could not get more than six
knots out of her. She had no more life in her than if she were
water-logged. The log was hove several times; but she was doing
her best. We had hardly patience with her, but the older sailors
said, ``Stand by! you'll see her work herself loose in a week or
two, and then she'll walk up to Cape Horn like a race-horse.''

When all sail had been set, and the decks cleared up, the
California was a speck in the horizon, and the coast lay like a
low cloud along the northeast. At sunset they were both out of
sight, and we were once more upon the ocean, where sky and water

[1] This word, when used to signify a pulley or purchase formed by
blocks and a rope, is always by seamen pronounced ta-kl.

[2] When our crew were paid off in Boston, the owners answered the
orders of Stimson and me, but refused to deduct the amount from the
pay-roll, saying that the exchanges were made under compulsion.

[3] We had also a small quantity of gold dust, which Mexicans or
Indians had brought down to us from the interior. It was not
uncommon for our ships to bring a little, as I have since learned
from the owners. I heard rumors of gold discoveries, but they
attracted little or no attention, and were not followed up.

[4] This is a common expletive among sailors, and suits any purpose.


At eight o'clock all hands were called aft, and the watches set
for the voyage. Some changes were made; but I was glad to find
myself still in the larboard watch. Our crew was somewhat
diminished; for a man and a boy had gone in the Pilgrim; another
was second mate of the Ayacucho; and a fourth, Harry Bennett, the
oldest man of the crew, had broken down under the hard work and
constant exposure on the coast, and, having had a stroke of the
palsy, was left behind at the hide-house, under the charge of
Captain Arthur. The poor fellow wished very much to come home in
the ship; and he ought to have been brought home in her. But a
live dog is better than a dead lion, and a sick sailor belongs to
nobody's mess; so he was sent ashore with the rest of the lumber,
which was only in the way. He had come on board, with his chest,
in the morning, and tried to make himself useful about decks; but
his shuffling feet and weak arms led him into trouble, and some
words were said to him by the mate. He had the spirit of a man,
and had become a little tender, perhaps weakened in mind, and
said, ``Mr. Brown, I always did my duty aboard until I was sick.
If you don't want me, say so, and I'll go ashore.'' ``Bring up his
chest,'' said Mr. Brown, and poor Bennett went down into a boat
and was taken ashore, with tears in his eyes. He loved the ship
and the crew, and wished to get home, but could not bear to be
treated as a soger or loafer on board. This was the only
hard-hearted thing I ever knew Mr. Brown to do.

By these diminutions, we were short-handed for a voyage round Cape
Horn in the dead of winter. Beside Stimson and myself, there were
only five in the forecastle; who, together with four boys in the
steerage, the sailmaker, carpenter, cook, and steward, composed
the crew. In addition to this, we were only four days out, when
the sailmaker, who was the oldest and best seaman on board, was
taken with the palsy, and was useless for the rest of the voyage.
The constant wading in the water, in all weathers, to take off
hides, together with the other labors, is too much for men even in
middle life, and for any who have not good constitutions. (Beside
these two men of ours, the second officer of the California and
the carpenter of the Pilgrim, as we afterwards learned, broke down
under the work, and the latter died at Santa Barbara. The young
man, too, Henry Mellus, who came out with us from Boston in the
Pilgrim, had to be taken from his berth before the mast and made
clerk, on account of a fit of rheumatism which attacked him soon
after he came upon the coast.) By the loss of the sailmaker, our
watch was reduced to five, of whom two were boys, who never
steered but in fine weather, so that the other two and myself had
to stand at the wheel four hours apiece out of every twenty-four;
and the other watch had only four helmsmen. ``Never mind,-- we're
homeward bound!'' was the answer to everything; and we should not
have minded this, were it not for the thought that we should be
off Cape Horn in the very dead of winter. It was now the first
part of May; and two months would bring us off the Cape in July,
which is the worst month in the year there; when the sun rises at
nine and sets at three, giving eighteen hours night, and there is
snow and rain, gales and high seas, in abundance.

The prospect of meeting this in a ship half manned, and loaded so
deep that every heavy sea must wash her fore and aft, was by no
means pleasant. The Alert, in her passage out, doubled the Cape in
the month of February, which is midsummer; and we came round in
the Pilgrim in the latter part of October, which we thought was
bad enough. There was only one of our crew who had been off there
in the winter, and that was in a whale-ship, much lighter and
higher than our ship; yet he said they had man-killing weather for
twenty days without intermission, and their decks were swept
twice, and they were all glad enough to see the last of it. The
Brandywine frigate, also, in her recent passage round, had sixty
days off the Cape, and lost several boats by the heavy seas. All
this was for our comfort; yet pass it we must; and all hands
agreed to make the best of it.

During our watches below we overhauled our clothes, and made and
mended everything for bad weather. Each of us had made for himself
a suit of oil-cloth or tarpaulin, and these we got out, and gave
thorough coatings of oil or tar, and hung upon the stays to dry.
Our stout boots, too, we covered over with a thick mixture of
melted grease and tar. Thus we took advantage of the warm sun and
fine weather of the Pacific to prepare for its other face. In the
forenoon watches below, our forecastle looked like the workshop of
what a sailor is,-- a Jack-at-all-trades. Thick stockings and
drawers were darned and patched; mittens dragged from the bottom
of the chest and mended; comforters made for the neck and ears;
old flannel shirts cut up to line monkey-jackets; southwesters
were lined with flannel, and a pot of paint smuggled forward to
give them a coat on the outside; and everything turned to hand; so
that, although two years had left us but a scanty wardrobe, yet
the economy and invention which necessity teaches a sailor soon
put each of us in pretty good trim for bad weather, before we had
seen the last of the fine. Even the cobbler's art was not out of
place. Several old shoes were very decently repaired, and with
waxed ends, an awl, and the top of an old boot, I made me quite a
respectable sheath for my knife.

There was one difficulty, however, which nothing that we could do
would remedy; and that was the leaking of the forecastle, which
made it very uncomfortable in bad weather, and rendered half of
the berths tenantless. The tightest ships, in a long voyage, from
the constant strain which is upon the bowsprit, will leak more or
less round the heel of the bowsprit and the bitts, which come down
into the forecastle; but, in addition to this, we had an
unaccountable leak on the starboard bow, near the cat-head, which
drove us from the forward berths on that side, and, indeed, when
she was on the starboard tack, from all the forward berths. One of
the after berths, too, leaked in very bad weather; so that in a
ship which was in other respects unusually tight, and brought her
cargo to Boston perfectly dry, we had, after every effort made to
prevent it, in the way of calking and leading, a forecastle with
only three dry berths for seven of us. However, as there is never
but one watch below at a time, by ``turning in and out,'' we did
pretty well. And there being in our watch but three of us who
lived forward, we generally had a dry berth apiece in bad

All this, however, was but anticipation. We were still in fine
weather in the North Pacific, running down the northeast trades,
which we took on the second day after leaving San Diego.

Sunday, May 15th, one week out, we were in latitude 14 56' N.,
lon. 116 14' W., having gone, by reckoning, over thirteen hundred
miles in seven days. In fact, ever since leaving San Diego, we had
had a fair wind, and as much as we wanted of it. For seven days our
lower and topmast studding-sails were set all the time,
and our royals and top-gallant studding-sails whenever she could
stagger under them. Indeed, the captain had shown, from the moment
we got to sea, that he was to have no boy's play, but that the ship
was to carry all she could, and that he was going to make up by
``cracking on'' to her what she wanted in lightness. In this way we
frequently made three degrees of latitude, besides something in
longitude, in the course of twenty-four hours. Our days we spent in
the usual ship's work. The rigging which had become slack from
being long in port was to be set up; breast backstays got up;
studding-sail booms rigged upon the main yard; and royal
studding-sails got ready for the light trades; ring-tail set; and
new rigging fitted, and sails made ready for Cape Horn. For, with
a ship's gear, as well as a sailor's wardrobe, fine weather must
be improved to get ready for the bad to come. Our forenoon watch
below, as I have said, was given to our own work, and our night
watches were spent in the usual manner,-- a trick at the wheel,
a lookout on the forecastle, a nap on a coil of rigging under the
lee of the rail; a yarn round the windlass-end; or, as was
generally my way, a solitary walk fore and aft, in the weather
waist, between the windlass-end and the main tack. Every wave that
she threw aside brought us nearer home, and every day's
observation at noon showed a progress which, if it continued,
would, in less than five months, take us into Boston Bay. This is
the pleasure of life at sea,-- fine weather, day after day,
without interruption,-- fair wind, and a plenty of it,-- and
homeward bound. Every one was in good humor; things went right;
and all was done with a will. At the dog watch, all hands came on
deck, and stood round the weather side of the forecastle, or sat
upon the windlass, and sung sea-songs and those ballads of pirates
and highwaymen which sailors delight in. Home, too, and what we
should do when we got there, and when and how we should arrive,
was no infrequent topic. Every night, after the kids and pots were
put away, and we had lighted our pipes and cigars at the galley,
and gathered about the windlass, the first question was,--

``Well, Dana, what was the latitude to-day?''

``Why, fourteen, north; and she has been going seven knots ever

``Well, this will bring us to the line in five days.''

``Yes, but these trades won't last twenty-four hours longer,''
says an old salt, pointing with the sharp of his hand to leeward;
``I know that by the look of the clouds.''

Then came all manner of calculations and conjectures as to the
continuance of the wind, the weather under the line, the southeast
trades, &c., and rough guesses as to the time the ship would be up
with the Horn; and some, more venturous, gave her so many days to
Boston Light, and offered to bet that she would not exceed it.

``You'd better wait till you get round Cape Horn,'' says an old

``Yes,'' says another, ``you may see Boston, but you've got to
`smell hell' before that good day.''

Rumors also of what had been said in the cabin, as usual, found
their way forward. The steward had heard the captain say something
about the Straits of Magellan, and the man at the wheel fancied he
had heard him tell the ``passenger'' that, if he found the wind
ahead and the weather very bad off the Cape, he should stick her
off for New Holland, and come home round the Cape of Good Hope.

This passenger-- the first and only one we had had, except to go
from port to port, on the coast-- was no one else than a gentleman
whom I had known in my smoother days, and the last person I should
have expected to see on the coast of California,-- Professor
Nuttall, of Cambridge. I had left him quietly seated in the chair
of Botany and Ornithology in Harvard University, and the next I
saw of him, he was strolling about San Diego beach, in a sailor's
pea-jacket, with a wide straw hat, and barefooted, with his
trousers rolled up to his knees, picking up stones and shells. He
had travelled overland to the Northwest Coast, and come down in a
small vessel to Monterey. There he learned that there was a ship
at the leeward about to sail for Boston, and, taking passage in
the Pilgrim, which was then at Monterey, he came slowly along,
visiting the intermediate ports, and examining the trees, plants,
earths, birds, &c., and joined us at San Diego shortly before we
sailed. The second mate of the Pilgrim told me that they had an
old gentleman on board who knew me, and came from the college that
I had been in. He could not recollect his name, but said he was a
``sort of an oldish man,'' with white hair, and spent all his time
in the bush, and along the beach, picking up flowers and shells
and such truck, and had a dozen boxes and barrels full of them. I
thought over everybody who would be likely to be there, but could
fix upon no one; when, the next day, just as we were about to
shove off from the beach, he came down to the boat in the rig I
have described, with his shoes in his hand, and his pockets full
of specimens. I knew him at once, though I should hardly have been
more surprised to have seen the Old South steeple shoot up from
the hide-house. He probably had no more difficulty in recognizing
me. As we left home about the same time, we had nothing to tell
each other; and, owing to our different situations on board, I saw
but little of him on the passage home. Sometimes, when I was at
the wheel of a calm night, and the steering required little
attention, and the officer of the watch was forward, he would come
aft and hold a short yarn with me; but this was against the rules
of the ship, as is, in fact, all intercourse between passengers
and the crew. I was often amused to see the sailors puzzled to
know what to make of him, and to hear their conjectures about him
and his business. They were as much at a loss as our old sailmaker
was with the captain's instruments in the cabin. He said there
were three,-- the chro-nometer, the chre-nometer, and the
the-nometer. The Pilgrim's crew called Mr. Nuttall ``Old
Curious,'' from his zeal for curiosities; and some of them said
that he was crazy, and that his friends let him go about and amuse
himself in this way. Why else a rich man (sailors call every man
rich who does not work with his hands, and who wears a long coat
and cravat) should leave a Christian country and come to such a
place as California to pick up shells and stones, they could not
understand. One of them, however, who had seen something more of
the world ashore, set all to rights, as he thought; ``O, 'vast
there! You don't know anything about them craft. I've seen them
colleges and know the ropes. They keep all such things for
cur'osities, and study 'em, and have men a purpose to go and get
'em. This old chap knows what he's about. He a'n't the child you
take him for. He'll carry all these things to the college, and if
they are better than any that they have had before, he'll be head
of the college. Then, by and by, somebody else will go after some
more, and if they beat him he'll have to go again, or else give up
his berth. That's the way they do it. This old covey knows the
ropes. He has worked a traverse over 'em, and come 'way out here
where nobody's ever been afore, and where they'll never think of
coming.'' This explanation satisfied Jack; and as it raised Mr.
Nuttall's credit, and was near enough to the truth for common
purposes, I did not disturb it.

With the exception of Mr. Nuttall, we had no one on board but the
regular ship's company and the live stock. Upon the stock we had
made a considerable inroad. We killed one of the bullocks every
four days, so that they did not last us up to the line. We, or
rather the cabin, then began upon the sheep and the poultry, for
these never come into Jack's mess.[2] The pigs were left for the
latter part of the voyage, for they are sailors, and can stand all
weathers. We had an old sow on board, the mother of a numerous
progeny, who had been twice round the Cape of Good Hope and once
round Cape Horn. The last time going round was very nearly her
death. We heard her squealing and moaning one dark night after it
had been snowing and hailing for several hours, and, climbing over
into the sty, we found her nearly frozen to death. We got some
straw, an old sail, and other things, and wrapped her up in a
corner of the sty, where she stayed until we came into fine
weather again.

Wednesday, May 18th. Lat. 9 54' N., lon. 113 17' W. The northeast
trades had now left us, and we had the usual variable winds, the
``doldrums,'' which prevail near the line, together with some rain.
So long as we were in these latitudes, we had but little rest in
our watch on deck at night; for, as the winds were light and
variable, and we could not lose a breath, we were all the watch
bracing the yards, and taking in and making sail, and ``humbugging''
with our flying kites. A little puff of wind on the larboard
quarter, and then-- ``larboard fore braces!''-- and studding-sail
booms were rigged out, studding-sails set alow and aloft, the yards
trimmed, and jibs and spanker in; when it would come as calm as a
duck-pond, the man at the wheel standing with the palm of his hand
up, feeling for the wind. ``Keep her off a little!'' ``All aback
forward, sir!'' cries a man from the forecastle. Down go the braces
again; in come the studding-sails, all in a mess, which half an
hour won't set right; yards braced sharp up, and she's on the
starboard tack, close-hauled. The studding-sails must now be
cleared away, and set up in the tops and on the booms, and the
gear cut off and made fast. By the time this is done, and you are
looking out for a soft plank for a nap,-- ``Lay aft here, and square
in the head yards!'' and the studding-sails are all set again on the
starboard side. So it goes until it is eight bells,-- call the
watch,-- heave the log,-- relieve the wheel, and go below the
larboard watch.

Sunday, May 22d. Lat. 5 14' N., lon. 166 45' W. We were now a
fortnight out, and within five degrees of the line, to which two
days of good breeze would take us; but we had, for the most part,
what the sailors call ``an Irishman's hurricane,-- right up and
down.'' This day it rained nearly all day, and, being Sunday and
nothing to do, we stopped up the scuppers and filled the decks with
rain water, and, bringing all our clothes on deck, had a grand wash,
fore and aft. When this was through, we stripped to our drawers,
and taking pieces of soap, with strips of canvas for towels, we
turned-to and soaped, washed, and scrubbed one another down, to
get off, as we said, the California grime; for the common wash in
salt water, which is all that Jack can get, being on an allowance
of fresh, had little efficacy, and was more for taste than
utility. The captain was below all the afternoon, and we had
something nearer to Saturnalia than anything we had yet seen; for
the mate came into the scuppers, with a couple of boys to scrub
him, and got into a contest with them in heaving water. By
unplugging the holes, we let the soapsuds off the decks, and in a
short time had a new supply of clear rain water, in which we had a
grand rinsing. It was surprising to see how much soap and fresh
water did for the complexions of many of us; how much of what we
supposed to be tan and sea-blacking we got rid of. The next day,
the sun rising clear, the ship was covered, fore and aft, with
clothes of all sorts, hanging out to dry.

As we approached the line, the wind became more easterly, and the
weather clearer, and in twenty days from San Diego,--

Saturday, May 28th, at about three P.M., with a fine breeze from
the east-southeast, we crossed the equator. In twenty-four hours
after crossing the line, we took, which was very unusual, the
regular southeast trades. These winds come a little from the
eastward of southeast, and with us they blew directly from the
east-southeast, which was fortunate for us, as our course was
south-by-west, and we could thus go one point free. The yards were
braced so that every sail drew, from the spanker to the
flying-jib; and, the upper yards being squared in a little, the
fore and main top-gallant studding-sails were set, and drew
handsomely. For twelve days this breeze blew steadily, not varying
a point, and just so fresh that we could carry our royals; and
during the whole time we hardly started a brace. Such progress did
we make that at the end of seven days from the time we took the
breeze, on--

Sunday, June 5th, we were in lat. 19 29' S., and lon. 118 01' W.,
having made twelve hundred miles in seven days, very nearly upon a
taut bowline. Our good ship was getting to be herself again, and had
increased her rate of sailing more than one third since leaving San
Diego. The crew ceased complaining of her, and the officers hove the
log every two hours with evident satisfaction. This was glorious
sailing. A steady breeze; the light tradewind clouds over our heads;
the incomparable temperature of the Pacific,-- neither hot nor cold;
a clear sun every day, and clear moon and stars every night, and new
constellations rising in the south, and the familiar ones sinking
in the north, as we went on our course,-- ``stemming nightly
toward the pole.'' Already we had sunk the North Star and the
Great Bear, while the Southern Cross appeared well above the
southern horizon, and all hands looked out sharp to the southward
for the Magellan Clouds, which, each succeeding night, we expected
to make. ``The next time we see the North Star,'' said one, ``we
shall be standing to the northward, the other side of the Horn.''
This was true enough, and no doubt it would be a welcome sight,
for sailors say that in coming home from round Cape Horn, or the
Cape of Good Hope, the North Star is the first land you make.

These trades were the same that in the passage out in the Pilgrim
lasted nearly all the way from Juan Fernandez to the line; blowing
steadily on our starboard quarter for three weeks, without our
starting a brace, or even brailing down the skysails. Though we
had now the same wind, and were in the same latitude with the
Pilgrim on her passage out, yet we were nearly twelve hundred
miles to the westward of her course; for the captain, depending
upon the strong southwest winds which prevail in high southern
latitudes during the winter months, took the full advantage of the
trades, and stood well to the westward, so far that we passed
within about two hundred miles of Ducie's Island.

It was this weather and sailing that brought to my mind a little
incident that occurred on board the Pilgrim, while we were in the
same latitude. We were going along at a great rate, dead before
the wind, with studding-sails out on both sides, alow and aloft,
on a dark night, just after midnight, and everything as still as
the grave, except the washing of the water by the vessel's side;
for, being before the wind, with a smooth sea, the little brig,
covered with canvas, was doing great business with very little
noise. The other watch was below, and all our watch, except myself
and the man at the wheel, were asleep under the lee of the boat.
The second mate, who came out before the mast, and was always very
thick with me, had been holding a yarn with me, and just gone aft
to his place on the quarter-deck, and I had resumed my usual walk
to and from the windlass-end, when, suddenly, we heard a loud
scream coming from ahead, apparently directly from under the bows.
The darkness, and complete stillness of the night, and the
solitude of the ocean, gave to the sound a dreadful and almost
supernatural effect. I stood perfectly still, and my heart beat
quick. The sound woke up the rest of the watch, who stood looking
at one another. ``What, in the name of God, is that?'' said the
second mate, coming slowly forward. The first thought I had was,
that it might be a boat, with the crew of some wrecked vessel, or
perhaps the boat of some whale-ship, out over night, and we had
run it down in the darkness. Another scream! but less loud than
the first. This started us, and we ran forward, and looked over
the bows, and over the sides, to leeward, but nothing was to be
seen or heard. What was to be done? Heave the ship aback, and call
the captain? Just at this moment, in crossing the forecastle, one
of the men saw a light below, and, looking down the scuttle, saw
the watch all out of their berths, and afoul of one poor fellow,
dragging him out of his berth, and shaking him, to wake him out of
a nightmare. They had been waked out of their sleep, and as much
alarmed at the scream as we were, and were hesitating whether to
come on deck, when the second sound, proceeding directly from one
of the berths, revealed the cause of the alarm. The fellow got a
good shaking for the trouble he had given. We made a joke of the
matter; and we could well laugh, for our minds were not a little
relieved by its ridiculous termination.

We were now close upon the southern tropical line, and, with so
fine a breeze, were daily leaving the sun behind us, and drawing
nearer to Cape Horn, for which it behooved us to make every
preparation. Our rigging was all overhauled and mended, or changed
for new, where it was necessary; new and strong bobstays fitted in
the place of the chain ones, which were worn out; the spritsail
yard and martingale guys and back-ropes set well taut; bran-new
fore and main braces rove; top-gallant sheets, and wheelropes,
made of green hide, laid up in the form of rope, were stretched
and fitted; and new topsail clew-lines, &c. rove; new fore-topmast
backstays fitted; and other preparations made in good season, that
the ropes might have time to stretch and become limber before we
got into cold weather.

Sunday, June 12th. Lat. 26 04' S., lon. 116 31' W. We had now lost
the regular trades, and had the winds variable, principally from the
westward, and kept on in a southerly course, sailing very nearly
upon a meridian, and at the end of the week,--

Sunday, June 19th, were in lat. 34 15' S., and lon. 116 38' W.

[1] On removing the cat-head, after the ship arrived at Boston, it
was found that there were two holes under it which had been bored
for the purpose of driving treenails, and which, accidentally, had
not been plugged up when the cat-head was placed over them. This
provoking little piece of negligence caused us great discomfort.

[2] The customs as to the allowance of ``grub'' are very nearly the
same in all American merchantmen. Whenever a pig is killed, the
sailors have one mess from it. The rest goes to the cabin. The
smaller live stock, poultry, &c. the sailors never taste. And
indeed they do not complain of this, for it would take a great
deal to supply them with a good meal; and without the
accompaniments (which could hardly be furnished to them), it would
not be much better than salt beef. But even as to the salt beef
they are scarcely dealt fairly with; for whenever a barrel is
opened, before any of the beef is put into the harness-cask, the
steward comes up and picks it all over, and takes out the best
pieces (those that have any fat in them) for the cabin. This was
done in both the vessels I was in, and the men said that it was
usual in other vessels. Indeed, it is made no secret, and some of
the crew are usually called to help in assorting and putting away
the pieces. By this arrangement the hard, dry pieces, which the
sailors call ``old horse,'' come to their share.

There is a singular piece of rhyme, traditional among sailors,
which they say over such pieces of beef. I do not know that it
ever appeared in print before. When seated round the kid, if a
particularly bad piece is found, one of them takes it up, and
addresses it thus:--

```Old horse! old horse! what brought you here?'
`From Sacarap to Portland Pier
I've carted stone this many a year;
Till, killed by blows and sore abuse,
They salted me down for sailors' use.
The sailors they do me despise;
They turn me over and damn my eyes;
Cut off my meat, and scrape my bones,
And pitch me over to Davy Jones.'''

There is a story current among seamen, that a beef-dealer was
convicted, at Boston, of having sold old horse for ship's stores,
instead of beef, and had been sentenced to be confined in jail
until he should eat the whole of it; and that he is now lying in
Boston jail. I have heard this story often, on board other vessels
besides those of our own nation. It is very generally believed,
and is always highly commended, as a fair instance of retaliatory


There began now to be a decided change in the appearance of things.
The days became shorter and shorter; the sun running lower in its
course each day, and giving less and less heat, and the nights so
cold as to prevent our sleeping on deck; the Magellan Clouds in
sight, of a clear, moonless night; the skies looking cold and angry;
and, at times, a long, heavy, ugly sea, setting in from the
southward, told us what we were coming to. Still, however, we had a
fine, strong breeze, and kept on our way under as much sail as our
ship would bear. Toward the middle of the week, the wind hauled to
the southward, which brought us upon a taut bowline, made the ship
meet, nearly head-on, the heavy swell which rolled from that
quarter; and there was something not at all encouraging in the
manner in which she met it. Being still so deep and heavy, she
wanted the buoyancy which should have carried her over the seas,
and she dropped heavily into them, the water washing over the
decks; and every now and then, when an unusually large sea met her
fairly upon the bows, she struck it with a sound as dead and heavy
as that with which a sledge-hammer falls upon the pile, and took
the whole of it in upon the forecastle, and, rising, carried it
aft in the scuppers, washing the rigging off the pins, and
carrying along with it everything which was loose on deck. She had
been acting in this way all of our forenoon watch below; as we
could tell by the washing of the water over our heads, and the
heavy breaking of the seas against her bows, only the thickness of
a plank from our heads, as we lay in our berths, which are
directly against the bows. At eight bells, the watch was called,
and we came on deck, one hand going aft to take the wheel, and
another going to the galley to get the grub for dinner. I stood on
the forecastle, looking at the seas, which were rolling high, as
far as the eye could reach, their tops white with foam, and the
body of them of a deep indigo blue, reflecting the bright rays of
the sun. Our ship rose slowly over a few of the largest of them,
until one immense fellow came rolling on, threatening to cover
her, and which I was sailor enough to know, by the ``feeling of
her'' under my feet, she would not rise over. I sprang upon the
knight-heads, and, seizing hold of the fore-stay, drew myself up
upon it. My feet were just off the stanchion when the bow struck
fairly into the middle of the sea, and it washed the ship fore and
aft, burying her in the water. As soon as she rose out of it, I
looked aft, and everything forward of the mainmast, except the
long-boat, which was griped and double-lashed down to the
ring-bolts, was swept off clear. The galley, the pigsty, the
hen-coop, and a large sheep-pen which had been built upon the
fore-hatch, were all gone in the twinkling of an eye,-- leaving
the deck as clean as a chin new reaped,-- and not a stick left to
show where anything had stood. In the scuppers lay the galley,
bottom up, and a few boards floating about,-- the wreck of the
sheep-pen,-- and half a dozen miserable sheep floating among them,
wet through, and not a little frightened at the sudden change that
had come upon them. As soon as the sea had washed by, all hands
sprang up out of the forecastle to see what had become of the
ship; and in a few moments the cook and Old Bill crawled out from
under the galley, where they had been lying in the water, nearly
smothered, with the galley over them. Fortunately, it rested
against the bulwarks, or it would have broken some of their bones.
When the water ran off, we picked the sheep up, and put them in
the long-boat, got the galley back in its place, and set things a
little to rights; but, had not our ship had uncommonly high
bulwarks and rail, everything must have been washed overboard, not
excepting Old Bill and the cook. Bill had been standing at the
galley-door, with the kid of beef in his hand for the forecastle
mess, when away he went, kid, beef, and all. He held on to the kid
to the last, like a good fellow, but the beef was gone, and when
the water had run off we saw it lying high and dry, like a rock at
low tide,-- nothing could hurt that. We took the loss of our beef
very easily, consoling ourselves with the recollection that the
cabin had more to lose than we; and chuckled not a little at
seeing the remains of the chicken-pie and pancakes floating in the
scuppers. ``This will never do!'' was what some said, and every
one felt. Here we were, not yet within a thousand miles of the
latitude of Cape Horn, and our decks swept by a sea not one half
so high as we must expect to find there. Some blamed the captain
for loading his ship so deep when he knew what he must expect;
while others said that the wind was always southwest, off the
Cape, in the winter, and that, running before it, we should not
mind the seas so much. When we got down into the forecastle, Old
Bill, who was somewhat of a croaker,-- having met with a great
many accidents at sea,-- said that, if that was the way she was
going to act, we might as well make our wills, and balance the
books at once, and put on a clean shirt. ``'Vast there, you bloody
old owl! you're always hanging out blue lights! You're frightened
by the ducking you got in the scuppers, and can't take a joke!
What's the use in being always on the lookout for Davy Jones?''
``Stand by!'' says another, ``and we'll get an afternoon watch
below, by this scrape''; but in this they were disappointed, for
at two bells all hands were called and set to work, getting
lashings upon everything on deck; and the captain talked of
sending down the long top-gallant-masts; but as the sea went down
toward night, and the wind hauled abeam, we left them standing,
and set the studding-sails.

The next day all hands were turned-to upon unbending the old
sails, and getting up the new ones; for a ship, unlike people on
shore, puts on her best suit in bad weather. The old sails were
sent down, and three new topsails, and new fore and main courses,
jib, and fore-topmast staysail, which were made on the coast and
never had been used, were bent, with a complete set of new
earings, robands, and reef-points; and reef-tackles were rove to
the courses, and spilling-lines to the topsails. These, with new
braces and clew-lines fore and aft, gave us a good suit of running

The wind continued westerly, and the weather and sea less rough
since the day on which we shipped the heavy sea, and we were
making great progress under studding-sails, with our light sails
all set, keeping a little to the eastward of south; for the
captain, depending upon westerly winds off the Cape, had kept so
far to the westward that, though we were within about five hundred
miles of the latitude of Cape Horn, we were nearly seventeen
hundred miles to the westward of it. Through the rest of the week
we continued on with a fair wind, gradually, as we got more to the
southward, keeping a more easterly course, and bringing the wind
on our larboard quarter, until--

Sunday, June 26th, when, having a fine, clear day, the captain got
a lunar observation, as well as his meridian altitude, which made
us in lat. 47 50' S., lon. 113 49' W.; Cape Horn bearing,
according to my calculations, E. S. E. 1/2 E., and distant eighteen
hundred miles.

Monday, June 27th. During the first part of this day the wind
continued fair, and, as we were going before it, it did not feel
very cold, so that we kept at work on deck in our common clothes
and round jackets. Our watch had an afternoon watch below for the
first time since leaving San Diego; and, having inquired of the
third mate what the latitude was at noon, and made our usual
guesses as to the time she would need to be up with the Horn, we
turned-in for a nap. We were sleeping away ``at the rate of
knots,'' when three knocks on the scuttle and ``All hands, ahoy!''
started us from our berths. What could be the matter? It did not
appear to be blowing hard, and, looking up through the scuttle, we
could see that it was a clear day overhead; yet the watch were
taking in sail. We thought there must be a sail in sight, and that
we were about to heave-to and speak her; and were just
congratulating ourselves upon it,-- for we had seen neither sail
nor land since we left port,-- when we heard the mate's voice on
deck (he turned-in ``all-standing,'' and was always on deck the
moment he was called) singing out to the men who were taking in
the studding-sails, and asking where his watch were. We did not
wait for a second call, but tumbled up the ladder; and there, on
the starboard bow, was a bank of mist, covering sea and sky, and
driving directly for us. I had seen the same before in my passage
round in the Pilgrim, and knew what it meant, and that there was
no time to be lost. We had nothing on but thin clothes, yet there
was not a moment to spare, and at it we went.

The boys of the other watch were in the tops, taking in the
top-gallant studding-sails and the lower and topmast
studding-sails were coming down by the run. It was nothing but
``haul down and clew up,'' until we got all the studding-sails in,
and the royals, flying jib, and mizzen top-gallant-sail furled,
and the ship kept off a little, to take the squall. The fore and
main top-gallant sails were still on her, for the ``old man'' did
not mean to be frightened in broad daylight, and was determined to
carry sail till the last minute. We all stood waiting for its
coming, when the first blast showed us that it was not to be
trifled with. Rain, sleet, snow, and wind enough to take our
breath from us, and make the toughest turn his back to windward!
The ship lay nearly over upon her beam-ends; the spars and rigging
snapped and cracked; and her top-gallant-masts bent like
whip-sticks. ``Clew up the fore and main top-gallant-sails!''
shouted the captain, and all hands sprang to the clew-lines. The
decks were standing nearly at an angle of forty-five degrees, and
the ship going like a mad steed through the water, the whole
forward part of her in a smother of foam. The halyards were let
go, and the yard clewed down, and the sheets started, and in a few
minutes the sails smothered and kept in by clewlines and
buntlines. ``Furl 'em, sir?'' asked the mate. ``Let go the topsail
halyards, fore and aft!'' shouted the captain in answer, at the
top of his voice. Down came the topsail yards, the reef-tackles
were manned and hauled out, and we climbed up to windward, and
sprang into the weather rigging. The violence of the wind, and the
hail and sleet, driving nearly horizontally across the ocean,
seemed actually to pin us down to the rigging. It was hard work
making head against them. One after another we got out upon the
yards. And here we had work to do; for our new sails had hardly
been bent long enough to get the stiffness out of them, and the
new earings and reef-points, stiffened with the sleet, knotted
like pieces of iron wire. Having only our round jackets and straw
hats on, we were soon wet through, and it was every moment growing
colder. Our hands were soon numbed, which, added to the stiffness
of everything else, kept us a good while on the yard. After we had
got the sail hauled upon the yard, we had to wait a long time for
the weather earing to be passed; but there was no fault to be
found, for French John was at the earing, and a better sailor
never laid out on a yard; so we leaned over the yard and beat our
hands upon the sail to keep them from freezing. At length the word
came, ``Haul out to leeward,'' and we seized the reef-points and
hauled the band taut for the lee earing. ``Taut band-- knot
away,'' and we got the first reef fast, and were just going to lay
down, when-- ``Two reefs-- two reefs!'' shouted the mate, and we
had a second reef to take, in the same way. When this was fast we
went down on deck, manned the halyards to leeward, nearly up to
our knees in water, set the topsail, and then laid aloft on the
main topsail yard, and reefed that sail in the same manner; for,
as I have before stated, we were a good deal reduced in numbers,
and, to make it worse, the carpenter, only two days before, had
cut his leg with an axe, so that he could not go aloft. This
weakened us so that we could not well manage more than one topsail
at a time, in such weather as this, and, of course, each man's
labor was doubled. From the main topsail yard, we went upon the
main yard, and took a reef in the mainsail. No sooner had we got
on deck than-- ``Lay aloft there, and close-reef mizzen topsail!''
This called me; and, being nearest to the rigging, I got first
aloft, and out to the weather earing. English Ben was up just
after me, and took the lee earing, and the rest of our gang were
soon on the yard, and began to fist the sail, when the mate
considerately sent up the cook and steward to help us. I could now
account for the long time it took to pass the other earings, for,
to do my best, with a strong hand to help me at the dog's ear, I
could not get it passed until I heard them beginning to complain
in the bunt. One reef after another we took in, until the sail was
close-reefed, when we went down and hoisted away at the halyards.
In the mean time, the jib had been furled and the staysail set,
and the ship under her reduced sail had got more upright, and was
under management; but the two top-gallant-sails were still hanging
in the buntlines, and slatting and jerking as though they would
take the masts out of her. We gave a look aloft, and knew that our
work was not done yet; and, sure enough, no sooner did the mate
see that we were on deck than-- ``Lay aloft there, four of you,
and furl the top-gallant-sails!'' This called me again, and two of
us went aloft up the fore rigging, and two more up the main, upon
the top-gallant yards. The shrouds were now iced over, the sleet
having formed a crust round all the standing rigging, and on the
weather side of the masts and yards. When we got upon the yard, my
hands were so numb that I could not have cast off the knot of the
gasket if it were to save my life. We both lay over the yard for a
few seconds, beating our hands upon the sail, until we started the
blood into our fingers' ends, and at the next moment our hands
were in a burning heat. My companion on the yard was a lad (the
boy, George Somerby), who came out in the ship a weak, puny boy,
from one of the Boston schools,-- ``no larger than a
spritsail-sheet knot,'' nor ``heavier than a paper of
lamp-black,'' and ``not strong enough to haul a shad off a
gridiron,'' but who was now ``as long as a spare topmast, strong
enough to knock down an ox, and hearty enough to eat him.'' We
fisted the sail together, and, after six or eight minutes of hard
hauling and pulling and beating down the sail, which was about as
stiff as sheet-iron, we managed to get it furled; and snugly
furled it must be, for we knew the mate well enough to be certain
that if it got adrift again we should be called up from our watch
below, at any hour of the night, to furl it.

I had been on the lookout for a chance to jump below and clap on a
thick jacket and southwester; but when we got on deck we found
that eight bells had been struck, and the other watch gone below,
so that there were two hours of dog watch for us, and a plenty of
work to do. It had now set in for a steady gale from the
southwest; but we were not yet far enough to the southward to make
a fair wind of it, for we must give Terra del Fuego a wide berth.
The decks were covered with snow, and there was a constant driving
of sleet. In fact, Cape Horn had set in with good earnest. In the
midst of all this, and before it became dark, we had all the
studding-sails to make up and stow away, and then to lay aloft and
rig in all the booms, fore and aft, and coil away the tacks,
sheets, and halyards. This was pretty tough work for four or five
hands, in the face of a gale which almost took us off the yards,
and with ropes so stiff with ice that it was almost impossible to
bend them. I was nearly half an hour out on the end of the fore
yard, trying to coil away and stop down the topmast studding-sail
tack and lower halyards. It was after dark when we got through,
and we were not a little pleased to hear four bells struck, which
sent us below for two hours, and gave us each a pot of hot tea
with our cold beef and bread, and, what was better yet, a suit of
thick, dry clothing, fitted for the weather, in place of our thin
clothes, which were wet through and now frozen stiff.

This sudden turn, for which we were so little prepared, was as
unacceptable to me as to any of the rest; for I had been troubled
for several days with a slight toothache, and this cold weather
and wetting and freezing were not the best things in the world for
it. I soon found that it was getting strong hold, and running over
all parts of my face; and before the watch was out I went aft to
the mate, who had charge of the medicine-chest, to get something
for it. But the chest showed like the end of a long voyage, for
there was nothing that would answer but a few drops of laudanum,
which must be saved for an emergency; so I had only to bear the
pain as well as I could.

When we went on deck at eight bells, it had stopped snowing, and
there were a few stars out, but the clouds were still black, and
it was blowing a steady gale. Just before midnight, I went aloft
and sent down the mizzen royal yard, and had the good luck to do
it to the satisfaction of the mate, who said it was done ``out of
hand and ship-shape.'' The next four hours below were but little
relief to me, for I lay awake in my berth the whole time, from the
pain in my face, and heard every bell strike, and, at four
o'clock, turned out with the watch, feeling little spirit for the
hard duties of the day. Bad weather and hard work at sea can be
borne up against very well if one only has spirit and health; but
there is nothing brings a man down, at such a time, like bodily
pain and want of sleep. There was, however, too much to do to
allow time to think; for the gale of yesterday, and the heavy seas
we met with a few days before, while we had yet ten degrees more
southing to make, had convinced the captain that we had something
before us which was not to be trifled with, and orders were given
to send down the long top-gallant-masts. The top-gallant and royal
yards were accordingly struck, the flying jib-boom rigged in, and
the top-gallant-masts sent down on deck, and all lashed together
by the side of the long-boat. The rigging was then sent down and
coiled away below, and everything made snug aloft. There was not a
sailor in the ship who was not rejoiced to see these sticks come
down; for, so long as the yards were aloft, on the least sign of a
lull, the top-gallant-sails were loosed, and then we had to furl
them again in a snow-squall, and shin up and down single ropes
caked with ice, and send royal yards down in the teeth of a gale
coming right from the south pole. It was an interesting sight,
too, to see our noble ship, dismantled of all her top-hamper of
long tapering masts and yards, and boom pointed with spear-head,
which ornamented her in port; and all that canvas, which a few
days before had covered her like a cloud, from the truck to the
water's edge, spreading far out beyond her hull on either side,
now gone; and she stripped, like a wrestler for the fight. It
corresponded, too, with the desolate character of her situation,--
alone, as she was, battling with storms, wind, and ice, at this
extremity of the globe, and in almost constant night.

Friday, July 1st. We were now nearly up to the latitude of Cape
Horn, and having over forty degrees of easting to make, we squared
away the yards before a strong westerly gale, shook a reef out of
the fore topsail, and stood on our way, east-by-south, with the
prospect of being up with the Cape in a week or ten days. As for
myself, I had had no sleep for forty-eight hours; and the want of
rest, together with constant wet and cold, had increased the
swelling, so that my face was nearly as large as two, and I found
it impossible to get my mouth open wide enough to eat. In this
state, the steward applied to the captain for some rice to boil
for me, but he only got a-- ``No! d--- you! Tell him to eat salt
junk and hard bread, like the rest of them.'' This was, in truth,
what I expected. However, I did not starve, for Mr. Brown, who was
a man as well as a sailor, and had always been a good friend to
me, smuggled a pan of rice into the galley, and told the cook to
boil it for me, and not let the ``old man'' see it. Had it been
fine weather, or in port, I should have gone below and lain by
until my face got well; but in such weather as this, and
short-handed as we were, it was not for me to desert my post; so I
kept on deck, and stood my watch and did my duty as well as I

Saturday, July 2d. This day the sun rose fair, but it ran too low
in the heavens to give any heat, or thaw out our sails and
rigging; yet the sight of it was pleasant; and we had a steady
``reef-topsail breeze'' from the westward. The atmosphere, which
had previously been clear and cold, for the last few hours grew
damp, and had a disagreeable, wet chilliness in it; and the man
who came from the wheel said he heard the captain tell ``the
passenger'' that the thermometer had fallen several degrees since
morning, which he could not account for in any other way than by
supposing that there must be ice near us; though such a thing was
rarely heard of in this latitude at this season of the year. At
twelve o'clock we went below, and had just got through dinner,
when the cook put his head down the scuttle and told us to come on
deck and see the finest sight that we had ever seen. ``Where away,
Doctor?''[1] asked the first man who was up. ``On the larboard
bow.'' And there lay, floating in the ocean, several miles off, an
immense, irregular mass, its top and points covered with snow, and
its centre of a deep indigo color. This was an iceberg, and of the
largest size, as one of our men said who had been in the Northern
Ocean. As far as the eye could reach, the sea in every direction
was of a deep blue color, the waves running high and fresh, and
sparkling in the light, and in the midst lay this immense
mountain-island, its cavities and valleys thrown into deep shade,
and its points and pinnacles glittering in the sun. All hands were
soon on deck, looking at it, and admiring in various ways its
beauty and grandeur. But no description can give any idea of the
strangeness, splendor, and, really, the sublimity, of the sight.
Its great size,-- for it must have been from two to three miles in
circumference, and several hundred feet in height,-- its slow
motion, as its base rose and sank in the water, and its high
points nodded against the clouds; the dashing of the waves upon
it, which, breaking high with foam, lined its base with a white
crust; and the thundering sound of the cracking of the mass, and
the breaking and tumbling down of huge pieces; together with its
nearness and approach, which added a slight element of fear,-- all
combined to give to it the character of true sublimity. The main
body of the mass was, as I have said, of an indigo color, its base
crusted with frozen foam; and as it grew thin and transparent
toward the edges and top, its color shaded off from a deep blue to
the whiteness of snow. It seemed to be drifting slowly toward the
north, so that we kept away and avoided it. It was in sight all
the afternoon; and when we got to leeward of it the wind died
away, so that we lay-to quite near it for a greater part of the
night. Unfortunately, there was no moon, but it was a clear night,
and we could plainly mark the long, regular heaving of the
stupendous mass, as its edges moved slowly against the stars, now
revealing them, and now shutting them in. Several times in our
watch loud cracks were heard, which sounded as though they must
have run through the whole length of the iceberg, and several
pieces fell down with a thundering crash, plunging heavily into
the sea. Toward morning a strong breeze sprang up, and we filled
away, and left it astern, and at daylight it was out of sight. The
next day, which was--

Sunday, July 3d, the breeze continued strong, the air exceedingly
chilly, and the thermometer low. In the course of the day we saw
several icebergs of different sizes, but none so near as the one
which we saw the day before. Some of them, as well as we could
judge, at the distance at which we were, must have been as large
as that, if not larger. At noon we were in latitude 55 12' south,
and supposed longitude 89 5' west. Toward night the wind hauled
to the southward, and headed us off our course a little, and blew
a tremendous gale; but this we did not mind, as there was no rain
nor snow, and we were already under close sail.

Monday, July 4th. This was ``Independence Day'' in Boston. What
firing of guns, and ringing of bells, and rejoicings of all sorts,
in every part of our country! The ladies (who have not gone down to
Nahant, for a breath of cool air and sight of the ocean) walking the
streets with parasols over their heads, and the dandies in their
white pantaloons and silk stockings! What quantities of ice-cream
have been eaten, and how many loads of ice brought into the city from
a distance, and sold out by the lump and the pound! The smallest
of the islands which we saw to-day would have made the fortune of
poor Jack, if he had had it in Boston; and I dare say he would have
had no objection to being there with it. This, to be sure, was no
place to keep the Fourth of July. To keep ourselves warm, and the
ship out of the ice, was as much as we could do. Yet no one forgot
the day; and many were the wishes and conjectures and comparisons,
both serious and ludicrous, which were made among all hands. The sun
shone bright as long as it was up, only that a scud of black clouds
was ever and anon driving across it. At noon we were in
lat. 54 27' S., and lon. 85 5' W., having made a good deal of
easting, but having lost in our latitude by the heading off of the
wind. Between daylight and dark-- that is, between nine o'clock and
three-- we saw thirty-four ice islands of various sizes; some no
bigger than the hull of our vessel, and others apparently nearly as
large as the one that we first saw; though, as we went on, the
islands became smaller and more numerous; and, at sundown of this
day, a man at the mast-head saw large tracts of floating ice, called
``field-ice,'' at the southeast. This kind of ice is much more
dangerous than the large islands, for those can be seen at a
distance, and kept away from; but the field-ice, floating in great
quantities, and covering the ocean for miles and miles, in pieces
of every size,-- large, flat, and broken cakes, with here and there
an island rising twenty and thirty feet, and as large as the ship's
hull,-- this it is very difficult to sheer clear of. A constant
lookout was necessary; for many of these pieces, coming with the
heave of the sea, were large enough to have knocked a hole in the
ship, and that would have been the end of us; for no boat (even if
we could have got one out) could have lived in such a sea; and no
man could have lived in a boat in such weather. To make our
condition still worse, the wind came out due east, just after
sundown, and it blew a gale dead ahead, with hail and sleet and a
thick fog, so that we could not see half the length of the ship. Our
chief reliance, the prevailing westerly gales, was thus cut off; and
here we were, nearly seven hundred miles to the westward of the
Cape, with a gale dead from the eastward, and the weather so thick
that we could not see the ice, with which we were surrounded, until
it was directly under our bows. At four P.M. (it was then quite
dark) all hands were called, and sent aloft, in a violent squall
of hail and rain, to take in sail. We had now all got on our ``Cape
Horn rig,''-- thick boots, southwesters coming down over our neck
and ears, thick trousers and jackets, and some with oil-cloth suits
over all. Mittens, too, we wore on deck, but it would not do to go
aloft with them, as, being wet and stiff, they might let a man
slip overboard, for all the hold he could get upon a rope: so we
were obliged to work with bare hands, which, as well as our faces,
were often cut with the hailstones, which fell thick and large.
Our ship was now all cased with ice,-- hull, spars, and standing
rigging; and the running rigging so stiff that we could hardly
bend it so as to belay it, or, still less, take a knot with it;
and the sails frozen. One at a time (for it was a long piece of
work and required many hands) we furled the courses, mizzen
topsail, and fore-topmast staysail, and close-reefed the fore and
main topsails, and hove the ship to under the fore, with the main
hauled up by the clew-lines and buntlines, and ready to be sheeted
home, if we found it necessary to make sail to get to windward of
an ice island. A regular lookout was then set, and kept by each
watch in turn, until the morning. It was a tedious and anxious
night. It blew hard the whole time, and there was an almost
constant driving of either rain, hail, or snow. In addition to
this, it was ``as thick as muck,'' and the ice was all about us.
The captain was on deck nearly the whole night, and kept the cook
in the galley, with a roaring fire, to make coffee for him, which
he took every few hours, and once or twice gave a little to his
officers; but not a drop of anything was there for the crew. The
captain, who sleeps all the daytime, and comes and goes at night
as he chooses, can have his brandy-and-water in the cabin, and his
hot coffee at the galley; while Jack, who has to stand through
everything, and work in wet and cold, can have nothing to wet his
lips or warm his stomach. This was a ``temperance ship'' by her
articles, and, like too many such ships, the temperance was all in
the forecastle. The sailor, who only takes his one glass as it is
dealt out to him, is in danger of being drunk; while the captain,
upon whose self-possession and cool judgment the lives of all
depend, may be trusted with any amount, to drink at his will.
Sailors will never be convinced that rum is a dangerous thing by
taking it away from them and giving it to the officers; nor can
they see a friend in that temperance which takes from them what
they have always had, and gives them nothing in the place of it.
By seeing it allowed to their officers, they will not be convinced
that it is taken from them for their good; and by receiving
nothing in its place they will not believe that it is done in
kindness. On the contrary, many of them look upon the change as a
new instrument of tyranny. Not that they prefer rum. I never knew
a sailor, who had been a month away from the grog shops, who would
not prefer a pot of hot coffee or chocolate, in a cold night, to
all the rum afloat. They all say that rum only warms them for a
time; yet, if they can get nothing better, they will miss what
they have lost. The momentary warmth and glow from drinking it;
the break and change which it makes in a long, dreary watch by the
mere calling all hands aft and serving of it out; and the simply
having some event to look forward to and to talk about,-- all give
it an importance and a use which no one can appreciate who has not
stood his watch before the mast. On my passage out, the Pilgrim
was not under temperance articles, and grog was served out every
middle and morning watch, and after every reefing of topsails;
and, though I had never drunk rum before, nor desire to again, I
took my allowance then at the capstan, as the rest did, merely for
the momentary warmth it gave the system, and the change in our
feelings and aspect of our duties on the watch. At the same time,
as I have said, there was not a man on board who would not have
pitched the rum to the dogs (I have heard them say so a dozen
times) for a pot of coffee or chocolate; or even for our common
beverage,-- ``water bewitched and tea begrudged,'' as it was.[2]
The temperance reform is the best thing that ever was undertaken for
the sailor; but when the grog is taken from him, he ought to have
something in its place. As it is now, in most vessels, it is a
mere saving to the owners; and this accounts for the sudden
increase of temperance ships, which surprised even the best
friends of the cause. If every merchant, when he struck grog from
the list of the expenses of his ship, had been obliged to
substitute as much coffee, or chocolate, as would give each man a
pot-full when he came off the topsail yard, on a stormy night,--
I fear Jack might have gone to ruin on the old road.[3]

But this is not doubling Cape Horn. Eight hours of the night our
watch was on deck, and during the whole of that time we kept a
bright lookout: one man on each bow, another in the bunt of the
fore yard, the third mate on the scuttle, one man on each quarter,
and another always standing by the wheel. The chief mate was
everywhere, and commanded the ship when the captain was below.
When a large piece of ice was seen in our way, or drifting near
us, the word was passed along, and the ship's head turned one way
and another; and sometimes the yards squared or braced up. There
was little else to do than to look out; and we had the sharpest
eyes in the ship on the forecastle. The only variety was the
monotonous voice of the lookout forward,-- ``Another island!''--
``Ice ahead!''-- ``Ice on the lee bow!''-- ``Hard up the helm!''--
``Keep her off a little!''-- ``Stead-y!''

In the mean time the wet and cold had brought my face into such a
state that I could neither eat nor sleep; and though I stood it
out all night, yet, when it became light, I was in such a state
that all hands told me I must go below, and lie-by for a day or
two, or I should be laid up for a long time. When the watch was
changed I went into the steerage, and took off my hat and
comforter, and showed my face to the mate, who told me to go below
at once, and stay in my berth until the swelling went down, and
gave the cook orders to make a poultice for me, and said he would
speak to the captain.

I went below and turned-in, covering myself over with blankets and
jackets, and lay in my berth nearly twenty-four hours, half asleep
and half awake, stupid from the dull pain. I heard the watch
called, and the men going up and down, and sometimes a noise on
deck, and a cry of ``ice,'' but I gave little attention to
anything. At the end of twenty-four hours the pain went down, and
I had a long sleep, which brought me back to my proper state; yet
my face was so swollen and tender that I was obliged to keep my
berth for two or three days longer. During the two days I had been
below, the weather was much the same that it had been,-- head
winds, and snow and rain; or, if the wind came fair, too foggy,
and the ice too thick, to run. At the end of the third day the ice
was very thick; a complete fog-bank covered the ship. It blew a
tremendous gale from the eastward, with sleet and snow, and there
was every promise of a dangerous and fatiguing night. At dark, the
captain called all hands aft, and told them that not a man was to
leave the deck that night; that the ship was in the greatest
danger, any cake of ice might knock a hole in her, or she might
run on an island and go to pieces. No one could tell whether she
would be a ship the next morning. The lookouts were then set, and
every man was put in his station. When I heard what was the state
of things, I began to put on my clothes to stand it out with the
rest of them, when the mate came below, and, looking at my face,
ordered me back to my berth, saying that if we went down, we
should all go down together, but if I went on deck I might lay
myself up for life. This was the first word I had heard from aft;
for the captain had done nothing, nor inquired how I was, since I
went below.

In obedience to the mate's orders, I went back to my berth; but a
more miserable night I never wish to spend. I never felt the curse
of sickness so keenly in my life. If I could only have been on
deck with the rest where something was to be done and seen and
heard, where there were fellow-beings for companions in duty and
danger; but to be cooped up alone in a black hole, in equal
danger, but without the power to do, was the hardest trial.
Several times, in the course of the night, I got up, determined to
go on deck; but the silence which showed that there was nothing
doing, and the knowledge that I might make myself seriously ill,
for no purpose, kept me back. It was not easy to sleep, lying, as
I did, with my head directly against the bows, which might be
dashed in by an island of ice, brought down by the very next sea
that struck her. This was the only time I had been ill since I
left Boston, and it was the worst time it could have happened. I
felt almost willing to bear the plagues of Egypt for the rest of
the voyage, if I could but be well and strong for that one night.
Yet it was a dreadful night for those on deck. A watch of eighteen
hours, with wet and cold and constant anxiety, nearly wore them
out; and when they came below at nine o'clock for breakfast, they
almost dropped asleep on their chests, and some of them were so
stiff that they could with difficulty sit down. Not a drop of
anything had been given them during the whole time (though the
captain, as on the night that I was on deck, had his coffee every
four hours), except that the mate stole a pot-full of coffee for
two men to drink behind the galley, while he kept a lookout for
the captain. Every man had his station, and was not allowed to
leave it; and nothing happened to break the monotony of the night,
except once setting the main topsail, to run clear of a large
island to leeward, which they were drifting fast upon. Some of the
boys got so sleepy and stupefied that they actually fell asleep at
their posts; and the young third mate, Mr. Hatch, whose post was
the exposed one of standing on the fore scuttle, was so stiff,
when he was relieved, that he could not bend his knees to get
down. By a constant lookout, and a quick shifting of the helm, as
the islands and pieces came in sight, the ship went clear of
everything but a few small pieces, though daylight showed the
ocean covered for miles. At daybreak it fell a dead calm, and with
the sun the fog cleared a little, and a breeze sprung up from the
westward, which soon grew into a gale. We had now a fair wind,
daylight, and comparatively clear weather; yet, to the surprise of
every one, the ship continued hove-to. ``Why does not he run?''
``What is the captain about?'' was asked by every one; and from
questions it soon grew into complaints and murmurings. When the
daylight was so short, it was too bad to lose it, and a fair wind,
too, which every one had been praying for. As hour followed hour,
and the captain showed no sign of making sail, the crew became
impatient, and there was a good deal of talking and consultation
together on the forecastle. They had been beaten out with the
exposure and hardship, and impatient to get out of it, and this
unaccountable delay was more than they could bear in quietness, in
their excited and restless state. Some said the captain was
frightened,-- completely cowed by the dangers and difficulties
that surrounded us, and was afraid to make sail; while others said
that in his anxiety and suspense he had made a free use of brandy
and opium, and was unfit for his duty. The carpenter, who was an
intelligent man, and a thorough seaman, and had great influence
with the crew, came down into the forecastle, and tried to induce
them to go aft and ask the captain why he did not run, or request
him, in the name of all hands, to make sail. This appeared to be a
very reasonable request, and the crew agreed that if he did not
make sail before noon they would go aft. Noon came, and no sail
was made. A consultation was held again, and it was proposed to
take the ship from the captain and give the command of her to the
mate, who had been heard to say that if he could have his way the
ship would have been half the distance to the Cape before night,--
ice or no ice. And so irritated and impatient had the crew become,
that even this proposition, which was open mutiny, was
entertained, and the carpenter went to his berth, leaving it
tacitly understood that something serious would be done if things
remained as they were many hours longer. When the carpenter left,
we talked it all over, and I gave my advice strongly against it.
Another of the men, too, who had known something of the kind
attempted in another ship by a crew who were dissatisfied with
their captain, and which was followed with serious consequences,
was opposed to it. Stimson, who soon came down, joined us, and we
determined to have nothing to do with it. By these means the crew
were soon induced to give it up for the present, though they said
they would not lie where they were much longer without knowing the

The affair remained in this state until four o'clock, when an
order came forward for all hands to come aft upon the
quarter-deck. In about ten minutes they came forward again, and
the whole affair had been blown. The carpenter, prematurely, and
without any authority from the crew, had sounded the mate as to
whether he would take command of the ship, and intimated an
intention to displace the captain; and the mate, as in duty bound,
had told the whole to the captain, who immediately sent for all
hands aft. Instead of violent measures, or, at least, an outbreak
of quarter-deck bravado, threats, and abuse, which they had every
reason to expect, a sense of common danger and common suffering
seemed to have tamed his spirit, and begotten in him something
like a humane fellow-feeling; for he received the crew in a manner
quiet, and even almost kind. He told them what he had heard, and
said that he did not believe that they would try to do any such
thing as was intimated; that they had always been good men,--
obedient, and knew their duty, and he had no fault to find with
them, and asked them what they had to complain of; said that no
one could say that he was slow to carry sail (which was true
enough), and that, as soon as he thought it was safe and proper,
he should make sail. He added a few words about their duty in
their present situation, and sent them forward, saying that he
should take no further notice of the matter; but, at the same
time, told the carpenter to recollect whose power he was in, and
that if he heard another word from him he would have cause to
remember him to the day of his death.

This language of the captain had a very good effect upon the crew,
and they returned quietly to their duty.

For two days more the wind blew from the southward and eastward,
and in the short intervals when it was fair, the ice was too thick
to run; yet the weather was not so dreadfully bad, and the crew
had watch and watch. I still remained in my berth, fast
recovering, yet not well enough to go safely on deck. And I should
have been perfectly useless; for, from having eaten nothing for
nearly a week, except a little rice which I forced into my mouth
the last day or two, I was as weak as an infant. To be sick in a
forecastle is miserable indeed. It is the worst part of a dog's
life, especially in bad weather. The forecastle, shut up tight to
keep out the water and cold air; the watch either on deck or
asleep in their berths; no one to speak to; the pale light of the
single lamp, swinging to and fro from the beam, so dim that one
can scarcely see, much less read, by it; the water dropping from
the beams and carlines and running down the sides, and the
forecastle so wet and dark and cheerless, and so lumbered up with
chests and wet clothes, that sitting up is worse than lying in the
berth. These are some of the evils. Fortunately, I needed no help
from any one, and no medicine; and if I had needed help I don't
know where I should have found it. Sailors are willing enough, but
it is true, as is often said,-- no one ships for nurse on board a
vessel. Our merchant ships are always undermanned, and if one man
is lost by sickness, they cannot spare another to take care of
him. A sailor is always presumed to be well, and if he's sick he's
a poor dog. One has to stand his wheel, and another his lookout,
and the sooner he gets on deck again the better.

Accordingly, as soon as I could possibly go back to my duty, I put
on my thick clothes and boots and southwester, and made my
appearance on deck. I had been but a few days below, yet
everything looked strangely enough. The ship was cased in ice,--
decks, sides, masts, yards, and rigging. Two close-reefed topsails
were all the sail she had on, and every sail and rope was frozen
so stiff in its place that it seemed as though it would be
impossible to start anything. Reduced, too, to her topmasts, she
had altogether a most forlorn and crippled appearance. The sun had
come up brightly; the snow was swept off the decks and ashes
thrown upon them so that we could walk, for they had been as
slippery as glass. It was, of course, too cold to carry on any
ship's work, and we had only to walk the deck and keep ourselves
warm. The wind was still ahead, and the whole ocean, to the
eastward, covered with islands and field-ice. At four bells the
order was given to square away the yards, and the man who came
from the helm said that the captain had kept her off to N. N. E.
What could this mean? The wildest rumors got adrift. Some said
that he was going to put into Valparaiso and winter, and others
that he was going to run out of the ice and cross the Pacific, and
go home round the Cape of Good Hope. Soon, however, it leaked out,
and we found that we were running for the Straits of Magellan. The
news soon spread through the ship, and all tongues were at work
talking about it. No one on board had been through the straits;
but I had in my chest an account of the passage of the ship A. J.
Donelson, of New York, through those straits a few years before.
The account was given by the captain, and the representation was
as favorable as possible. It was soon read by every one on board,
and various opinions pronounced. The determination of our captain
had at least this good effect; it gave us something to think and
talk about, made a break in our life, and diverted our minds from
the monotonous dreariness of the prospect before us. Having made a
fair wind of it, we were going off at a good rate, and leaving the
thickest of the ice behind us. This, at least, was something.

Having been long enough below to get my hands well warmed and
softened, the first handling of the ropes was rather tough; but a
few days hardened them, and as soon as I got my mouth open wide
enough to take in a piece of salt beef and hard bread, I was all
right again.

Sunday, July 10th. Lat. 54 10', lon. 79 07'. This was our position
at noon. The sun was out bright; the ice was all left behind, and
things had quite a cheering appearance. We brought our wet
pea-jackets and trousers on deck, and hung them up in the rigging,
that the breeze and the few hours of sun might dry them a little;
and, by leave of the cook, the galley was nearly filled with
stockings and mittens, hung round to be dried. Boots, too, were
brought up; and, having got a little tar and slush from below, we
gave them thick coats. After dinner all hands were turned-to, to get
the anchors over the bows, bend on the chains, &c. The fish-tackle
was got up, fish-davit rigged out, and, after two or three hours of
hard and cold work, both the anchors were ready for instant use, a
couple of kedges got up, a hawser coiled away upon the fore-hatch,
and the deep-sea-lead-line overhauled and made ready. Our spirits
returned with having something to do; and when the tackle was
manned to bowse the anchor home, notwithstanding the desolation of
the scene, we struck up ``Cheerly, men!'' in full chorus. This
pleased the mate, who rubbed his hands and cried out, ``That's
right, my boys; never say die! That sounds like the old crew!''
and the captain came up, on hearing the song, and said to the
passenger, within hearing of the man at the wheel, ``That sounds
like a lively crew. They'll have their song so long as there're
enough left for a chorus!''

This preparation of the cable and anchors was for the passage of
the straits; for, as they are very crooked, and with a variety of
currents, it is necessary to come frequently to anchor. This was
not, by any means, a pleasant prospect; for, of all the work that
a sailor is called upon to do in cold weather, there is none so
bad as working the ground-tackle. The heavy chain cables to be
hauled and pulled about decks with bare hands; wet hawsers,
slip-ropes, and buoy-ropes to be hauled aboard, dripping in water,
which is running up your sleeves, and freezing; clearing hawse
under the bows; getting under way and coming-to at all hours of
the night and day, and a constant lookout for rocks and sands and
turns of tides,-- these are some of the disagreeables of such a
navigation to a common sailor. Fair or foul, he wants to have
nothing to do with the ground-tackle between port and port. One of
our hands, too, had unluckily fallen upon a half of an old
newspaper which contained an account of the passage, through the
straits, of a Boston brig, called, I think, the Peruvian, in which
she lost every cable and anchor she had, got aground twice, and
arrived at Valparaiso in distress. This was set off against the
account of the A. J. Donelson, and led us to look forward with
less confidence to the passage, especially as no one on board had
ever been through, and we heard that the captain had no very
satisfactory charts. However, we were spared any further
experience on the point; for the next day, when we must have been
near the Cape of Pillars, which is the southwest point of the
mouth of the straits, a gale set in from the eastward, with a
heavy fog, so that we could not see half the ship's length ahead.
This, of course, put an end to the project for the present; for a
thick fog and a gale blowing dead ahead are not the most favorable
circumstances for the passage of difficult and dangerous straits.
This weather, too, seemed likely to last for some time, and we
could not think of beating about the mouth of the straits for a
week or two, waiting for a favorable opportunity; so we braced up
on the larboard tack, put the ship's head due south, and stuck her
off for Cape Horn again.

[1] The cook's title in all vessels.

[2] The proportions of the ingredients of the tea that was made for
us (and ours, as I have before stated, was a favorable specimen of
American merchantmen) were a pint of tea and a pint and a half of
molasses to about three gallons of water. These are all boiled
down together in the ``coppers,'' and, before serving it out, the
mess is stirred up with a stick, so as to give each man his fair
share of sweetening and tea-leaves. The tea for the cabin is, of
course, made in the usual way, in a teapot, and drunk with sugar.

[3] I do not wish these remarks, so far as they relate to the saving
of expense in the outfit, to be applied to the owners of our ship,
for she was supplied with an abundance of stores of the best kind
that are given to seamen; though the dispensing of them is
necessarily left to the captain. And I learned, on our return,
that the captain withheld many of the stores from us, from mere
ugliness. He brought several barrels of flour home, but would not
give us the usual twice-a-week duff, and so as to other stores.
Indeed, so high was the reputation of ``the employ'' among men and
officers for the character and outfit of their vessels, and for
their liberality in conducting their voyages, that when it was
known that they had the Alert fitting out for a long voyage, and
that hands were to be shipped at a certain time,-- a half hour
before the time, as one of the crew told me, sailors were steering
down the wharf, hopping over the barrels, like a drove of sheep.


In our first attempt to double the Cape, when we came up to the
latitude of it, we were nearly seventeen hundred miles to the
westward, but, in running for the Straits of Magellan, we stood so
far to the eastward that we made our second attempt at a distance
of not more than four or five hundred miles; and we had great
hopes, by this means, to run clear of the ice; thinking that the
easterly gales, which had prevailed for a long time, would have
driven it to the westward. With the wind about two points free,
the yards braced in a little, and two close-reefed topsails and a
reefed foresail on the ship, we made great way toward the
southward; and almost every watch, when we came on deck, the air
seemed to grow colder, and the sea to run higher. Still we saw no
ice, and had great hopes of going clear of it altogether, when,
one afternoon, about three o'clock, while we were taking a siesta
during our watch below, ``All hands!'' was called in a loud and
fearful voice. ``Tumble up here, men!-- tumble up!-- don't stop
for your clothes-- before we're upon it!'' We sprang out of our
berths and hurried upon deck. The loud, sharp voice of the captain
was heard giving orders, as though for life or death, and we ran
aft to the braces, not waiting to look ahead, for not a moment was
to be lost. The helm was hard up, the after yards shaking, and the
ship in the act of wearing. Slowly, with the stiff ropes and iced
rigging, we swung the yards round, everything coming hard and with
a creaking and rending sound, like pulling up a plank which has
been frozen into the ice. The ship wore round fairly, the yards
were steadied, and we stood off on the other tack, leaving behind
us, directly under our larboard quarter, a large ice island,
peering out of the mist, and reaching high above our tops; while
astern, and on either side of the island, large tracts of
field-ice were dimly seen, heaving and rolling in the sea. We were
now safe, and standing to the northward; but, in a few minutes
more, had it not been for the sharp lookout of the watch, we
should have been fairly upon the ice, and left our ship's old
bones adrift in the Southern Ocean. After standing to the
northward a few hours, we wore ship, and, the wind having hauled,
we stood to the southward and eastward. All night long a bright
lookout was kept from every part of the deck; and whenever ice was
seen on the one bow or the other the helm was shifted and the
yards braced, and, by quick working of the ship, she was kept
clear. The accustomed cry of ``Ice ahead!''-- ``Ice on the lee
bow!''-- ``Another island!'' in the same tones, and with the same
orders following them, seemed to bring us directly back to our old
position of the week before. During our watch on deck, which was
from twelve to four, the wind came out ahead, with a pelting storm
of hail and sleet, and we lay hove-to, under a close-reefed fore
topsail, the whole watch. During the next watch it fell calm with
a drenching rain until daybreak, when the wind came out to the
westward, and the weather cleared up, and showed us the whole
ocean, in the course which we should have steered, had it not been
for the head wind and calm, completely blocked up with ice. Here,
then, our progress was stopped, and we wore ship, and once more
stood to the northward and eastward; not for the Straits of
Magellan, but to make another attempt to double the Cape, still
farther to the eastward; for the captain was determined to get
round if perseverance could do it, and the third time, he said,
never failed.

With a fair wind we soon ran clear of the field-ice, and by noon
had only the stray islands floating far and near upon the ocean.
The sun was out bright, the sea of a deep blue, fringed with the
white foam of the waves, which ran high before a strong
southwester; our solitary ship tore on through the open water as
though glad to be out of her confinement; and the ice islands lay
scattered here and there, of various sizes and shapes, reflecting
the bright rays of the sun, and drifting slowly northward before
the gale. It was a contrast to much that we had lately seen, and a
spectacle not only of beauty, but of life; for it required but
little fancy to imagine these islands to be animate masses which
had broken loose from the ``thrilling regions of thick-ribbed
ice,'' and were working their way, by wind and current, some
alone, and some in fleets, to milder climes. No pencil has ever
yet given anything like the true effect of an iceberg. In a
picture, they are huge, uncouth masses, stuck in the sea, while
their chief beauty and grandeur-- their slow, stately motion, the
whirling of the snow about their summits, and the fearful groaning
and cracking of their parts-- the picture cannot give. This is the
large iceberg,-- while the small and distant islands, floating on
the smooth sea, in the light of a clear day, look like little
floating fairy isles of sapphire.

From a northeast course we gradually hauled to the eastward, and
after sailing about two hundred miles, which brought us as near to
the western coast of Terra del Fuego as was safe, and having lost
sight of the ice altogether,-- for the third time we put the
ship's head to the southward, to try the passage of the Cape. The
weather continued clear and cold, with a strong gale from the
westward, and we were fast getting up with the latitude of the
Cape, with a prospect of soon being round. One fine afternoon, a
man who had gone into the fore-top to shift the rolling tackles
sung out at the top of his voice, and with evident glee, ``Sail
ho!'' Neither land nor sail had we seen since leaving San Diego;
and only those who have traversed the length of a whole ocean
alone can imagine what an excitement such an announcement produced
on board. ``Sail ho!'' shouted the cook, jumping out of his
galley; ``Sail ho!'' shouted a man, throwing back the slide of the
scuttle, to the watch below, who were soon out of their berths and
on deck; and ``Sail ho!'' shouted the captain down the
companion-way to the passenger in the cabin. Beside the pleasure
of seeing a ship and human beings in so desolate a place, it was
important for us to speak a vessel, to learn whether there was ice
to the eastward, and to ascertain the longitude; for we had no
chronometer, and had been drifting about so long that we had
nearly lost our reckoning; and opportunities for lunar
observations are not frequent or sure in such a place as Cape
Horn. For these various reasons the excitement in our little
community was running high, and conjectures were made, and
everything thought of for which the captain would hail, when the
man aloft sung out-- ``Another sail, large on the weather bow!''
This was a little odd, but so much the better, and did not shake
our faith in their being sails. At length the man in the top
hailed, and said he believed it was land, after all. ``Land in
your eye!'' said the mate, who was looking through the telescope;
``they are ice islands, if I can see a hole through a ladder'';
and a few moments showed the mate to be right; and all our
expectations fled; and instead of what we most wished to see we
had what we most dreaded, and what we hoped we had seen the last
of. We soon, however, left these astern, having passed within
about two miles of them, and at sundown the horizon was clear in
all directions.

Having a fine wind, we were soon up with and passed the latitude
of the Cape, and, having stood far enough to the southward to give
it a wide berth, we began to stand to the eastward, with a good
prospect of being round and steering to the northward, on the
other side, in a very few days. But ill luck seemed to have
lighted upon us. Not four hours had we been standing on in this
course before it fell dead calm, and in half an hour it clouded
up, a few straggling blasts, with spits of snow and sleet, came
from the eastward, and in an hour more we lay hove-to under a
close-reefed main topsail, drifting bodily off to leeward before
the fiercest storm that we had yet felt, blowing dead ahead, from
the eastward. It seemed as though the genius of the place had been
roused at finding that we had nearly slipped through his fingers,
and had come down upon us with tenfold fury. The sailors said that
every blast, as it shook the shrouds, and whistled through the
rigging, said to the old ship, ``No, you don't!''-- ``No, you

For eight days we lay drifting about in this manner. Sometimes--
generally towards noon-- it fell calm; once or twice a round
copper ball showed itself for a few moments in the place where the
sun ought to have been, and a puff or two came from the westward,
giving some hope that a fair wind had come at last. During the
first two days we made sail for these puffs, shaking the reefs out
of the topsails and boarding the tacks of the courses; but finding
that it only made work for us when the gale set in again, it was
soon given up, and we lay-to under our close-reefs. We had less
snow and hail than when we were farther to the westward, but we
had an abundance of what is worse to a sailor in cold weather,--
drenching rain. Snow is blinding, and very bad when coming upon a
coast, but, for genuine discomfort, give me rain with freezing
weather. A snowstorm is exciting, and it does not wet through the
clothes (a fact important to a sailor); but a constant rain there
is no escaping from. It wets to the skin, and makes all protection
vain. We had long ago run through all our dry clothes, and as
sailors have no other way of drying them than by the sun, we had
nothing to do but to put on those which were the least wet. At the
end of each watch, when we came below, we took off our clothes and
wrung them out; two taking hold of a pair of trousers, one at each
end,-- and jackets in the same way. Stockings, mittens, and all,
were wrung out also, and then hung up to drain and chafe dry
against the bulkheads. Then, feeling of all our clothes, we picked
out those which were the least wet, and put them on, so as to be
ready for a call, and turned-in, covered ourselves up with
blankets, and slept until three knocks on the scuttle and the
dismal sound of ``All Starbowlines ahoy! Eight bells, there below!
Do you hear the news?'' drawled out from on deck, and the sulky
answer of ``Aye, aye!'' from below, sent us up again.

On deck all was dark, and either a dead calm, with the rain
pouring steadily down, or, more generally, a violent gale dead
ahead, with rain pelting horizontally, and occasional variations
of hail and sleet; decks afloat with water swashing from side to
side, and constantly wet feet, for boots could not be wrung out
like drawers, and no composition could stand the constant soaking.
In fact, wet and cold feet are inevitable in such weather, and are
not the least of those items which go to make up the grand total
of the discomforts of a winter passage round Cape Horn. Few words
were spoken between the watches as they shifted; the wheel was
relieved, the mate took his place on the quarter-deck, the
lookouts in the bows; and each man had his narrow space to walk
fore and aft in, or rather to swing himself forward and back in,
from one belaying-pin to another, for the decks were too slippery
with ice and water to allow of much walking. To make a walk, which
is absolutely necessary to pass away the time, one of us hit upon
the expedient of sanding the decks; and afterwards, whenever the
rain was not so violent as to wash it off, the weather-side of the
quarter-deck, and a part of the waist and forecastle were
sprinkled with the sand which we had on board for holystoning, and
thus we made a good promenade, where we walked fore and aft, two
and two, hour after hour, in our long, dull, and comfortless
watches. The bells seemed to be an hour or two apart, instead of
half an hour, and an age to elapse before the welcome sound of
eight bells. The sole object was to make the time pass on. Any
change was sought for which would break the monotony of the time;
and even the two hours' trick at the wheel, which came round to us
in turn, once in every other watch, was looked upon as a relief.
The never-failing resource of long yarns, which eke out many a
watch, seemed to have failed us now; for we had been so long
together that we had heard each other's stories told over and over
again till we had them by heart; each one knew the whole history
of each of the others, and we were fairly and literally talked
out. Singing and joking we were in no humor for; and, in fact, any
sound of mirth or laughter would have struck strangely upon our
ears, and would not have been tolerated any more than whistling or
a wind instrument. The last resort, that of speculating upon the
future, seemed now to fail us; for our discouraging situation, and
the danger we were really in (as we expected every day to find
ourselves drifted back among the ice), ``clapped a stopper'' upon
all that. From saying ``when we get home,'' we began insensibly to
alter it to ``if we get home,'' and at last the subject was
dropped by a tacit consent.

In this state of things, a new light was struck out, and a new
field opened, by a change in the watch. One of our watch was laid
up for two or three days by a bad hand (for in cold weather the
least cut or bruise ripens into a sore), and his place was
supplied by the carpenter. This was a windfall, and there was a
contest who should have the carpenter to walk with him. As
``Chips'' was a man of some little education, and he and I had had
a good deal of intercourse with each other, he fell in with me in
my walk. He was a Fin, but spoke English well, and gave me long
accounts of his country,-- the customs, the trade, the towns, what
little he knew of the government (I found he was no friend of
Russia), his voyages, his first arrival in America, his marriage
and courtship; he had married a countrywoman of his, a
dress-maker, whom he met with in Boston. I had very little to tell
him of my quiet, sedentary life at home; and in spite of our best
efforts, which had protracted these yarns through five or six
watches, we fairly talked each other out, and I turned him over to
another man in the watch, and put myself upon my own resources.

I commenced a deliberate system of time-killing, which united some
profit with a cheering up of the heavy hours. As soon as I came on
deck, and took my place and regular walk, I began with repeating
over to myself in regular order a string of matters which I had in
my memory,-- the multiplication table and the tables of weights
and measures; the Kanaka numerals; then the States of the Union,
with their capitals; the counties of England, with their shire
towns, and the kings of England in their order, and other things.
This carried me through my facts, and, being repeated
deliberately, with long intervals, often eked out the first two
bells. Then came the Ten Commandments, the thirty-ninth chapter of
Job, and a few other passages from Scripture. The next in the
order, which I seldom varied from, came Cowper's Castaway, which
was a great favorite with me; its solemn measure and gloomy
character, as well as the incident it was founded upon, making it
well suited to a lonely watch at sea. Then his lines to Mary, his
address to the Jackdaw, and a short extract from Table Talk (I
abounded in Cowper, for I happened to have a volume of his poems
in my chest); ``Ille et nefasto'' from Horace, and Goethe's Erl
Konig. After I had got through these, I allowed myself a more
general range among everything that I could remember, both in
prose and verse. In this way, with an occasional break by
relieving the wheel, heaving the log, and going to the
scuttle-butt for a drink of water, the longest watch was passed
away; and I was so regular in my silent recitations that, if there
was no interruption by ship's duty, I could tell very nearly the
number of bells by my progress.

Our watches below were no more varied than the watch on deck. All
washing, sewing, and reading was given up, and we did nothing but
eat, sleep, and stand our watch, leading what might be called a
Cape Horn life. The forecastle was too uncomfortable to sit up in;
and whenever we were below, we were in our berths. To prevent the
rain and the sea-water which broke over the bows from washing
down, we were obliged to keep the scuttle closed, so that the
forecastle was nearly air-tight. In this little, wet, leaky hole,
we were all quartered, in an atmosphere so bad that our lamp,
which swung in the middle from the beams, sometimes actually
burned blue, with a large circle of foul air about it. Still, I
was never in better health than after three weeks of this life. I
gained a great deal of flesh, and we all ate like horses. At every
watch when we came below, before turning in, the bread barge and
beef kid were overhauled. Each man drank his quart of hot tea
night and morning, and glad enough we were to get it; for no
nectar and ambrosia were sweeter to the lazy immortals than was a
pot of hot tea, a hard biscuit, and a slice of cold salt beef to
us after a watch on deck. To be sure, we were mere animals, and,
had this life lasted a year instead of a month, we should have
been little better than the ropes in the ship. Not a razor, nor a
brush, nor a drop of water, except the rain and the spray, had
come near us all the time; for we were on an allowance of fresh
water; and who would strip and wash himself in salt water on deck,
in the snow and ice, with the thermometer at zero?

After about eight days of constant easterly gales, the wind hauled
occasionally a little to the southward, and blew hard, which, as
we were well to the southward, allowed us to brace in a little,
and stand on under all the sail we could carry. These turns lasted
but a short while, and sooner or later it set in again from the
old quarter; yet at each time we made something, and were
gradually edging along to the eastward. One night, after one of
these shifts of the wind, and when all hands had been up a great
part of the time, our watch was left on deck, with the mainsail
hanging in the buntlines, ready to be set if necessary. It came on
to blow worse and worse, with hail and snow beating like so many
furies upon the ship, it being as dark and thick as night could
make it. The mainsail was blowing and slatting with a noise like
thunder, when the captain came on deck and ordered it to be
furled. The mate was about to call all hands, when the captain
stopped him, and said that the men would be beaten out if they
were called up so often; that, as our watch must stay on deck, it
might as well be doing that as anything else. Accordingly, we went
upon the yard; and never shall I forget that piece of work. Our
watch had been so reduced by sickness, and by some having been
left in California, that, with one man at the wheel, we had only
the third mate and three beside myself to go aloft; so that at
most we could only attempt to furl one yard-arm at a time. We
manned the weather yard-arm, and set to work to make a furl of it.
Our lower masts being short, and our yards very square, the sail
had a head of nearly fifty feet, and a short leech, made still
shorter by the deep reef which was in it, which brought the clew
away out on the quarters of the yard, and made a bunt nearly as
square as the mizzen royal yard. Beside this difficulty, the yard
over which we lay was cased with ice, the gaskets and rope of the
foot and leech of the sail as stiff and hard as a piece of leather
hose, and the sail itself about as pliable as though it had been
made of sheets of sheathing copper. It blew a perfect hurricane,
with alternate blasts of snow, hail, and rain. We had to fist the
sail with bare hands. No one could trust himself to mittens, for
if he slipped he was a gone man. All the boats were hoisted in on
deck, and there was nothing to be lowered for him. We had need of
every finger God had given us. Several times we got the sail upon
the yard, but it blew away again before we could secure it. It
required men to lie over the yard to pass each turn of the
gaskets, and when they were passed it was almost impossible to
knot them so that they would hold. Frequently we were obliged to
leave off altogether and take to beating our hands upon the sail
to keep them from freezing. After some time-- which seemed forever--
we got the weather side stowed after a fashion, and went over to
leeward for another trial. This was still worse, for the body of
the sail had been blown over to leeward, and, as the yard was
a-cock-bill by the lying over of the vessel, we had to light it
all up to windward. When the yard-arms were furled, the bunt was
all adrift again, which made more work for us. We got all secure
at last, but we had been nearly an hour and a half upon the yard,
and it seemed an age. It had just struck five bells when we went
up, and eight were struck soon after we came down. This may seem
slow work; but considering the state of everything, and that we
had only five men to a sail with just half as many square yards of
canvas in it as the mainsail of the Independence, sixty-gun ship,
which musters seven hundred men at her quarters, it is not
wonderful that we were no quicker about it. We were glad enough to
get on deck, and still more to go below. The oldest sailor in the
watch said, as he went down, ``I shall never forget that main
yard; it beats all my going a-fishing. Fun is fun, but furling one
yard-arm of a course at a time, off Cape Horn, is no better than

During the greater part of the next two days, the wind was pretty
steady from the southward. We had evidently made great progress,
and had good hope of being soon up with the Cape, if we were not
there already. We could put but little confidence in our
reckoning, as there had been no opportunities for an observation,
and we had drifted too much to allow of our dead reckoning being
anywhere near the mark. If it would clear off enough to give a
chance for an observation, or if we could make land, we should
know where we were; and upon these, and the chances of falling in
with a sail from the eastward, we depended almost entirely.

Friday, July 22d. This day we had a steady gale from the
southward, and stood on under close sail, with the yards eased a
little by the weather braces, the clouds lifting a little, and
showing signs of breaking away. In the afternoon, I was below with
Mr. Hatch, the third mate, and two others, filling the bread
locker in the steerage from the casks, when a bright gleam of
sunshine broke out and shone down the companionway, and through
the skylight, lighting up everything below, and sending a warm
glow through the hearts of all. It was a sight we had not seen for
weeks,-- an omen, a godsend. Even the roughest and hardest face
acknowledged its influence. Just at that moment we heard a loud
shout from all parts of the deck, and the mate called out down the
companion-way to the captain, who was sitting in the cabin. What
he said we could not distinguish, but the captain kicked over his
chair, and was on deck at one jump. We could not tell what it was;
and, anxious as we were to know, the discipline of the ship would
not allow of our leaving our places. Yet, as we were not called,
we knew there was no danger. We hurried to get through with our
job, when, seeing the steward's black face peering out of the
pantry, Mr. Hatch hailed him to know what was the matter. ``Lan'


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