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Week 22 - all ships underway

[ 17th of July 1836 to 23rd of July 1836 ]
[ View related 'school content': Week 22: In Good Time ]

All of the fleet is finally underway, but it is by no means fair sailing.  The Buffalo sets off hopefully, after much delay, but is soon back in port ahead of an approaching storm.  This week we meet two new informants on the BuffaloGeorge Stevenson, who is secretary to Governor Hindmarsh and partner to Robert Thomas of the Africaine, and Young Bingham Hutchinson, a former naval lieutenant, who is intending to farm in South Australia. Stevenson’s lively diary is full of strong opinions about his fellow passengers.

Black and white photograph of an 1833 portrait of Robert Gouger.

Robert Gouger, 1833. Image courtesy of SLSA: B48189

On the Africaine and the John Pirie both passengers and crew are battling illness.  Harriet Gouger is in delicate health at the best of times, made worse by the fact that she is pregnant, and she suffers badly from seasickness.  At last Robert Gouger manages to have a hammock made for her, which makes her much more comfortable.  On the John Pirie both the cook and the chief mate are sick, while we are told that one of the passengers ‘has been almost a constant Customer, to the Medicine Chest’. We shouldn’t think too much about what he is taking!

Robert Gouger has more to occupy him than his wife’s sickness however.  The intermediate passengers are increasingly dissatisfied with their lot and begin to make demands, led it seems, by Robert Thomas, whom Gouger describes as the ‘agitator of the ship’. Gouger finally manages to restore calm and believes that he has set their minds at rest, although he may not have convinced everyone: Mary and Robert Thomas apparently ’preserve dignified silence’.

The Duke of York meanwhile is very close to its destination and the crew is buoyed by the sight of sperm whales in the Bight.


Journals from passengers at sea:

Sunday 17 July 1836

[, on board the wrote.]

Sunday July 17th Harriet’s state of health is still very bad indeed; constant sickness, violent headaches and other symptoms of serious disarrangement of the liver & stomach prevail. She bears up admirably against the disease; though perpetually moaning with pain, she rarely expresses discontent. For the last two days, I also have suffered from headache, and today am unable to attend prayers on deck. Mr Everard again read the service, but in consequence of some remark, passed upon the ommission of the Litany last Sunday, today he read the whole service.

In the afternoon Madeira was seen, and towards evening it became very distinct. The island is very high above the water, and has more the appearance of a mountainous country than I had supposed. The sun shone upon it brilliantly and thus enabled us to see it clearly though not nearer at any time than five miles. – The weather is still remarkably fine and the wind favourable. This morning it blows in nautical language ‘a stiff breeze’, but there is little motion in the ship. We are passing Madeira at the rate of nearly nine knots an hour.

[ Read the full journal extract ]


Monday 18 July 1836

[, on board the wrote.]

Monday July 18th The wind fell in the night and for four hours we were absolutely becalmed. This proved exceedingly trying to my poor patient; for the ship no longer being steadied by the wind, & there being much sea, it was tossed about in a very disagreeable manner. …  Having unfortunately left England without a swinging cot & Capn Duff having heard me strongly expressing regret at this circumstance, with the greatest kindness he offered me the use of his sail makers and carpenter to manufacture one for me. Happening to possess some canvas fitted for the purpose, I accepted his offer, and in the evening placed Harriet in a most commodious cot which the industry of the men, stimulated by some tobacco, completed in the course of the day. During the whole of her illness, every attention has been shown her not only by Capn Duff, but by every passenger in the cabin, all having opened their stores to try to find some little luxury which might possibly be palatable to her.

[ Read the full journal extract ]


Tuesday 19 July 1836

[, on board the wrote.]

July 19th Today Harriet has been much better. She slept well in the cot, and passed the greater part of the day on deck. In the course of the day we spoke the Mount Stuart Elphinstone on her voyage to Calcutta. In the evening Harriet saw for the first time the phosphorescence of the sea: on the breaking of a wave, or on the water being otherwise agitated, sparkles of great brilliance were abundant. The quantity of light emitted by each is probably equal to that of a glowworm; on a dark night I have seen the ship quite illuminated by this means – the phenomenon was first perceived by us in the Bay of Biscay & I am told that when at the Equator the intensity of the light will be much greater. The cause of this extraordinary appearance is said to be animalculae.

[ Read the full journal extract ]


Wednesday 20 July 1836

[, on board the wrote.]

July 20th … Flocks of flying fish have surrounded the vessel today, & have afforded much amusement. The greatest lengths of flights which I have seen is about 100 yards; the manner of flying closely resembling that of starlings. The flock which took wing close to the ship could not have contained fewer than 50 to 60 fish. The size appears to be about that of a small mackerel.

[ Read the full journal extract ]


Wednesday 20 July 1836

[, on board the wrote.]

The Wind contd Squally from the S,W, accompd
with cold Weather, untill last Night, when it became
moderate, and veer’d round to South, but has been
nearly a Calm, the whole of this Day  ________
On Monday we got a place, contrived down below, for
the two poor Ram’s (where the Carpenter, Second Mate,
and T, Waldron, live) as there is not hieght enough, in
the Pen’s for them to stand, without chafeing their Backs
against the top part of it, and during the many Gales
of Wind, that we have lately experienced, they have been
very much bruised, by tumbling about, upon the Deck’s,
On Monday our Cook likewise took very Ill, of Pains, in all
his Limbs,  ____   and Yestdy the chief Mate, also became
very unwell, they are both confined to their Beds,  _____
But their is One of our Passenger’s, call’d James Jones, who
has been almost, a constant Customer, to the Medicine Chest,
ever since we left Dartmouth   ______________

[ Read the full journal extract ]


Thursday 21 July 1836

[, on board the wrote.]

This 24 hours strong winds from the NE all sail set resq
steering to SEd employd variously saw sperm Whales
going to windward Lattd 36.50 South Long 131.14 East

[ Read the full journal extract ]


Friday 22 July 1836

[, on board the wrote.]

Friday July 22. Went with my family on board the
Buffalo this afternoon. The Ship in considerable
confusion. Trunks, bales, barrels, packages and litter
of all sorts strewed about in most admired disorder.
Determined however to overlook as much as possible
inconveniences, common it is believed to the commence-
-ment of all voyages by sea! Although those which
surround us here appear rather formidable. Our
cabins by dint of soap and paint have been rendered
somewhat more comfortable than we at first seeing
them expected, not withstanding six feet by 71/2
leaves much scope for ingenuity in the art of
stowing away, and affords no more room than
our necessities require.

[ Read the full journal extract ]


Saturday 23 July 1836

[, on board the wrote.]

Saturday the 23rd Harriet is now quite well; for the last two or three days she has enjoyed herself both on the deck and at table; she moreover sleeps well. The complaint she thinks was a bilious attack which might have annoyed her nearly as much if she had been on shore,  but she questions if it would not have been shortened if calomel had been more fully administered at the beginning.

Yesterday we entered the torrid zone; the heat however is not at all oppressive to any of the party. The thermometer in my cabin is generally 78o, but the thorough draft which we manage at almost all times to keep up, renders the temperature agreeable.

Some of the passengers in the intermediate cabin last week manifested discontent, and put up on their hatchway an impertinent notice. Excited by Mr Thomas, the agitator of the ship, one complained of the bread, another of the beef, another of the wine;  indeed each had some one complaint to make, but, rather a subject for marvel, no two agreed on the same complaint. On investigation the bread which was declared unfit for use, was the brown bread which I preferred to the best white biscuit provided for the cabin; the salt provisions I had requested Capn Duff to place constantly upon our table and it was partaken of and enjoyed by all our party; the wine was declared by Brown (a good judge) to be excellent, and the same as we drank in the cabin. On my assuring the gentlemen of these facts, the complaint turned on the price paid for their passage and at length it was insinuated that I had chartered the vessel and was making money out of them. My positive denial of having any greater interest in the ship than any passenger on board appeared to satisfy the malcontents, who now said the cook was to blame – he had been insolent, and so on. This the Captain promised to see into, and thus the grievous matter ended. Mr & Mrs Thomas however still preserve dignified silence, though all the rest appear to have forgotten their fancied wrongs.

Seeing that the ill-humour was produced by idleness or ennui it occurred to me that it would be well to get up some general amusement, and I consequently proposed to enrol a body of volunteers to be drilled. Fortunately I found on board a man who had been a soldier in the peninsular war, Mr Wickham, and after a little persuasion he agreed to spend half an hour a day with us for the purpose. On Wednesday last therefore we commenced the platoon exercise; our first party was eight, the next day twelve and at this number our corps appears for the present likely to remain. It is true, sometimes we do not keep very good step in consequence of the motion of the ship, and sometimes a lurch in marching at ordinary time, causes a double quick movement to the rear; but this is all accounted a good joke, and thus the chief end is attained. I am full private in the corps, and four of the intermediate passengers are also enrolled.

[ Read the full journal extract ]


Saturday 23 July 1836

[, on board the wrote.]

Saturday July 23. Dropt down to St. Helen’s with
the wind at South West, and from the settled appearance
of the weather there is not any immediate prospect
of change. The Emigrants and Lady and Gentlemen
passengers reconnoitring each other – all apparently
amiably disposed and in tolerable spirits at finding
that after so many heartsickening delays our voyage
is at length about to commence.

[ Read the full journal extract ]


Saturday 23 July 1836

[, on board the wrote.]

July 23. Saturday. Weather fine, & wind NW with every appearance of
a change in our favor. 8. Governor Hindmarsh & family,
J.H. Fisher, Esqre (Colonial Commissioner) & family, came on board.
Noon. Do Wr [Ditto Weather] 1.30. Weighed anchor & stood out, but soon after, the
wind drawing round to the Westward, & the sky assuming a wild
look, we tacked, stood into St Helen’s road, and anchored. at
2.30. Mr T.H. Fisher landed on Isle of Wight. EvengFine. W.S.W.

[ Read the full journal extract ]


Next week: Land ho!  The Duke of York arrives in Nepean Bay, Kangaroo Island.

 

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