19 August 1871
A start from home and the adieu to friends of years and years standing is trying to the feeling when the journey is so great as the one about to be made, and the time, with its consequent changes, so prolonged.
By way of a final solace we sat at your table with some old friends the evening before Dunny and I bade adieu to you all. We had little time to think until we found ourselves
after being hurried on to the “Java” then quietly placed in our berth. Introductions to the Captain and Chief Officers soon followed, who assigned to us what is hel[unclear: d] to be the seat of honor viz. the seat next the Captain. The ship looked splendid. We sailed at one o’clock with a nice breeze down the river Mersey, partaking, meanwhil[unclear: e] in the calm of a good dinner, lest inquietude of days migh[unclear: t] follow, and incapacity to eat. We had however fine weather to Queenstown where we arrived next day at half past eight in the morning. Here we fell in with 7 ships of the Ironclad Fleet, which made our steamer appear but a small vessel. They had arrived from Gibraltar. It soon began to rain hard and to blow a gale; and we were evidently in for a duster No one landed. The Passengers by Rail came on the steam tender. We were condemne[unclear: d] to spend as miserable a Sunday as can well be wished for. Oh the prospects! Oh the prospects in facing this gale. Good-bye appetites! At four o’clock we left, at once plunging into heavy weather. The meals are badly attended. How horrible to hear the plates and dishes “clanking”
and to smell the viands when you cannot enjoy the eating, - and so often too:- breakfast at 8.30; lunch or tiffin at 12; dinner 4; tea at 6; supper 10; and all lights out at 11.
Poor Fielding, my servant, has not been visible for some time. The Passengers are as yet unknown to us, except Lord Adare. Judging by brogue the Scottish predominate on board. We see the porpoises sporting alongside for miles; - but after all, we conclude that there is no place like home. The weather grows worse at nightfall; and the “things” in our
cabin berth pitch and toss, as if they had possessed themselves of spirit life. Then the creaking of the ship, the unearthly noises, the close atmosphere of the cabin the vain endeavor when lying down in the berth to avoid being churned and rolled about, in addition to the squeamishness which is inevitable, give us quite a different idea to what we learn from the song.
“Rocked in the cradle of the deep”
“I lay me down in peace to sleep”
That’s very fine, but a landsman can’t do it, at least at first start. It is hard to read work or do anything, every one is squeamish and quietude is best. The cries for “George” and “Steward” are numerous at times, but each one must take his turn no matter what happens.
Captain Martyn is an intelligent man.
24 August 1871
A day of hard work. Trying to be reconciled to ship board and discomfort. At midnight however after all had retired to rest, I hear the engines stop; and dressing in what came first, I rushed on deck to hear the moaning despair of the men, bewailing “A man overboard”. The boats were being lowered and manned with all speed, and the alarmed passengers came out dress in all manner of ways. The boat, taking a light, then rowed back, looking like a speck in the vast ocean of storming billows. No trace of our poor “Forewatch” could be seen so the boat returned having encountered great risk. After about an hour’s delay we steamed on, leaving the poor man behind, then lifeless no doubt. the suspense and agony to all were great indeed.
25 August 1871
Hard head winds and little progress. How I wish I could have ended here for the day – but alas! When the smokers were taking their final whiff and all the others about to retire, on a sudden we heard the cry “Helm hard a port”. The engines stopped, “stand clear” was given, and on each side the ship we saw a dark object pass; some saw “an iceberg”, into which the ship had run. But the cries of men, oh! those agonising cries! the call for the life buoys, the order to ship the boats, left no doubt we had run down some vessel. It was too true. We had run into a barque amid ships, and literally cut her in halves, the fore part of the ship going down on the port side, and the other on the starboard side, - both parts settling down in the deep before they cleared our ship leaving a
creamy foam, and a few spars and planks as the indication of what had been. We tore down all the buoys we could see or get, but at once had to consider our ship and position. Meantime the ladies and all other passengers rush up on deck – such a scene! I felt there was no hope if our ship was damaged, and in a few words with my friend we came to the conclusion that in case the boats were taken to those in them must be inevitably lost. I rushed down to ascertain about my boy in bed. He was still asleep, and I felt that it were better so, if the ship were to go down. Soon after I had gone into the cabin the carpenter came from examining the fore part of the ship and I was cheered by his words “Our ship is not injured so far as hull is concerned that we can find”. I rushed on deck repeating this, and the words passed like a talisman impossible to describe. The boats had been put off for assistance, and presently one returned with only one man saved. A long search brought no result from the other boat. One man only out of a crew of twelve, and that man was in bed asleep, and cast out into the sea with the vessel opened! We learned that she was the bark “Annette”, Captain Beckwith, from Portsmouth, bound to Quebec in ballast. After a delay of about an hour, we again steam on, but sleep or rest for any this night is impossible; a deep gloom settles on every heart and thoughts like a whole history pass thro’ the mind. The night was not so dark but the “forewatch” could have seen the approaching vessel; and indeed he did so, but did not order the ship to stop as soon
as he saw the light, and thus we went into it full speed. It appears certain however that the collision was inevitable.
26 August 1871
We are now on the “Banks of Newfoundland”. The fog signals have been going all night, and every one is on the qui vive. In the night again, we had another shave of a similar vessel, just clearing her stern by two feet. The officers and crew say they are sure there is a Jonah on board for they have never had such a voyage before! – a winter’s passage so far as weather, disaster and anxiety were concerned. The afternoon brought a brisk breeze and clear weather. “Thank God” say all in real heartfelt language.
27 August 1871
This Sunday morning breaks with brightness. Our thoughts turn homewards. We are to have service today. So may our communion mingle with that of home friends in offering our prayers and praises to the same “Father” in Heaven. I must tell you that my “Hymns Ancient and Modern” were by some oversight omitted in packing, but a gentleman on board makes up the deficiency – and it is pleasant to feel that I have this link to bind me in feeling to home and to sing praises as of old on this day.