James White was a 21 year old farmer from Quincy, MA. In 1849 he sailed from Boston around Cape Horn to San Francisco and the gold diggings of California. In all he spent 6 months at sea and a year in California. I've transcribed his journal and am publishing it here as well as on Amazon/Kindle and Apple/iBooks.
This week: Visitors
Today in Latitude 11º 12’ Longitude 30º 23’. Tonight the decks were cleared up as they have been for the last two or three nights for a serenade and dance. We sat the music going and had a grand dance which was both amusing and healthful. Everyone entered into it with spirit.
Friday Feb. 9th
In Latitude 8º 51’ Longitude 28º 39’. A little more breeze. Going eight knots. We shall be south of the Line if the wind holds. Nothing transpired today of any great importance.
Saturday Feb. 10th
Commenced fair with Trades. Very warm and foggy. Going eight knots. In Latitude 6º 12’ Longitude 27º 10’. Today made my reckoning that we should be at the Cape in thirty days from the Line and sixty days to San Francisco. This week we have had a good run.
Great speculations as the gold region. Some are so anxious to get that they don't want to stop till they get there. Some are anxious to stop at Valparaizo, and some at San Juan. All sorts of speculations are made.
Sunday the 11th
This was the happiest day since we left. We had a light pleasant breeze all day. Wind NE. In Latitude 4º 02’ Longitude 24º 13’.
All hands generally cleaned up and dressed up the same as at home. This is the fifth Sunday out. All pretty much attended Divine worship. There seemed to be a great interest felt by the audience in the sermons by Mr. Benton. Everything went on quietly and harmoniously. It referred once's thoughts back to the days he went to church at home. In the eve we had a severe rain squall which lasted about an hour. It rained as usually does in this Lat. as though the clouds opened to let it out all at once.
Monday Feb. 12th
In the morning we found ourselves in the midst of a fleet of six sail of vessel. They probably had been becalmed. None of them within speaking distance. The nearest, an English vessel, about two miles off, steering N. One was in our rear about seven miles. Two on Larboard bow steering SE. probably Indiamen. Two on Starboard quarter probably bound home. Not having seen a vessel for more than a fortnight it was quite a curiosity, and great was the speculation made as to where they were bound for. Today the air was filled with an almost invisible dust from the Sahara or great desert Africa. Thought it a wonder but was informed by the Capt that he had his sails covered with sand.
In Latitude 2º 20" Longitude 25º. Today was a great washing day. caught four hds of water last eve from the quarter deck. The first general wash we had. I had quite an old woman's wash, eighteen pieces. Mr. Alexander caught a shark. He was about two feet and a half long. He cooked and ate him. The first fish caught. Had a very heavy squall this eve.
Tuesday the 13th
In Lat. 1º17’ Long. 24º 41’. Ship about seven miles a stern bound the same way with us as or in our course. At night she looked as though she had gained on us. Great anxiety felt to know wether it was the Capital or not. The library opened the 9th, and a great portion of the Company pass the day in reading. Since the library was opened, great stillness prevails. Tomorrow or tonight we expect to be visited by old Neptune.
Wednesday the 14th
Crossed the line about eleven. At noon in Lat. 5" south Long. 24º 30’. Had a gentle breeze from the NW. The ship seen yesterday had gained on us and was going fast about five miles off. She sailing faster in a light breeze than we. When about three miles off, she lowered boat. Thought she was a whaler. The Capt took the glass and thought she was coming toward us which she did. About the time we crossed the line, found to our satisfaction that she was bound to same port as us. The ship Aurora from Nantucket. She sailed the 8th with a cargo of lumber and twenty passengers. Commanded by Capt Swain. What gave us the greatest pleasure was that we had beat her about five days. She sailed the 8th of Jan. and we the 12th and the difference between Boston and Nantucket.
There was seven men on the boat. They came along side and we helped aboard and when they told us that they were bound for California, we gave them twice three hearty cheers as ever went up. We had the impression that she was a whaler. The ship was a whaler, but this time she was a gold seeker. They told us that they were all passengers, and that when they saw us in the morning that they were anxious to come aboard of us, but the Capt thought it of no use, that they would have to pull a long while, but he finally consented. Our Capt backed his sails so that they came up with us in a short time, and the ship got within a mile and a half. We filled away after they had got aboard and kept about the same distance apart with a four knot breeze and a smooth sea. They were greatly pleased to find it was us, but they thought it was a N. York vessel who sailed before them. After looking at our conveniences, we took them into the cabin and treated them on lemonade & gave them a song on the gold mines which they were very much pleased with. They then left us with hearty three times three.
After they had left, some of our boys wished to visit them. No one that never experienced it can not tell the feeling, the anxiousness to see land, a vessel, or a stranger. They made a stranger as they would a friend. Ask them two thousand questions, & after some coaxing our Capt consented to let about nine of our bravados go. He ordered the boat to be lowered, and they got in and were soon onboard of the Aurora. It was not long before a boat came from them with the Capt and eight men. They came aboard and then nine of our men took their boat and went aboard of theirs but soon returned. Found theirs comfortably situated but not so good accomidationis as ours. After comparing our good ship with their little 350 tons worm eaten craft, they went back not to enjoy their life so well. The number of men aboard of her, thirty three. The ship was about thirty years old.
The Capt and his party liked our conveniences after looking round. We gave them an invitation to stop to dine which they accepted. We happened to have our best diner Plum Duff and boiled pork, but before they got through the Capt ordered them to go as he had to make some observations. Comparing his long with ours, he found that he had made a mistake. We gave him a list of our passengers and some papers etc., and they then left us.
Soon after the had gone we had pleasure of catching catching a large shark weighting about ninety lbs. We had had him salted and the next day had him cooked. He was not very palatable, rather strong, a great more sport in catching him than eating him. This is the greatest day yet recorder on our journals. It is St. Valentine's day. They expected to see old Neptune, but he only came as far as the fore top and threw down one or two buckets of water that caused a row as it fell on two Doctors. They not liking a bath with their clothes on Dobb's and Hilbbard. In the eve we had a squall or two and left our friend about five miles astern.