Skip to main content

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: The Tropics

Thursday Feb. 1st
The beginning of the last month of winter in N. England, but here it is summer and very sultry. Wind more to the S, but head wind. This is rather discouraging instead of getting NE winds, we have had for more than a week SE winds. The Capt feels very bad, but there no use of complaining. All is for the best. This afternoon tacked ship to the ENE. The wind wore round more to the Southerd and Westerd toward midnight, and we steered South of E. Rather favorable but going only four knots close to the wind. Very squally and rain.

In Latitude at noon 24º 25’ Longitude 35º 34’.
This morning, about five, a water spout was seen by the Capt and hands on deck. It came within a quarter of a mile of us. The Capt was some excited and let the ship run off before the wind. It probably would have swamped us in a minute if we had came in contact with it. It was about quarter of a mile in diameter. Anyone might go three or four voyages and not see one. I would have giving something to have seen it.

Friday Feb. 2d
Prospects more favorable. Wind SW. Steering E half S. Going very slow. Blows quite hard. Makes some of the men homesick or seasick, and some wish themselves to home. Thought I should like a little of that fresh pork that was killed before I came away. Some of those sausages would be good. Thought if ever I started to go round the Horn again, I would have some luxuries such as lemons, apples, hard cakes etc.

Latitude today by observation. Wind hauled round W this afternoon, and we are once more on our course steering SSE. This gladdens their spirits. Going rather slow. Only three knots. Thought today there would be some quarreling among the men before we got out of there. Fairly disgusted with the actions of some three or four. Thought that this was the greatest school that I ever went to, and if I could benefit maybe by it, I would.
Last eve was a beautiful one. The sky was clear, the moon shown with all it's beauty,  Our good ship glided before a pleasant six knot breeze from the WNW with studing sails set.

As I sat on the forecastle all alone watching the progress of the vessel, I felt that I was alone. Not a friend aboard the ship, not one that I knew personally. I would have given something to have one of my old Quincy mates to talk with. I should have felt glorious to have had W.W. Whicher or either of my old serenaders to sing the song of "O where is the spot that we was born on‚Äù  As it was, I felt that I was alone. None to ask advice of or give me aid in case of trouble or sickness. No parents, sisters or brothers to tell me where I was wrong and advise me. I am alone, dependent upon no one but myself, and as I set musing upon what was to come, Tuck the sailor taps me on the shoulder and asked me what I was thinking of. The answer as usual was "O nothing."  

I commenced conversation with him and found him to be a Prussian. He informed me of the modes of living in his country. He told me he was going to get five thousand dollars and them go  home, that he could live comfortably on that without work. The differences between his country and ours was in his they had to pay less for living and labor low. In America they got more for labor and paid more for living and the interest on the money was the same in both countries. He felt very confident that he should get rich in California and go home and enjoy the comforts of life.

Saturday Feb. 3rd
Today is my day to work. It is very hot. Find that thin clothing's very comfortable and bathing very refreshing in the Tropics. Latitude 23º 29’ Longitude 33º 47’. Wind NNE. The Capt thoughts were that the signs were more favorable for the Trade Winds. In the eve a large finback whale spouted round the ship. Great rush to see the monster of the deep.

Sunday Feb. 4th
This morning was a delightful one. A beautiful breeze from the NNE. Most all hands had a bath over the bows under the sea. Put on thin clothes, straw hat etc. Had the usual Sunday service, the sermon by Mr. Bradbury in the morning, in the eve by Mr. Benton. The sermons were well listen to and a chance offered for any other gentleman to speak.

This morning I commenced reading the Bible determined to read twelve chapters every day. Also made a determination to leave off swearing. Nothing grated upon my ear so harshly as to hear one swear on hearing so much of it. It fairly disgusted me. Wished that one W. was anywhere but in the ship. Growled himself into our mess. Felt so vexed about that, I wished myself out of the mess. Thought it the worst mess in the ship. Wished myself home today more than ever.

Monday Feb. 5th
Went up and sat on the mizzen top to see the sun rise. Nothing can exceed the magnificence of the suns rising on such a morning as this. A few clouds near the horizon with the sun's rise was exceedingly beautiful. This morning we had the Trades to perfection. The wind NE. Going six knots with all sails set excepting sky sails, and two three studing sails. The ship carries thirty sails. This morning anyone would say I life on the ocean wave. Give me a home in a good old ship.

In Latitude today noon 27º 00’ Longitude 33º 10’. The weather is very warm or giving us notice that we shall see Neptune of the line soon.

Tuesday Feb. 6th
Commenced last eve about seven o’clock, it breezed up and increased. At nine we were going nine knots, and at eleven we carried away the studing sail or broke the foretop studing sail boom in the middle. Was going at the rate of ten knots. The best breeze we have had yet. The Trades commenced Saturday Feb. 3d, and we were now dashing on smartly which made all feel well.

Last eve had a grand sing on the quarter deck. Men slept on deck last eve. I thought them foolish. A flying fish flew on board last eve measuring ten inches which was quite a curiosity seldom seen so large. Had some exercise with boxing gloves last eve. Some got to boxing rather hard. Thought it would finally lead to trouble.

In Latitude at noon 17º 55’  Longitude 33º 01’

Wednesday Feb. 7th
We still have the Trades and are likely to make a grand run. We made today by log two hundred and twenty miles, the best day's sailing we have made.

The best harmony prevails. Quietness still prevails. No one that has a disposition can help learning human nature almost to perfection. And if there is anything to be learnt from books, it can be learned here as there are about two thousand of the choicest books to be had aboard. Most a thousand in the library owned by the Company. and also if anyone feels disposed, he can gather a little valuable information from everyone aboard. And who knows at some future day it will be said that such and such men are the greatest men of the age and that they belonged to the noted California M. and T. J. S. Company, and it was  on the voyage from Boston to the land of promise, the gold mines of California, that he established his rules and platform of greatness, but they will say he could not have been a great man because he thought too much of worldly riches, but everyone thinks enough of money to work hard for it, and it is not worth going round Cape Horn, them I will  stop.

It gives me pleasure to find that a majority are democrats and are in favor of free soil in the Company. Some of the Company think that they will amass a great fortune soon after getting to California. I shall be satisfied if my jackets are as well filled with gold as my head is with knowledge or mental riches. These are among my thoughts now.

It gives us the greatest pleasure to hear that we are in Latitude 14º 27’ Longitude 32º 49’, and that we are fast approaching the Line. Thursday, very sultry and hot. The thermometer up to seventy eight. We still have a good breeze and going six knots, but the clouds indicate rain, and we are fearful that the Trades will leave us to be parched up by an equinoctial sun. Great anxiety that the NE Trades should take us across into the SE Trades below the line.

Some speculate on stopping at St. Paul's Isl. one degree south if it is calm, to get eggs and fish which they say are found in abundance. And some are anxious to touch at Pernambuco recruit on the fruits of the tropical regions of S. America, but I hope we shall have a cracking breeze and glide by both to get into the more temperate zones.

-------------
Week 5 will be published on Sunday January 19, 2013.

EMAIL TO A FRIEND X
Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags

?

More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site