Posted by: Karlee A. Turner | November 2, 2012

[Post for Nov. 2, 2012] October 23, 1858 – Girl in a Hurricane

Mary Brewster (1847), Mary Lawrence (1858), and Eliza A. Williams (1860) did make any journal entries for this date.

However, given the ironic fact that as you are reading this, New England has just experienced a hurricane/storm “like no other” (the Weather Channel); almost 154 years to the date of an 1858 hurricane experienced by a young whaling wife at sea in the Atlantic. Susan Colt Norton lived through that hurricane which lasted from Oct. 23-26, 1858. That storm struck while Susan and her husband were aboard the whaling vessel Splendid. The photo below is a picture of the VERY, SCARY eye-wall of a hurricane (Sends chills down my spine)!

Below are excerpts from a letter Susan sent home. Susan and her husband (Capt. Shubael H. Norton) lived on board the whaling vessel Splendid from 1856-1862…….

“At Sea, Oct. 31, 1858. Sunday A.M., wrote Susan Norton, ‘To the dear Home Circle: What shall I say first, and how shall I begin, for my heart is full of varied emotions?…. I will not attempt to tell you how I felt when I left home; you know full well by your own hearts. On Tuesday [Oct. 19th], the day Capt. Osborn left, I was seasick considerably. Wednesday was …delightful … on deck most of the time; was not sick. Thursday … on deck a little. We entered the Gulf Stream in the afternoon and it was so rugged I was obliged to go to bed; at night …. seasick a very little. Friday I lay on the sofa all day, seasick. It was very rough. In the afternoon we began to have a northeaster. On Saturday it continued to storm very hard; under close-reefed topsails heading south by the wind …Sunday [Oct. 24th] the gale changed to a hurricane. Oh, it was terrible. The barometer was down to 28.8 at nine A.M. The ship was almost on her beam ends and the water was pouring in at the gangway and skylight, making it in our stateroom two feet deep and more than that in the [main] cabin. …. Capt. Norton, with the third and fourth mates at the wheel, succeeded in keeping the ship before the wind for an hour; at that time she broached to, on the port tack, with the wheel hard up. In the afternoon we lost all our masts excepting the fore and fore topmast and main and mizzen masts. We had seven boats, all were stove to pieces except two ….On the port side, five stanchions were broken. Galley, stove and all were swept overboard and everything moveable. Oh …. my feelings … as I lay there alone — all through the terrible night, counting the hours, expecting before the next to stand in the awful presence of an Almighty Being. In agony I prayed not for life so much, thinking that was hopeless, but that I might feel assurance that in eternity all would be well with me. I thought of our friends at home; of their sorrow, as time should roll on and bring no tidings of the absent ones. The fearful night passed, and as morning dawned, so did faint hope dawn on our hearts that we might outlive the storm ….Monday the wind hauled gradually to the north still blowing a dreadful gale ….ship labored and rolled violently….water coming over and rushing in all night ….We feared the ship would fill and sink. That was the third night and I could not close my eyes. ….All night I lay in complete terror. ….Tuesday the wind got around again to the northeast ….A heavy sea still running. I never saw anything like it before; it looked like great mountains. ….Wednesday was fine weather ….the cooking commenced again, doing it in the trypots. All on board had to live, up to this time, on hard bread, cheese, and water.”


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