Posted by: Karlee A. Turner | September 23, 2013

23rd September [1848, 1859 and 1861]

Mary Brewster, SATURDAY [Sept.] 23rd [1848]: “Life is made up of disappointments and I have had mine today. For several weeks the idea of making the Island of Tristan [da Cunha in the South Atlantic] has been on my mind thinking an opportunity would present so I should land and imagination had pictured a whole day to be spent there. At 12 last night ship came too, expecting to see land in the morning — Morning came and with it fairy visions vanished, behold, a thick fog enveloped us so we could not see any distance. At 4 this afternoon one glance was got at it, astern, to leeward, so we jogged along. So ends the trip ashore. Good bye Governor Glass, I shan’t see you this trip and I sincerely think I shan’t be along this way again.”

Mary Lawrence, [Fri.] SEPTEMBER 23 [1859]: “Good weather. Saw no whales except one in the afternoon that a ship’s boats were fast to, which we supposed to be the Good Return. They did not succeed in capturing him.”

Eliza Williams, [Tues.] September 23 [1861]: “It has been a nice day and a good breeze. This morning, about 10 o’clock, we raised a lone right whale. We lowered two boats and in a few minutes after, Mr. Morgan was fast to him. He did not run but a very short distance and did not act bad at all. They soon had him….shortly after dinner had him alongside. He is a large whale but they think not very fat. They have commenced to cut in, they say the whale is large enough to make 170 bbls [barrels] of oil but is so poor they are much afraid he will not make one hundred. I went on deck a little while the boats were fast to him. I stood looking over the stern at him, the poor fellow was too much exhausted to run but was laying still most of the time….They were quite near to the ship and I could see plain all the movements of the boats. The whale went down and stopped a few minutes and when he came up….He came up near the boats….I did not like to look at the poor whale in his misery any longer and so came down below to write a few words about it. Saw the Oliver Crocker today, she is boiling.”

From the author; a NOTE regarding Eliza’s above entry:  The numerous (….) indicate deleted graphic and gruesome whaling details originally included in Eliza’s daily journal. And, although I find the whole topic of women living at sea aboard whaling vessels fascinating, I am also conscious of 21st-century (and my own) sensitivity to conserving natural resources and protecting whales; many species which have not yet fully recovered from over-hunting during the 19th-century. As an avid lover of all animals, especially whales – I feel justified in excluding the gory details of 19th- century whaling.


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