"He took great content and exceeding delight in his voyage, as who doth not as shall attempt the like." - BURTON.

  Wednesday, July 12, 1865.

Ten days ago, on the eve of our departure for the Asiatic coast, full of high hopes and joyful anticipations of pleasure, I wrote in a fair round hand on this opening page of my journal, the above sentence from Burton; never once doubting, in my enthusiasm, the complete realisation of those "future joys," which to "fancy's eye" lay in such "bright uncertainty," or suspecting that "a life on the ocean wave" was not a state of the highest felicity attainable on earth. The quotation seemed to me an extremely happy one, and I mentally blessed the quaint old Anatomist of Melancholy for providing me with a motto at once so simple and so appropriate. Of course "he took great content and exceeding delight in his voyage"; and the wholly unwarranted assumption that because "he" did, every one else necessarily must, did not strike me as being in the least absurd.

On the contrary, it carried all the weight of the severest logical demonstration, and I would have treated with contempt any suggestion of possible disappointment. My ideas of sea life had been derived principally from glowing poetical descriptions of marine sunsets, of "summer isles of Eden, lying in dark purple spheres of sea," and of those "moonlight nights on lonely waters" with which poets have for ages beguiled ignorant landsmen into ocean voyages. Fogs, storms, and seasickness did not enter at all into my conceptions of marine phenomena; or if I did admit the possibility of a storm, it was only as a picturesque, highly poetical manifestation of wind and water in action, without any of the disagreeable features which attend those elements under more prosaic circumstances. I had, it is true, experienced a little rough weather on my voyage to California, but my memory had long since idealised it into something grand and poetical; and I looked forward even to a storm on the Pacific as an experience not only pleasant, but highly desirable. The illusion was very pleasant while it lasted; but - it is over. Ten days of real sea life have converted the "bright uncertainty of future joys" into a dark and decided certainty of future misery, and left me to mourn the incompatibility of poetry and truth. Burton is a humbug, Tennyson a fraud, I'm a victim, and Byron and Procter are accessories before the fact. Never again will I pin my faith to poets. They may tell the truth nearly enough for poetical consistency, but their judgment is hopelessly perverted, and their imagination is too luxuriantly vivid for a truthful realistic delineation of sea life. Byron's London Packet is a brilliant exception, but I remember no other in the whole range of poetical literature.

Our life since we left port has certainly been anything but poetical.

For nearly a week, we suffered all the indescribable miseries of seasickness, without any alleviating circumstances whatever. Day after day we lay in our narrow berths, too sick to read, too unhappy to talk, watching the cabin lamp as it swung uneasily in its well-oiled gimbals, and listening to the gurgle and swash of the water around the after dead-lights, and the regular clank, clank of the blocks of the try-sail sheet as the rolling of the vessel swung the heavy boom from side to side.

We all professed to be enthusiastic supporters of the Tapleyan philosophy - jollity under all circumstances; but we failed most lamentably in reconciling our practice with our principles. There was not the faintest suggestion of jollity in the appearance of the four motionless, prostrate figures against the wall. Seasickness had triumphed over philosophy! Prospective and retrospective reverie of a decidedly gloomy character was our only occupation. I remember speculating curiously upon the probability of Noah's having ever been seasick; wondering how the sea-going qualities of the Ark would compare with those of our brig, and whether she had our brig's uncomfortable way of pitching about in a heavy swell.

If she had - and I almost smiled at the idea - what an unhappy experience it must have been for the poor animals!

I wondered also if Jason and Ulysses were born with sea-legs, or whether they had to go through the same unpleasant process that we did to get them on.

Concluded finally that sea-legs, like some diseases must be a diabolical invention of modern times, and that the ancients got along in some way without them. Then, looking intently at the fly-specks upon the painted boards ten inches from my eyes, I would recall all the bright anticipations with which I had sailed from San Francisco, and turn over, with a groan of disgust, to the wall.

I wonder if any one has ever written down on paper his seasick reveries. There are "Evening Reveries," "Reveries of a Bachelor," and "Seaside Reveries" in abundance; but no one, so far as I know, has ever even attempted to do his seasick reveries literary justice. It is a strange oversight, and I would respectfully suggest to any aspiring writer who has the reverie faculty, that there is here an unworked field of boundless extent. One trip across the North Pacific in a small brig will furnish an inexhaustible supply of material.

Our life thus far has been too monotonous to afford a single noticeable incident. The weather has been cold, damp, and foggy, with light head winds and a heavy swell; we have been confined closely to our seven-by-nine after-cabin; and its close, stifling atmosphere, redolent of bilge-water, lamp oil, and tobacco smoke, has had a most depressing influence upon our spirits. I am glad to see, however, that all our party are up today, and that there is a faint interest manifested in the prospect of dinner; but even the inspiriting strains of the Faust march, which the captain is playing upon a wheezy old accordion, fail to put any expression of animation into the woebegone faces around the cabin table. Mahood pretends that he is all right, and plays checkers with the captain with an air of assumed tranquillity which approaches heroism, but he is observed at irregular intervals to go suddenly and unexpectedly on deck, and to return every time with a more ghastly and rueful countenance. When asked the object of these periodical visits to the quarter-deck, he replies, with a transparent affectation of cheerfulness, that he only goes up "to look at the compass and see how she's heading." I am surprised to find that looking at the compass is attended with such painful and melancholy emotions as those expressed in Mahood's face when he comes back; but he performs the self-imposed duty with unshrinking faithfulness, and relieves us of a great deal of anxiety about the safety of the ship. The captain seems a little negligent, and sometimes does not observe the compass once a day; but Mahood watches it with unsleeping vigilance.

  Sunday, July 16, 1865.

The monotony of our lives was relieved night before last, and our seasickness aggravated, by a severe gale of wind from the north-west, which compelled us to lie to for twenty hours under one close-reefed maintopsail. The storm began late in the afternoon, and by nine o'clock the wind was at its height and the sea rapidly rising. The waves pounded like Titanic sledgehammers against the vessel's quivering timbers; the gale roared a deep diapason through the cordage; and the regular thud, thud, thud of the pumps, and the long melancholy whistling of the wind through the blocks, filled our minds with dismal forebodings, and banished all inclination for sleep.

Morning dawned gloomily and reluctantly, and its first grey light, struggling through the film of water on the small rectangular deck lights, revealed a comical scene of confusion and disorder. The ship was rolling and labouring heavily, and Mahood's trunk, having in some way broken from its moorings, was sliding back and forth across the cabin floor. Bush's big meerschaum, in company with a corpulent sponge, had taken up temporary quarters in the crown of my best hat, and the Major's box of cigars revolved periodically from corner to corner in the close embrace of a dirty shirt. Sliding and rolling over the carpet in every direction were books, papers, cigars, brushes, dirty collars, stockings, empty wine-bottles, slippers, coats, and old boots; and a large box of telegraph material threatened momentarily to break from its fastenings and demolish everything. The Major, who was the first to show any signs of animation, rose on one elbow in bed, gazed fixedly at the sliding and revolving articles, and shaking his head reflectively, said: "It is a c-u-r-ious thing! It is a c-u-r-ious thing!" as if the migratory boots and cigar-boxes exhibited some new and perplexing phenomena not to be accounted for by any of the known laws of physics. A sudden roll in which the vessel indulged at that particular moment gave additional force to the sentiment of the soliloquy; and with renewed convictions, I have no doubt, of the original and innate depravity of matter generally, and of the Pacific Ocean especially, he laid his head back upon the pillow.

It required no inconsiderable degree of resolution to "turn out" under such unpromising circumstances; but Bush, after two or three groans and a yawn, made the attempt to get up and dress. Climbing hurriedly down when the ship rolled to windward, he caught his boots in one hand and trousers in the other, and began hopping about the cabin with surprising agility, dodging or jumping over the sliding trunk and rolling bottles, and making frantic efforts, apparently, to put both legs simultaneously into one boot. Surprised in the midst of this arduous task by an unexpected lurch, he made an impetuous charge upon an inoffensive washstand, stepped on an erratic bottle, fell on his head, and finally brought up a total wreck in the corner of the room. Convulsed with laughter, the Major could only ejaculate disconnectedly, "I tell you - it is a - curious thing how she - rolls!" "Yes," rejoined Bush savagely, as he rubbed one knee, "I should think it was! Just get up and try it!" But the Major was entirely satisfied to see Bush try it, and did nothing but laugh at his misfortunes. The latter finally succeeded in getting dressed, and after some hesitation I concluded to follow his example. By dint of falling twice over the trunk, kneeling upon my heels, sitting on my elbows, and executing several other equally impracticable feats, I got my vest on inside out, both feet in the wrong boots respectively, and staggered up the companionway on deck. The wind was still blowing a gale, and we showed no canvas but one close-reefed maintopsail. Great massive mounds of blue water piled themselves up in the concealment of the low-hanging rain-clouds, rushed out upon us with white foaming crests ten feet above the quarterdeck, and broke into clouds of blinding, strangling spray over the forecastle and galley, careening the ship until the bell on the quarter-deck struck and water ran in over the lee gunwale. It did not exactly correspond with my preconceived ideas of a storm, but I was obliged to confess that it had many of the characteristic features of the real phenomenon. The wind had the orthodox howl through the rigging, the sea was fully up to the prescribed standard, and the vessel pitched and rolled in a way to satisfy the most critical taste. The impression of sublimity, however, which I had anticipated, was almost entirely lost in the sense of personal discomfort. A man who has just been pitched over a skylight by one of the ship's eccentric movements, or drenched to the skin by a burst of spray, is not in a state of mind to contemplate sublimity; and after going through a varied and exhaustive course of such treatment, any romantic notions which he may previously have entertained with regard to the ocean's beauty and sublimity are pretty much knocked and drowned out of him. Rough weather makes short work of poetry and sentiment. The "wet sheet" and "flowing sea" of the poet have a significance quite the reverse of poetical when one discovers the "wet sheet" in his bed and the "flowing sea" all over the cabin floor, and our experience illustrates not so much the sublimity as the unpleasantness and discomfort of a storm at sea.

  July 27, 1865.

I used often to wonder, while living in San Francisco, where the chilling fogs that toward night used to drift in over Lone Mountain and through the Golden Gate came from. I have discovered the laboratory. For the past two weeks we have been sailing continually in a dense, wet, grey cloud of mist, so thick at times as almost to hide the topgallant yards, and so penetrating as to find its way even into our little after-cabin, and condense in minute drops upon our clothes. It rises, I presume, from the warm water of the great Pacific Gulf Stream across which we are passing, and whose vapour is condensed into fog by the cold north-west winds from Siberia. It is the most disagreeable feature of our voyage.

Our life has finally settled down into a quiet monotonous routine of eating, smoking, watching the barometer, and sleeping twelve hours a day. The gale with which we were favoured two weeks ago afforded a pleasant thrill of temporary excitement and a valuable topic of conversation; but we have all come to coincide in the opinion of the Major, that it was a "curious thing," and are anxiously awaiting the turning up of something else. One cold, rainy, foggy day succeeds another, with only an occasional variation in the way of a head wind or a flurry of snow. Time, of course, hangs heavily on our hands. We are waked about half-past seven in the morning by the second mate, a funny, phlegmatic Dutchman, who is always shouting to us to "turn out" and see an imaginary whale, which he conjures up regularly before breakfast, and which invariably disappears before we can get on deck, as mysteriously as "Moby Dick." The whale, however, fails to draw after a time, and he resorts to an equally mysterious and eccentric sea-serpent, whose wonderful appearance he describes in comical broken English with the vain hope that we will crawl out into the raw foggy atmosphere to look at it. We never do. Bush opens his eyes, yawns, and keeps a sleepy watch of the breakfast table, which is situated in the captain's cabin forward. I cannot see it from my berth, so I watch Bush. Presently we hear the humpbacked steward's footsteps on the deck above our heads, and, with a quick succession of little bumps, half a dozen boiled potatoes come rolling down the stairs of the companionway into the cabin. They are the forerunners of breakfast. Bush watches the table, and I watch Bush more and more intently as the steward brings in the eatables; and by the expression of Bush's face, I judge whether it be worth while to get up or not. If he groans and turns over to the wall, I know that it is only hash, and I echo his groan and follow his example; but if he smiles, and gets up, I do likewise, with the full assurance of fresh mutton-chops or rice curry and chicken. After breakfast the Major smokes a cigarette and looks meditatively at the barometer, the captain gets his old accordion and squeezes out the Russian National Hymn, while Bush and I go on deck to inhale a few breaths of pure fresh fog, and chaff the second mate about his sea-serpent. In reading, playing checkers, fencing, and climbing about the rigging when the weather permits, we pass away the day, as we have already passed away twenty and must pass twenty more before we can hope to see land.

  August 6, 1865.

"Now would I give a thousand furlongs of sea for an acre of barren ground, ling, heath, broom, furze, anything," except this wearisome monotonous waste of water! Let Kamchatka be what it will, we shall welcome it with as much joy as that with which Columbus first saw the flowery coast of San Salvador. I am prepared to look with complacency upon a sandbar and two spears of grass, and would not even insist upon the grass if I could only be sure of the sand-bar. We have now been thirty-four days at sea without once meeting a sail or getting a glimpse of land.

Our chief amusement lately has been the discussion of controverted points of history and science, and wonderful is the forensic and argumentative ability which these debates have developed. They are getting to be positively interesting. The only drawback to them is, that in the absence of any decisive authority they never come to any satisfactory conclusion. We have now been discussing for sixteen days the uses of a whale's blow-holes; and I firmly believe that if our voyage were prolonged, like the Flying Dutchman's, to all eternity, we should never reach any solution of the problem that would satisfy all the disputants. The captain has an old Dutch History of the World, in twenty-six folio volumes, to which he appeals as final authority in all questions under the heavens, whether pertaining to love, science, war, art, politics, or religion; and no sooner does he get cornered in a discussion than he entrenches himself behind these ponderous folios, and keeps up a hot fire of terrific Dutch polysyllables until we are ready to make an unconditional surrender. If we venture to suggest a doubt as to the intimacy of the connection between a whale's blow-holes and the History of the World, he comes down upon us with the most withering denunciations as wrongheaded sceptics who won't even believe what is printed - and in a Dutch history too! As the captain dispenses the pie, however, at dinner, I have found it advisable to smother my convictions as to the veracity of his Teutonic historian, and join him in denouncing that pernicious heretic Bush, who is wise beyond what is written. Result - Bush gets only one small piece of pie, and I get two, which of course is highly gratifying to my feelings, as well as advantageous to the dispersion of sound historical learning!

I begin to observe at dinner an increasing reverence on Bush's part for Dutch histories.