DIARY - by a paying passenger.
(*** is an unidentified word)
September 18th, Tuesday,
Went on board the HARPLEY in Plymouth Sound expecting to sail the same evening but detained from some cause or other. Major part of the crew and intermediates got drunk. Got my cabin, well to eights and went to bed, or rather as I thought it at first to coffin. About 5 next morning the blessed baby next door began to cry, which awoke the deck overhead and the row was then awful. Great deal of botheration about getting woken.
19th *** tries ones *** waiting all day in expectation of going to sea. At length Captain came on board. Got under weigh, but the wind being light and flood tide obliged to anchor again after nearly ramming into the HARRY LORREQUER
20th Sailed at half past five in the morning. Pilot left us off Ruino Head with lots of letters and directly he was off *** *** crowded on her and *** my last look at Plymouth for a long while. *** we *** away down channel *** and in the evening saw the Lizard Light, the last we saw of England.
21st Very ill. All day light wind and the long roll of the Atlantic tossing us about without any mercy for my insides. Felt most miserable but managed to keep on deck all day and had to change cabins in the evening. Ship tossing in every way.
25th Strong breeze from the NW sent us along beautifully; 12 knots at times under a *** of sail. Carried away one or two thin sail booms. Ship lurching and rolling very much with a high following sea. Laughable scenes going on at times. Steward capsized into the scupper with a great *** of flour. Passengers sliding about in all directions. I had one slide from one end of the deck to the other besides numerous capsizes. Difficult matter to get soup into the mouth. Lots of petrels following us all day and over the ship as though they couldn't be tired.
October 4th, Thursday
Still bowling along delightfully over a smooth beautiful sea. As comfortable as possible. Every day getting more interesting as we get into the warmer latitudes.
Saw three large sperm whales playing about; lashing the water with their tails and blowing up great columns of spray. There are generally dozens of porpoises and black fish playing about us all day.
10th No change. The trades carrying us on well. We are now close to the Cape de Verde (islands) but the weather is so hazy that we can't make them out. Shoals of flying fish darting about with those thin gauze-like wings, are the only interesting objects. Nothing but sea, sea, sea. A flying fish was washed on deck last night. They are very pretty things. Something like a *** pilchard but more slender and handsome, with their flying fins as long as their bodies. The length of this one was about 8 inches but sometimes they are seen much larger. I have had my line out several times but have not even had a nibble.
14th Going on slowly but surely towards the line. Being now about 8 north we have been very fortunate in escaping calming, tho' I expect we shall have some very soon. The weather is very hot. I have been sleeping on the deck for the last two nights and last night there were four of us on the skylight wrapped in a blanket each with a pillow under our head and remarkably comfortable it was. Went to sleep sound as a top about 12. At 1 rain came down in torrents without any warning. Case of the regular tropical storms of course. Wetted us to the skin in 1 minute, sending me scrambling down and getting my clothes.
Lay down on the floor, it being too warm to turn in. The morning is the only bearable part of the day. At 5 I go to the foc'sle pump and have a shave and bathe, then walk about in shirt and trousers rolled up to the knee while decks are being washed which is remarkably cool if not elegant. Seeing several ships every day, but not near enough to speak. No sharks yet and no birds except a stray *** or two, the everlasting petrel and one wandering swallow which fell onto the deck exhausted and died soon after. Water duly appreciated. The thermometer in the coolest part of the cuddy at 85 however we have a splendid awning and as long as there is anything like a breeze the heat is bearable.
18th In the morning a small shark caught. About 4ft. Was immediately cooked and proved very good. Tasted much like hake and enjoyed it very much. Dead calm all day. In the afternoon I was lying on the taffrail looking down at the water. Saw something of a dark colour a great distance down. It gradually rose until I could distinguish a fine shark floating about majestically with 3 or 4 pilot fish moving about him. The pilot fish are the most elegant little fish imaginable. Stripes like zebras. Well this little chap was evidently very peckish as the first thing he did was to make a grab at a sheet that was hanging out of one of the storm ports. He got a good mouthful of it but it did not suit him as he did not try again. Presently, two preserved meal tin pots were thrown over. He snatched at one. Got it in his mouth but did not swallow it. However we thought he had had his way long enough so we got this great shark hook and put about 4 pounds of pork on it. Dropped it over the stern just letting it touch the water. Up came the pilot fish smelt it and then went back to the shark and then he came up and caught hold of it but wasn't hooked so he got off. But immediately lunged at it again and was soon hooked. After a deal of trouble he was got onto the main deck where he was secured with three cheers and in 5 minutes was cut in pieces. He was about ten feet long. Many tried to eat him but he was, I believe, very rank. . Saw another immediately after. This must have been at least as long again but he would not take the bait.
25th Crossed the line at 4pm. Long 29 W. Strong breeze from the SSE. There was no ducking or shaving but Neptune came on board to return thanks for our allowance of grog. Tar barrels were set afloat and it was well kept up through the ship. We had a fine dinner on the poop.
28th Such a beautiful evening that I brought up a blanket and lay on the deck all night. The moon was vertical and exceedingly bright. I didn't sleep a wink but was completely repaid by the beauty of the sky, so studded with stars among them was the celebrated constellation the Southern Cross. I managed to amuse myself *** *** in listening to the yarns of the sailors.
November 4th to 7th Splendid breeze in our favour with rain in the evening of November the 7th when the wind changed most suddenly from a furious squall to a dead calm and left us rocking helplessly on a high swell. Saw the first of the Cape pigeons. A beautiful bird white marked with black.
11th Have been much bothered by rats but last night they gave me extra benefit. I kicked two off my bed in the course of the night. They have eaten nearly all a counterpane, two holes through a blanket, the toe of one of my boots besides gnawing almost everything they can lay hold of. I wish I had dear little Tinkey here. Traps are of no use. Stopping their holes is of no use and there is only one cat on the ship. Fortunately they are the only vermin that molest us much. I have not seen a cockroach and although there are a few *** and jumpers, I don't mind them much.
17th Very chilly. Walking a great deal required to keep one warm. An albatross caught. One of several fine ones that have been flying above the ship. He measured 10ft 6 in from tip to tip. The wings are magnificent. Beautiful white plumage as tho' sculptured from the purest marble.
26th Still a splendid breeze. Ship running with a press of sail and lurching furiously. Sea magnificent. Thousands of birds following in our wake. Albatrosses, Cape hens, Cape pigeons, mallards, hawks, petrels, whale birds etc. Terribly bothered with rats again last night. Could not keep them off me but should soon get accustomed to their visits.
27th Running with a strong breeze. NNW squally with a heavy sea on. The rolling was awful. General capsize at dinner. A large joint of roast pork into a ladies lap. Great difficulty to keep our seats.
29th Wind died away in great measure and the sea going down. There have been two births on board during the week. One little thing died and was thrown over without any ceremony in a raisin box with a 56 tied to it.
December 1st & 2nd
Very fine weather but calm. But we cannot complain, having done 1400 miles during the week. Hard work drying bedding as the ship leaks in her joints after this straining in the commencement of the week. Have been obliged to sleep with a mackintosh over me and even then got wet through. However the rain has ceased so I suppose we shall get a little respite. On Monday night I incautiously slept with my scuttle open when a sea came in and set everything a float and nearly washed me out of my bunk
4th Blowing in right earnest. A strong gale from NNW with occasional squalls of wind and rain. Ship scudding with double reefed (fore and main) topsails and reefed foresail, as much as she could struggle with tho' as she is immensely strong. Sea awful. I never could have believed such monstrous waves were possible. When we are in the trough of the sea to see the next sea following us is terrific, One would think she would never rise to it. Then to see her stern heave up majestically with the sea breaking on each side of her with a war-like thunder was grand. At 11 I was on the poop when a sea struck her on the quarter, filled the life-boat and completely flooded the poop. Immediately after a great sea came over the waist and covered the main deck. The poor ship trembles all over at the shock and stood for a moment like a dead thing until the water runs off her, when on she went again in great style. The night was wretched. The cabin all afloat. Couldn't sleep a wink for the sea striking her continuously. She got one awful bump from under the counter which nearly fished me out of bed. In the morning had to make a platform to keep me out of the water before I could dress. I do not wish to see another gale yet awhile. The last two days have been quite difficult for me, what with the swell and the noise of the bulkheads and the masts craking, the howling of the wind, the roar of the sea and other noises. Immeasurable nothing to eat or drink scarcely (the galley being knocked down). It is wretched(ly) comfort that we are going ahead finely having made 247 and 240 miles in the last two days and I think there is every prospect of making a quick run.
15th Had a pleasant battle and killed 2 enormous rats by stopping the hole when I knew they were in my cabin and then smashing them. Light breeze but favourable. We are now speculating when we should get to Adelaide. There is a lottery afoot with tickets from 18th Dec to 15th Jan at 1/6 each. and he who holds the ticket bearing the day on which Adelaide light ship is first seen gets the prize. I have three bad ones. 7th, 11th & 14th Jan'y.
21st Very light breeze, approaching to calm. Very tedious when so near our destination. 3 albatrosses caught. Better breeze at noon and freshened to a fine breeze in the eve. Carried away fore topmast slim boom and one of the sailors went aloft to secure the gear and it is supposed (he) fell overboard as he has not been seen since, poor fellow. It was a miserable end. He was a fine fellow and a *** seaman and the event has sent gloom over us all.
23rd Breeze died away in the morning and then shifted. Very tiresome now we're so near. Land near called Neptunes. It is very sandy and barren with a tremendous surf running on them. The mainland of Australia is also visible in the distance somewhere about Port Lincoln.
27th - 8 of us went in a small whaleboat and started for the Port a distance of 14 miles with a burning sun. As we approached the land it looked very uninviting. A low sandy shore with a few mangrove trees and stunted bushes growing on it with a number of pelicans and other birds walking on the mud. We passed two bars at the entrance to the river with a very narrow channel for vessels and then only at high water. Altogether it is a wretched place for ships to go up and down. On we went and seeing a wretched hut on the bank of the creek went up to get some milk when strange to say it proved to be inhabited by Devonshire people and we got both milk and cream. A great treat after a long voyage. After 4 hours pulling we landed at the port, a very bustling place full of shipping and looking very busy, tho' the crowds of bullock drays loaded with copper and wool, and the odd looking view and buildings and country make everything look very strange.
And so ends my voyage to Australia. On the whole a most pleasant one to me tho' it certainly has its petty inconveniences and annoyances, which however are not to be placed on the scale with the enjoyment. l was certainly fortunate in both ship and Captain. The latter was a very nice fellow and did all in his power to make everything agreeable to his passengers and I.
The foregoing is an excerpt from the diary of that voyage. The diarist was able to give us a clear picture of the sea voyage, written as it happened, but his experiences as a paying passenger were different to those of the Assisted Immigrants. He travelled in a cabin, and his descriptions of his sea life are fascinating. The diary was discovered by Richard Lander
The following excerpt is from the experiences of John Chandler, who was a child aboard the HARPLEY on the same voyage as the previous diarist.
John Chandler's family were Chartists and Nonconformists. His family's decision to emigrate was a group one:
"Provisions got very dear at this time, and many people were talking of emigrating. Many were leaving for America. There was gold discovered in California ......This was 1848. Some members of the Ebenezer Church met together, and after much talk and many prayers, they resolved to emigrate. They were therefore formed into a church They proposed taking up a large tract of country and equally dividing it into farms, and to keep themselves a separate community. It was not confined to the members of the Church, but to those who approved of our doctrines."
After writing to the Government, and being given approval for their plans and for a land grant at Lake Colac, now in Victoria, the new church community sold up their possessions and went to London where they awaited the sailing of the HARPLEY.
"I must here record the watchful care of the Lord over those He has determined to save while in their unregenerate state. I was playing with some boys and climbing over the side of the ship when I was accidentally hurled overboard. Twice I sank, but a Spaniard on another ship saw me in the water, and he jumped into a boat from his own ship just as I was sinking a third time, and caught me by the hair of my head and lifted me into the boat by it.
..and next morning I was as well as ever. And all the effect it had on me was that I thought I was very lucky that I was not drowned.
The HARPLEY having got all her cargo aboard and most of her passengers, we started from St Katherine's Dock on September 9th, 1849, and were towed down to Gravesend. The sails were set, and we were soon fairly out to sea. The ship began to roll and many faces were very pale, first from fear and then from seasickness, and there was a scene which those only know who have come out in a sailing ship with 200 passengers. Our ship was not a very large one, being only 800 tons burden. We had a very rough passage down the English Channel. Three days and nights we were beating about Beachy Head. Some of the passengers wished they were ashore. Everything was new to me, and as soon as I got over my seasickness I enjoyed it. To see the waves come tumbling aboard was my delight. I was too young to see any danger.
Two men died of Cholera. This frightened many onboard, for it would have been a fearful thing to have been shut in a little ship with this dreadful disease. Their bodies were sent ashore at Deal, and their families and luggage were landed. We had a head wind nearly all down the Channel, and the sea was very rough. It was constantly 'bout ship night and day. We were all on deck looking at the great waves rolling; the sailors were putting the ship about; the wind was blowing very strong. As the sails went over a rope caught my mother in the waist and carried her right to the top of the bulwarks. My father rushed and caught her by the dress. In one second she would have been in the raging sea. No small boat could have lived in it for three minutes. 0h the mercy and goodness that spared us five small children our mother.
We arrived at Plymouth after eleven days beating down the Channel. Some of the passengers lost passage rather than go any further with us; for to tell the truth, the ship had to be pumped a good deal during the rough weather.
Members of John's group suffered illness, and they feared for their lives, including that of his mother. Perhaps one of the reasons was because:
"Our ship was badly provisioned. First, potatoes were all done and then other things ran short. The biscuits were very bad, and nothing but downright starvation made us eat them. Our water ran short, and they had to boil our plum duff in salt water, which spoilt it. 0h how hungry we poor children used to go. All day the doctor (Dr James D Smith) used to drink, and drank all the medical comforts himself. They would not allow a ship to leave port now so badly provided as the HARPLEY."
Crossing the line was very hot, so that the pitch melted out of the seams or the deck. We were becalmed for four days. The captain would not allow the shaving, so the sailors had an extra tot of rum, and they had music and dancing. In the evening they sent off a tar barrel on fire, which we could see for hours.
During the day, many of the passengers and sailors swam around the ship. One passenger who could not swim put a lifebelt on and went into the water. They all went over the bows, most of them diving from the bowsprit. As the ship was drifting astern, it was fast leaving him, and he began to get alarmed. A young man belonging to our company, named Thomas Harvey, jumped overboard and swam round him and pushed him to the side of the ship, where he was taken on board about twenty minutes after this incident. I saw several large sharks swim round the vessel. It was so hot that the passengers were lying about the decks everywhere. All night I lay on the table with a strap around me, fastened to one of the uprights to keep me from rolling off.
After near a week's baking, we were very glad to find the wind freshen, and it soon became quite a storm. Our second mate who was in charge of the ship that night, laid her over on her beam's end, but she righted again. The passengers were very much alarmed. One poor fellow we called Jim the sail maker lost his life in this storm. He was blown off the yard-arm in the night when they were reefing in the topsails.
The wind still kept increasing till it blew a hurricane. We were off the Cape of Good Hope. We had seen no land since we saw the Isles of Trinidad. We had been over two months on the voyage. The waves were higher than the top of the mast; they looked like two great mountains, one in front and one behind. All hatches were battened down, and we had to run before the gale under bare poles. Nobody could believe it unless they saw the mountains of water; it seemed as if we must be swallowed up.
Truly, "They that go down to the sea in ships see the wonders of the Lord". Our pumps had to be kept going. The men had to be lashed to them, and the wheel had to have two men lashed to it. This was the most fearful storm that could possible be for a little ship like ours to live in: it was appalling."
John gave some attention to how time was spent onboard:
The time was mostly spent by the passengers in singing songs and dancing; sometimes varied by catching sharks, albatrosses, shooting porpoises etc. There were two distinct parties on board - those who feared the Lord, and the others who cared for none of those things; excepting when there was any danger. The Church onboard always met regularly for worship. As our party had all the afterpart of the ship, we were not much disturbed by the others. The other party used to hold service, a mixture, Wesleyan and Church of England.
There were some good singers among our people....The Captain often used them to come on the poop and sing. I used to love to sit and hear them. I was always passionately fond of music and I would leave anything to go and hear them sing. This was the first Particular Baptist Church in Victoria, or Port Phillip as it was then called."
So John Chandler goes on to describe his life in Australia in his book, FORTY YEARS IN THE WILDERNESS. This has been reprinted, and is available in paperback form.
Researcher Richard Lander