Voyage-of-the-Mermaid-Page-6-of-9

from the book "A Quota of Qualtrough" Pages 31-40

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Diary of James Qualtrough, written of board the "MERMAID" which sailed from Liverpool UK, on 11 July 1859 and arrived in Auckland, New Zealand on 19 October 1859.

For the Mermaid Passenger List Click Here

For the Map of the Voyage Click Here

Saturday 10th: Sign of a storm. The Captain seems to be in great anxiety. The men were ordered to do nothing but mind the ship. Some rocky islands are within a few degrees, just in our course. We keep south westward of them. At noon the wind blew hard. The ship sails 11 knots. It is wintry indeed.

All hands are called to take sails. Stay sails are taken down. Twenty men together on the yard, reefing the main top sail and about 20 men of the passengers doing all we can below. The sailors complain she has a very heavy rigging with too few men.

Monday 12th: It blew very hard all Saturday night. The ship sailed 13 knots an hour. At four o’clock yesterday morning we received a call from Ned Gale’s berth that his little daughter was dead. She had been ailing for 7 weeks. Kitty got up and helped them dress her. More sails being set on the ship and she was sailed very hard all day Sunday. Rather hard to our liking.

In the afternoon the spray from some of the dangerous rocks could be seen at a distance. We were at noon at lat. 45.46.south long. 40.50.east. I don’t know that I felt a February day colder in the Isle of Man. The little girl had been left to "wake" her until today at 11 o’clock, when the Captain ordered the funeral. A coffin was made in readiness for her by the carpenter’s mate. In the Intermediate, we sang with sweet solemnity "The morning flowers display..etc.".

Dr. Aiken read the funeral service and we delivered her body to the deep in sure and certain hope of the resurrection to Eternal Life, when the sea shall give up the dead that are in it. We are sailing easterly with a fair wind about 10 knots. We have now passed Prince Edward Island and Marion and Croxets Islands and are now nearing Kerguelins Island, otherwise Desolation Island.

Tuesday 13th: To clear Kerguelins Land, we are sailing S by E now near Lat. 52. south. It is very cold. We are sailing about 10 knots an hour. The Lord continues to bless us with good health.

Wednesday 14th: The wind eased in the night and we are going at about 4 knots an hour. The Captain seems to be in great anxiety about the appearance of the weather.

Thursday 15th: I felt my mind rather uneasy at seeing the ship so splendid at night with 19 sails set on her. I slept very little for fear of a squall, till I heard the sailors busy taking sails. Towards morning the ship began to roll heavily. I rose at 4 o’clock and went up on deck where all hands were busily employed, the best of the sailors aloft reefing and taking in sails. The rest not excepting the galley cook and joiner engaged below. I did what I could with them for about 2 hours, the gale still increasing.

Nineteen men were now engaged reefing the main topsail. I stood up on the poop deck when the Captain came and spoke very free. " I mentioned to a friend last night Sir, that the ship looked very gallant to continue so through a winter’s night. " "A very true remark," he replied. He said we were now about 60 miles to the lee of Kerguelins Island, or else the sea would rise much heavier. About 9 o’clock it began to snow heavily, the gale still increasing and bitterly cold.

One of the sailors, an Italian, complained that he could not stand to reef the mizzen topsail. I pitied him because he had been brought up in a warmer climate than the other sailors. About 2 o’clock the sea began to rise like hills. She has now only three close reefed topsails instead of 19 whole sails as last night. I stood awhile up against the weather bulwarks, viewing the seas that appeared to threaten destruction, when I thought with a composed mind of our poet’s words:

"The waves and awful distance keep,

And shrink from my devoted head…. etc"

Friday 16th: It continued to blow all night. She has now with the reefed topsails as she was yesterday – 2 stay sails and the foresail. We had thought it a great storm today if it had not been much worse yesterday. She now sails E. by N.

Saturday 17th: This morning about 10 o’clock, it blew very hard when all hands were called to reef and take in sails. I lay awake about half an hour when it became quite calm. Kitty showed more fear than she did since she came on board the MERMAID.

I got up at 2 o’clock and went on deck. The fore and main topsails were close reefed and were the only ones on the ship. I now thought of St. Paul’s words: "We wished for the day" Who would wish to be a sailor? They had scarcely a bit of dry clothes from head to foot. In the morning the sea rose like mountains. I thought more than ever on the words of the Psalmist: "They that go down to the sea in ships..etc" (Psalm 107 v23.) The ship rolled terribly.

The Captain is very delighted with her and some of the sailors say they were never in such a ship in their lives. She is now, at four o’clock, the foresail on her with the two reefed topsails scudding before the wind at 8 and a half knots an hour. We had another funeral today, a stranger to us. We are now lat. 50.41 south, long. 79.0 east. I lay up all day yesterday very unwell from the effects of cold and wet feet, having not changed stockings these past few days. It is indeed cold weather, with snow and sleet, cold wind and heavy seas. I think the wind is as cold here blowing from the Equator as it would be in the Isle of Man, blowing from the North.

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