Log of the Whaler Sheffield - Pt. 1

Footnotes to Long Island History

APRIL 8 1949


Thomas R. Bayles


        (Editor's Note: This is the first of five highly interesting articles which Thomas R Bayles well known Long Island historian, has adapted for the Advance from the log of the old whaler Sheffield the article below tells of opening phases of the voyage out of Cold Ppring Harbor in 1845. Other installments of this series on old whaling days will appear in succeeding issues of the Advance)

       The days of the whale ship are long since past, but the stories of those hardy seafaring men who sailed the high seas a hundred years ago still live on. An interesting account of the voyage of the "Sheffield" which sailed from Cold Spring Harbor on October 28, 1845, has been copied from an old log book which was in the possession of the late H. M. Reeve of East Moriches and belonged to his great uncle Edbert A. Reeve. This covered the three year voyage and was called "Journal of a Voyage from Cold Spring Harbor towards Northwest Coast on the ship Sheffield."

       The officers and "boat steerers" of the Sheffield were: Captain Eli White, Southampton; first officer, Albert Halsey, Southampton; second officer, Charles Prince, Southampton; third officer, Egbert Reeve, Cold Spring Harbor; boat steerers, Francis Cook, Edward Foster, Southampton ;Daniel Fanning, Canoe Place; Jeremiah Goodale, Cold Spring; Cooper Pryor, Southampton; Steward James, L. Jennings, Southampton; cabin boy, Michael Mahoney.

       The first entry is 4 a.m. October 29 1845: "at 4 am came on board, have towed down to Lloyds Neck, anchored in four fathoms of water, the captain and pilot returned to Cold Spring.

       "Wed. Oct. 29th.  At 9 a.m. the captain, pilot and four hands came on board; weighed anchor and got under way and stood out in the Sound with a light breeze from the westward.

       "Thursday,  Oct 30th light winds from the west, at 9 came through Plum Gut and anchored in Gardners Bay; at 11 a.m. bid the pilots good by."

       The journal shows that for several days the ship lay in Gardiner's Bay, and that the captain and officers were much ashore at Sag Harbor.

       "Monday, the 10th of November comes in with a gale of wind from west northwest with a sharp cross sea running, both chains veered all out. Towards night more moderate at sunrise in the morning weighed anchors and got under way with a pleasant breeze from southwest. At 12 Tuesday, Montauk bore south by west.

       "Wednesday, the 12th, 1845, sea account steering southeast by south, at 3 pm Montauk bore west northwest from which I take my departure, and Almighty God, we pray that thou wilt be with us through our long voyage from our homes and families, and bring us back to them in safety through the goodness of thy tender mercy."

       Through the last of November and part of December the journal shows that "gales" squalls and "rugged weather" were the common entries.

       Monday, the 7th, nothing worthy of remark, terribly distressed with the toothache and swollen face.  saw a ship standing to the north.

       "Monday, the at 15th, at 5 P.M. spoke and boarded ship Fatima, of and for Liverpool, 21 days out from St. Helena. Employed looking over our sails, breaking out bread, etc. Latitude 14-24."

       These entries, "breaking out bread," "breaking out molasses" or "breaking out pork" are frequent all through the journal. The reader may not understand the term but in whaleships nearly all the stores were packed in new casks suitable for storing oil and stored in the hold of the ship. "Breaking out" means to open up or take out the stores this was an ordinary part of the routine labor. "Speaking of ship," or even seeing the sails of one was one of the important parts of the journal from a sailors standpoint, and these entries were frequent. All these terms are still in common use at sea.

       "Thursday Dec.25. Birthday of our Lord and Saviour. Light variable winds and weather. Ten sail of vessels in sight. latitude 2-30."

      What a tale might follow if all the facts were known in relation to the following entry

      "Saturday, the 27. Came in with pleasant gales from the southeast. At 4 p.m. spoke Bark Oris of Liverpool, bound to the Isle of France in want of a doctor. lat .1-10 south.

      "Wednesday, the 31st. Light trade winds and cloudy. Employed in making boat sails, ect. at 11 a.m. exchanged colors with an English steam brig standing to the northward.

       Wednesday, the 7th of January 1846. Variable winds and squally weather, attended with thunder, lightning and rain. At 4 p.m. spoke ship Tiger of Stonington Conn., bound to the Northwest Coast.

       Monday, the 12th. at 4 p.m. spoke ship Martha, of Fair Haven bound to Rio Janeiro for repairs.

       Monday, Jan.19th. At 9 a.m. spoke brig Samuel Thompson of Provincetown.. 260 barrels of sperm cutting in a whale. Reports ship in sight ahead to be the Olive Branch of New Bedford bound to the northwest coast.

       "Saturday, Jan.25th. Saw the land of Falklands Island bearing south, distance of thirteen leagues."

       The fight with the elements in rounding the Horn is given daily in such entries as the following.

       "Tuesday, Feb 3rd. Gales from the southwest. Double reefed topsails set. Very cold."

      "Thursday,  Feb 5th. Squally, disagreeable weather. No prospect of getting around Cape Horn.

       "Sunday, Feb. 8th. At 11 a.m. called all hands to take in sail. hove to with heavy sea running and heavy  snow squalls. No observation.

      "Wednesday, the 11th. Light pleasant gales from the east at 10 a.m. saw sperm whales tacked, saw them no more.

      "Thursday, Feb. 15th. Westerly winds and thick weather. Under port sail 6 p.m. wind increasing to heavy gale, shorten sail to close reef topsails and reefed foresail. Down hearted and low spirited, don't know when we shall get a fair wind and get away from here. latitude 55-32. Wish I was home with my wife.

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