Log of the Whaler Sheffield - Pt. 2

Footnotes to Long Island History

APRIL 28 1949


Thomas R. Bayles

   (Editor's- Note: This is the second of the five articles which Thomas R. Bayles has adapted from the log of the old whaler Sheffield The first installment described opening phases of the voyage out of cold spring harbor in 1845.)

       Cape Horn was astern and pleasant weather followed as shown by the following entries in the journal.

       "Wednesday, March 4th. Pleasant gales from the south. At 5 P.M. made the Island of Juan Fernandez ahead. At sunrise stood in for the land the purpose of fishing and feasting.

       "Thursday, March 5th, 1846. Pleasant weather. At 1 P.M. three boats went ashore. Found three men on the Island. A Portuguese, an Englishman and a American. At sundown returned to the ship with a good supply of fish and peaches. Stood off on our course again.

       "Wednesday. April 1st. Light winds and calms. Saw and chased blackfish, no success. lat. 0-40 n.

       "Saturday, April 18th. At 6 P.M. took in light sails, expecting to make the land, Island of Nomee, in the morning. At 8 in the evening anchored off the town in 20 fathoms of water.

       "Sunday, April 19th. Civil account. The captain mate and part of the crew went ashore."

       It may be well to explain the difference between "civil account" and "nautical account." When a ship is in port the time is "civil account" and the day begins at midnight, but when a ship is at sea the "nautical day" begins at noon 12 hours later than the "civil account."

       "Monday, April 20th. Took a raft of casks ashore to be filled with water. The larboard watch ashore on liberty.

       "Tuesday, April 21st. Took raft aboard and stowed away. Also took in potatoes and sent another raft ashore. Starboard watch ashore on liberty. Three ships came in today. Sent out letters ashore.

       "Thursday, April 30th. Employed in breaking out the after hatch for molasses flour and bread. Thursday may 14th employed in getting up the cutting gear.

       "Saturday, May 16th. Saw a right whale. Lowered two boats for him, no success. Came on board and hove our ship to, two hundred and one days from Cold Spring, God be praised. Wind fresh. Divided the hands into eight watches to keep the ship while laying to.

       "Sunday, May 17th. Made sail and stood various ways. At 11:30 saw two right whales, lowered three boats. Pulled up to one and darted, no hit. Came aboard and took dinner and lowered again with no success.

      " Monday, May 18th. Thick weather, laying to. One man... had a very dangerous fit.

       "Thursday, May 21st. At 11 a.m. saw a right whale, lowered boats with no success. While taking in sail at sunset Scudder Abbott fell from the topsail yard to the deck. He was picked up senseless and brought aft, the blood running from his mouth and nose. He was immediately bled, which somewhat revived him; got his clothes off and laid him in a berth; his life is very uncertain though through the night he is tolerably comfortable.

       "Wednesday, the 27th. Scudder I think gains slowly. Saw plenty of hump backs.

       "Sunday, the 31st. At 7 a.m. Saw two right whales. Lowered two boats struck and killed one; sank him. At 5 P.M. saw a right whale, chased no success .

       "Friday, June 5th. William Golden quite sick. Scudder Abbott is slowly gaining strength.

       "Saturday, the 6th. Four ships in sight. Saw right whale; lowered struck and killed him; took him alongside and cut him in.

       "Friday, June 12. At 11 a.m. saw right whales. Weather too thick to lower. At 3 P.M. saw a dead whale; took him alongside, found two harpoons in him, part of a line and three drags. Finished cutting in at 11 at night.      

       "Tuesday, June 16th. Plenty of whale near the ship. At 2 P.M. lowered and struck one, Killed him and took him alongside; put the fluke chain on him and let him lay until morning. A ship to windward boiling.

       "Wednesday, June 17th. Spoke bark Connecticut of New London, he had one whale this season; also ship Levant of Sag Harbor, one whale this season.

       "Friday, the 26th. Cleaned 1,800 barrels of bone. Plenty of finback's in sight.

       "Sunday, 28th. Laying to. Discontented with usage from the captain not dealing in a fair way at all.

       "Tuesday, the 30th. Finished the try works. Scudder Abbott returned to duty.

        "Saturday, July 4th. The birthday of our national independence. Light winds. Struck and killed a whale. Put the fluke chain on him and let him lay until morning.

       "Wednesday, July 8th. Saw the Henry Lee take a whale. We stowed down 2,100 gallons of oil.

       "Friday, the 10th. Cleaned and bunched 500 barrels of bone. Made up  my mind for a long and unpleasant voyage. Oh justice, what a jewel.

       "Monday, the 13th. Spoke ship Sabina of Sag Harbor, three whales this season .

       "Sunday,  July 26th. Spoke ship Gen Williams of New London 4 whales. Reports one day previously the Plymouth of Sag Harbor 3 whales, lost a boat steerer and one hand.

       "Tuesday, July 28th. Saw the land of Kamtchatka ahead.

       "Wednesday, the 20th. Spoke Henry of Sag Harbor, 1,500 barrels.

       "Sunday, August 9th. In the distance saw Copper Island bearing east by south. Large numbers of ducks about .

       "Wednesday, the 12th. Standing toward Kamtchatka. Saw land ahead at 1p.m. latitude 55-15.

      "Saturday, the 18th. Fine weather. Close in with the land. Chased two right whales. No success. Breaking out for water, sugar and vinegar. At 3 P.M. saw and killed a right whale. Took him alongside.

       "Tuesday August 18th. Spoke ship Commodore Preble, 1,200 barrles; reports speaking the previous day the Huntsville, of Cold Spring, 2,700 barrels.

       "Wednesday, August 19th. Got through boiling. In the third watch of the night 5 men took the bow boat, together with 2 boat sails, compass, line and craft, and left the ship, supposed for shore. One boat steerer is no doubt implicated, it being his watch, but he feigns ignorance of the whole matter. So much for not having proper discipline on a ship."

       There are many repetitions of "saw whales," "chased," "no success," and a few captures. Other ships had fared better and our historian perhaps had reason to be despondent during the season.

       September, the closing of the whale season in that latitude, was a record of gales and a few whales taken. The return passage towards the Sandwich Island was made of routine work, handling ship, mending sails, cleaning up for port.

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