The Adventures Of A Haunted Whaling Man


—Bird Island in sight—lying off and on this afternoon—the jolly boat & bow-boat went ashore after eggs—at noon—brought a full boat load on board—as we could obtain them without the slightest difficulty—the island has an area of about a square mile—it is almost barren, a few bushes & many weeds constitute all the verdure—but the great feature is the Myriad of birds & eggs that are upon it— the birds hover about the island like a dense cloud—and it is necessary to walk carefully else you will crush eggs at every step: and it was something of a job to drive the birds out of the way, in order to get their eggs—.…

August 1st Friday

—… Saw a very large sword fish this morning, that deadly enemy of the Sperm Whale. That is excepting ourselves and other whalemen—We often see “devil fish” or diamond fish as they call them on board here—they put one very much in mind of a mamoth bat or vampure with horns and tusks which look very white—.… The shovel-nosed shark is another curious fish—said to be perfectly harmless—though it has a loathsome appearance. The largest kind of shark is the bone shark—he lives upon the same kind of food as the right whale—.…

Cruising near the Equator, in sight of the east coast of Africa, the Clara Bell was so beset by foul weather, dead calm, currents, and winds that for more than seven weeks she was unable to make port. Bread and molasses became the food staple for all on board. Finally, on September 26, the whaling ship got close enough to Saddle Island, of the Comoro group, to be towed in. The stay was brief— there was sickness among the Arab residents—but time enough to take on provisions before heading out to the hunting grounds again. Tragedy struck soon afterward.

[October] 26th Sunday

—… This afternoon at 1 1/4 o’clock—Johnson a noble young man and friend of all was lost—There was a heavy sea on—at 2 P.M. the martingale guys gave way—and had to be immediately repaired or the loss of our bowsprit & foretop-mast would have followed—A little after four o’clock Johnson was sewing the guys together just abaft the martingale—When the Mate sung out to the Captain telling him all was right—we braced forward the main yards and as the ships head came to the wind—she met three heavy seas, causing her to pitch heavily—twice Johnson was dashed several feet beneath the water—but he still kept his hold against the awful pressure—the third time he was madly forced under & the great power of the waters was too much for him—he was dragged from his hold—ropes, and every available thing were hove to him—a boat was cut away & manned but all too late—The startling cry of man overboard thrilled all to their very hearts core—what could be done in such weather—the seas running so high—the ship dashing madly through the water—


Oh! what feeling filled my breast—as I rushed to clear the boat and help save him who was overboard in such a gale; I thought of my wronged parent—of my present situation—the many sins upon my heart—Oh! What happiness it must be to be a Christian—and always be ready to die—I have taken this event in its true light as a warning for us all. O! that I could think more of God; so merciful to all sinful mortals—Oh! God give me that strength to love &fear Thee eternally—.…

Weir was appointed by the captain to take Johnson’s place as boatsteerer (harpooner) of his small whaleboat. He assumed the new assignment, vowing to “strive to do my best for the voyage.”

November 16th Sunday

Sail in sight, proved to be the J. Dawson 13 mos out 100 bbls Sperm—gammed all the afternoon. At dark luffed to the wind heading NNE—wind E & N—at 6 1/2 A.M. Land in sight. Madagascar—tacked ship—heading E.S.E.—Raised Sperm whales at 10 o’clock this Morning—lowered in company with the John Dawson—boats returned without success—

23rd Sunday

—At 3 1/2 P/M gammed with the bark Massasoit 31 mos out 700 Sperm

24th Monday