- Historic Sites
Being Eliza Williams’s own journal of her thirty-eight-month voyage with her husband, master of the ship Florida, from New Bedford to Japan and the Sea of Okhotsk in pursuit of the great whales
June 1964 | Volume 15, Issue 4
It is now about a month since I have written any in my Journal and many things have transpired since then.
The 10th of January we had a gale of wind that lasted till the 12th, the heaviest gale we have had since we left home. On the nth, the fore sail was carried away. We spoke the Whale Ship Rodman, Capt. Babcock, on the nth, bound home. Did not exchange many words, it was blowing so hard. They had Pigeons on board and four of them flew on board of us. They are very pretty and my Husband has had a nice house made for them. We have a fine healthy Boy, born on the 12th, five days before we got into Port.
We arrived in the harbor of Monganua [Mangonui, at the northern end of New Zealand] on the 17th. I had to stay on board the Ship two weeks. Captain Butler, the Harbor Master, came on board as soon as we were in. He came below to see me, and told me that he would send for his Wife and she very soon came on board to see me and came every day and washed and dressed the Baby. She did everything she could for me, till I was able to go to her house. I had every attention paid me, both on the Ship and at Mrs. Butler’s.
The Men, when they went on shore, often brought me Fruit and Flowers, and the Captains of the Ships came on board to see me and brought me something nice. Captain Dehart of the Ship Roman and, came to see me several times, and brought me Oranges, Lemons, several kinds of Preserved Fruits, some Arrowroot, a nice Fan made on one of the Islands that he had stopped at, and a bottle of currant wine.…
My Husband had some trouble with two of his Men; the Blacksmith sold bread from the Ship to the Natives for honey. He did not go on shore next time that his watch went. Then he got saucy and refused to go to work, and was put in irons till he said he would go to work, which was the next day. I was glad when he had them off, but I am afraid that he is inclined to be a bad Man, for the first time my Husband gave him liberty on shore, he ran away and one more with him. The Natives caught them and brought them back. My Husband did not keep the Ship in harbor much longer after that. He went to the Bay of Islands [in northern New Zealand] to discharge his oil and send it home, and then came back to Monganua for me. He did not go into the harbor, so he did not lose any more Men. I stopped not quite two weeks on shore, but I enjoyed myself very much while I was there. [The Butlers] are a nice Family, extremely kind and affectionate, and every one of them seemed to try to see which could pay me the most attention. They have a large Family—eight Children, three of them grown up Daughters, quite accomplished and pretty Looking. They all sing, dance, and play on the piano. They are quite a lively Family and one of the young Boys plays on the violin.
The Captains meet often there, to spend the evening, and the time passes very pleasantly, in the Shipping Season, but it must be a dull place when there are no Ships in the harbor. There is nothing but the Hills to be seen.…
Capt. Butler came to Monganua to live 19 years ago. The Natives were then in an uncivilized state. The Maoris, as they are called, were at war together, and in some parts they ate human flesh. The first house he went in after he landed, was a place where the Queen held counsel with her Subjects. She was pacing up and down the room, with her long black hair streaming over her shoulders, and talking as fast as she could. She was saying that no good had come to them since they left off eating human flesh, and they must commence again. She then raised her arm to her mouth and bit out a piece.
His interpreter communicated to him what she had said and he said it made his flesh crawl on his bones. He had a good deal of trouble with them for a long time and came near losing his life several times, but finally the Queen (she has been dead some time) and all her Subjects were great Friends to him. They now call him and his Wife their Father and Mother. I think they are extremely kind to them.…
After taking on fresh water and vegetables, the Florida left New Zealand and headed north for the whaling grounds in the Japan Sea .
March 1st. A pleasant day, fair wind, but not much of it. It seems as if we should never get anywhere out of these warm latitudes. My Husband is most discouraged and I think all hands must be.
March 2nd. We had quite a shower this morning. It then cleared off hot enough to melt one. The wind is fair, but not enough of it to make hardly a ripple in the water.
March 3rd.… The Men are all sweating away at their work; some in the rigging, some turning. The Cooper and the Blacksmith are at work, and a variety of other kinds of work are going on, as usual.
March 4th. A cry of Whales was given from aloft this morning before I was up. It proved to be a Sperm Whale, and it seemed to be the opinion that it was a large one. The Men lowered their boats, but did not succeed in taking him. He was going very fast.…
March 11th. We spoke a Ship this morning before I was up—the Young Hector, from New Bedford, Capt. Hager. He is a Sperm Whaler. He has been out eighteen months and has 400 bbls. of Oil on board. He came on board of us. He seems a very nice man. Our Mate has gone to spend the day with his Mate, to have a gam as the Sailors say.… Ocean Island [one of the Gilberts] was all in sight.…
March 12th. A fine day and a strong breeze. The Ship rolls some—considerable today. We have left Ocean Island far behind.