- 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
June 9th. …We, with 6 other Ships, made for a little harbor … towards the head of the Bay, and we have all anchored. It is a snug, safe spot. … I have not been ashore yet, but am going when it is a nice day for the Baby. In the middle of the day it is quite warm on deck, and it looks pleasant and neighborly to see the Ships lying about. About every day now we have some of the Captains aboard and my Husband goes aboard of them occasionally. None of the Ships has seen anything of the Ocean Wave. Nothing has been heard from her, they tell me, since the fleet left here last fall.… The Captains were in hopes that her crew had been saved and had wintered at one of these settlements, but not hearing anything about her here, fears are entertained that all hands were lost. [The Ocean Wave was lost on Elbow Island, October 12, 1858.]
It is sad to hear such news from the Ships. It is only the other day that we heard of Capt. Palmer being killed by a Whale, or rather he got fast in the line and was taken down by the Whale and never seen again. His poor Wife and three Children are at HiIo, and will not hear about it till fall. It is very sad news for them to hear.…
June 11th. A fine day. I have been on deck looking around. I took the glass to look at the Masters of the Ships on the beach. My Husband and a number of others were snowballing, having some fun. … It looks pleasant to see the Ships lying about here—within hailing distance of each other some of them are—and see the boats going from one to the other to have a gam, and some going ashore to have sport.…
June 19th. The prospect looks rather gloomy today. It is foggy but that is not all. We are jammed fast in the ice. I have been on deck but I was glad to come down. The deck is wet from the fog and it is cold and uncomfortable enough—besides the looks are enough to freeze one, to see nothing but ice around, not a spot of water big enough to float the Ship in. The cakes, I should think, would cover an acre of ground. The fog is so thick that we can’t see a Ship or the land. Our boats have not yet returned. We think that they are aboard of some Ship. The Cossack’s Men are with us yet. This afternoon, one of them, a Portuguese, had his hand badly hurt. The Mate had been firing off his gun and this Man was in the act of drawing in the line when the iron came against his hand, cutting a deep gash clear across the thick of the thumb. It bled very badly. We had him down in the Cabin to dress it. My Husband sewed it up. He has two Brothers with him. They felt very bad about it.…
July 4th. It was thick this morning and all night. About 12 O’clock the Cooper told us that there were boats around. He could hear their horns.… My Husband went on deck, had the gun fired, and struck the bell. Very soon they came alongside. They were ours. They came aboard and told us of their adventures in Shantarr Bay [Shantar Island is in the southern part of the Sea of Okhotsk]. They did not get any Whales. Saw some but not very plenty and could not get near them for they made for the ice right away. Some of the boats, it seems, see aplenty of Whales, and once in a while are lucky enough to take one, but not often. I have heard of one or two Ships in here that have got from 500 to 600 bbls. Our boats lost two of their Men and that was not all. They took with them a bomb lance gun, a large bag of bread and clothes and everything that they could take with them. It doesn’t seem much like the Fourth of July, up here.…
The long days of chasing whales and trying to keep the Florida from becoming icebound were occasionally broken by refreshing interludes of social life .
August 4th. Just at night the fog cleared away, and we can see land quite plainly. Saw a Ship also. My Husband has been aboard of her. She is the Eliza F. Mason of New Bedford. My Husband tells me that she is a beautiful Clipper Ship. She is a Lady Ship, too; Capt. Smith has his Wife and Child, a young Lady Companion, and a little Girl that they brought from the Bay of Islands, New Zealand.
August 5th. … This afternoon I have been with my Husband and Baby on board the Eliza F. Mason and have had a nice gam with the Ladies. This is their second season out from home.… Mrs. Smith likes the Sea much. She has been going on the water now 10 years and has been at home a little over one year out of that, in all. She is in a fine Ship now. She has a beautiful cabin, a plenty of room, and all nice, pleasant and convenient. They have a very fine Boy Baby about 15 months old. It seemed very pleasant to me to see a Lady. They were quite sociable and seemed quite pleased to see me. We stopped there till evening and then came home. We would have stopped all the evening, had it not breezed up so strong that it was getting quite rugged. Mrs. Smith tried to coax my Husband to let me stop all night, but he wanted to get under way in the morning.…