Whaling Wife

PrintPrintEmailEmail

“She was a small woman, weighing less than a hundred pounds, and she could stand erect under her husband’s outstretched arm without touching it.” So the editor of this previously unpublished journal describes its author, his grandmother, Eliza Azelia Williams. Its lively pages contain her account of a thirty-eight-month voyage, from 1858 to 1861, on the whaler Florida with her husband, Captain Thomas William Williams. Eliza, was a reticent New Englander who did not feel that her personal problems were suitable subjects for her pen. (She does not, for instance, evsr mention in her diary that she was five months pregnant when the Florida sailed from New Bedford, Massachusetts. And only rarely does she refer to how much she missed the two small sons she had left at home with her parents in Wethersfield, Connecticut.) She was also a woman of sturdy courage, an endlessly curious—and tactful—American traveller to remote lands, and a reporter of broad sympathies and rare perceptiveness.

After she returned home, the journal which had helped her while away the long months afloat lay untouched in an old sea chest for a hundred years, until Harold Williams, the son of the boy born on the Florida, began to dig out old family records to write a history of his ancestors. Entitled One Whaling Family , the book will be published next month by Houghton Mifflin Company. The excerpts below, in which Eliza’s highly individual spelling has been retained except where it could not be deciphered, describe a dramatic part of American history and introduce, we believe, a remarkable American. —The Editors

In company with my Husband, I stept on board the Pilot Boat, about 9 o’clock the morning of the 7th of Sept. 1858, to proceed to the Ship Florida, that will take us out to Sea far from Friends and home, for a long time to come. I do not realize much yet that I am going away for any length of time; for this seems more like a pleasure trip just now. I fear it won’t seem so long.… The Ship looks very fine laying off in the distance; but we do not make much headway towards her. The wind is very light; my Husband is rather impatient to get to the Ship, but he has just hailed another Boat that is near, to take us on board; now they are rowing us along quite smart; the Ship looks large as we near it; we have reached her and the men have lifted me up the high side in an arm chair, quite a novel way it seemed to me. Now I am in the place that is to be my home, posibly for 3 or 4 years; but I can not make it appear to me so yet: it all seems so strange, so many Men and not one Woman beside myself; the little Cabin that is to be all my own is quite pretty; as well as I can wish, or expect on board of a Ship. I have a rose geranium to pet, that [a friend] has been kind enough to send me, and I see there is a kitten on board. I think it will not all be as pleasant as it is today; the motion of the Ship I shall be a long time getting used to. The Steward has called us to dinner. With the exception of the hard bread, it would seem a good deal like a dinner at home; but the water is very poor. I think I shall be a long time getting used to that.… There is no wind and the Tug Steamer is towing us along. Mr. Fish [one of the Florida ’s owners] has just given me the glass to look at the points of interest; there are not many now. The one of the greatest interest I think we have left behind; that of New Bedford. It looks beautiful from the water.… The Pilot has got most as far as he will go with us; kind Friends will soon leave us, and I presume they had rather go than stay here. I can not blame them, but I shall be lonely, though not alone, for I have a kind Husband with me. The Men are all quite busy on board the Ship, I hardly know at what. Now the Steamer is prepareing to leave us; all is hurry and bustle; one Man (a boat-steerer) is sick of his bargain, I expect, for he is prepareing to leave, hurrying his baggage on board the Steamer; and now the last adieus have been said; the parting kiss given, the parting tear dropped; and the Steamer is bearing kind Friends away, to be seen not again in a long time, perhaps never, by us; but we will not take a gloomy retrospect of the future, but trust in an all wise and good God, and hope for the best.… My Husband is about calling the Men together, and laying down the rules and regulations of the Ship, that they may know what is expected of them in future. I have seen the last faint outlines of the Steamer in the distance, watched the last curl of the smoke; and now I think I will go below.

September 8th. There is nothing of importance to write about today; nothing but the vast deep about us; as far as the eye can stretch there is nothing to be seen but sky and water, and the Ship we are in. It is all a strange sight to me. The Men are all busy; as for me, I think I am getting Sea sick. My Husband has just called me on deck to see the Sun set. It is a splendid sight to see the Sun set as it were in the water.

September 9th. About the same going on today; the wind is fair, and we are leaveing home far in the distance. They are singing out from aloft, a school of Blackfish. This is a novel sight to me. There seems to be quite a number of them; they are all playing about uncontious of danger, while on board all is confution. The Men are lowering the boats to go after them. It must be sport to them, for they act like crazy Men; now I can see that the first Mate’s boat has taken one, and I can see too that the fish is takeing them along in a hurry; now the seckond Mate’s boat has one; the third I think won’t succeed. The fish seem to be frightened, and are fast scatering. The boats have now returned, and they are prepareing to get the fish on deck. They are a queer looking fish, as black as can be, and much larger than I thought. My Husband says they are smaller much than he has seen. The Men are now takeing what they call the blubber off and the rest they thro overboard.

September 10th. It is quite rugged today, and I have been quite sick; these 3 or 4 words I write in bed.

September 11th. It remains rugged and I remain Sea sick. I call it a gale, but my Husband laughs at me, and tells me that I have not seen a gale yet. If this is not one I know I do not want to see one. Some of the poor sailors are sick, and I presume have wished themselves at home before this; as for me, I lay here, and hear the loud orders of the Officers on deck; the pulling of ropes, the ratling of sails and riging. In the cabin it is about as bad; the dishes and everything is on the move.

September 12th. Quite calm today, and I have been on deck some of the time, though I feel weak. I think that I shall get accustomed to the Ship’s motion after a while so that I will not be sick. Ships in sight today but a good ways off. Nothing of importance today. It seems a monotonous life to me, such a sameness to it all. The Men seem to be getting their boats in readiness expecting that they may see a whale any day.…

September 14th. More wind today, but not fair. There is quite a swell and the Ship rowles a good deal. It makes me Sea sick again; the worst sickness it seems to me that any one can have. I can hear the Men very busy over my head; now crash goes some dish. All I can think of is perpetual motion on board this Ship.

September 15th. More pleasant today. I have been on deck a short time; such a busy lot of Men. It seems to me like a good many work Shops combined; Coopers. Carnenters. Blacksmiths, and sail-makers, they are all to work at something. It makes me think that I am lazy; I have not done much yet but look on. I have seen them tack Ship. That is some excitement, the Officers giveing orders, the Men trying to obey them, but they have not learned the ropes all yet and they make a good many mistakes, though they are all called by name. I am afraid I should be a dull scholar at learning them.

September 16th. Quite calm, do not make much headway. No whale yet all anxious to see one. We are haveing beutiful moonshiny evenings; it is a beutiful sight to see the moon shine on the water. One of the boat steerers, a colored Man, has a violin, and we have some musick occationaly which makes it pleasant these nice evenings. There is a splended comet to be seen.…

September 19th. Fair wind. It is the sabbath, and all is orderly and quiet on board; much more so than I expected among so many Men between 30 and 40. All work is laid aside Saturday night and nothing done on Sunday but what is necessary.…

September 28th. A good breeze today, the wind not fair though; had a shower this morning. It soon cleared away and has been a fine day. After tea heard the cry from aloft of there blowes; then all was confution for a spell. The Men said there was a school of Sperm Whales not far off, and sure enough, in a few moments I could see them plain spouting all around; it looked queer to see them throw the white water up so high. Though it was near night, the Men lowered the boats, determined to take one or more. 4 boats were gone and I watched them through the glass to see what they would do. As they neared them I thought my Husband would stand the best chance of taking one, but the whale went down; then it seemed to me that the third Mate would take one certainly; it appeared to me that he was as near to one as he could get, and that went down. One came along close by the Ship, so close it seemed to me that one could throw a stone and hit him. I had a fine view of him; I could almost see his whole length out of water. He looked dark in the water, but he did not give me much time to look at him, for he made off with himself as fast as he could, as if he was apprehensive of danger. It is getting dark and I begin to think of the boats returning whether they take one or not. The second Mate’s boat has returned; they did not take aney. The third Mate has also returned without aney. It is getting quite [dark] and I can not see the other boats. My anxiety increases with the darkness, and it is quite hazy, too; the Men have put lanterns in the riging to help them see the Ship. Now I hear my Husband’s voise giveing some order to the Officers on the Ship; now he has come alongside, and has sent a boat with a lantern to assist the first Mate. The boats have both returned and the first Mate has a Sperm whale; it is small though, it is a young calf. All is confution now to get the whale fast alongside, and to get the boats back in their places. I am quite anxious to see how [the] fish looks, but it is too dark, and I think I shall have to wait till morning.

September 29th. It is an unpleasant morning; the rain comes down in torrents. My Husband has called me on deck to see the whale. It is in the water but fast to the Ship; it is a queer looking fish … I can not say that I think there is much beuty to them; there is not much form, but a mass of flesh. Their flukes and fins are hansome. They are about a mouse color. Now they have hauled him up and have commenced cutting him in, I can tell better how he looks. It looks like a monster to me and not a calf; it is quite long, and verry shiny; there does not seem to be much form to the head; it is rather flat; a large mouth, quite small eyes. I thought they had no ears as I could not see aney but my Husband tells me that they have small holes about as big around as a knitting needle; he says that their hearing is verry accute, and they have to go along as still as possible for fear the whale will hear the boats; before they get to them they take in their oars, and put up the sail in order to go still, for when they hear the least noise they go down. The Officers seem to understand exactly where to commence cutting and how to cut him all, and just where the joints are, they have handled so many. They first take the blubber off with spades with verry long handles; they are quite sharp, and they cut places and peal it off in great strips. It looks like very thick fat pork, it is quite white. They do not save aney of the body but the outside, the blubber; but the head is the greatest curiosity. They part it where there is a certain joint. They call that part the case, and it holds clear oil that they dip out like water; they think there will be a bbl [barrel] and a half in this head. They have a minceing machine, that cuts the blubber up in small pieces. They have large try pots over furnaces, to try it out. They have to tend it very careful, and they have large skimmers with long handles to take out the scraps, which they burn to try the Oil. They tryed it quite fast.

September 30th. a good breeze today; a Merchant Ship in sight; the Oil all in casks this morning. The Men did not leave it till it was done, sometime in the night. They can’t leave it when they once commence; it is necessary to try it right up as it will spoil. They had 9 bbls from that small calf.

October 1st. fair wind today; getting everything in readiness for the whaleing season, the Cooper makeing a large tub for the minceing machine, the Carpenter makeing a box to put the spades in, and getting the signals readey for the boats; those are used in case some assistance is needed when after whales. There has been an increase on board the Ship; we have got 8 pigs in the pen.…

On October 12 the Florida dropped anchor off Brava, one of the Cape Verde Islands, where the crew went ashore to get supplies, and where Eliza rode a jackass up an “inaccessible mountain” to reach the governor’s house. In spite of her terror at the practically vertical ascent, she was delighted with the visit. She noted in her diary that she was “an object of curiosity to the Natives,” many of whom had never seen a white woman .

October 14th. It is quite pleasant today and a fair wind. There are more hogs and hens on deck now than I wish there were. The goat and her little kid I like quite well, but I can’t say the same of those black, wolfish looking hogs. We had some bananas fryed for breakfast. The Men liked them; I could not say that I did. I am not fond of them aneyway. I suppose the next land we make will be the group of Islands called Tristan da Cunha; but that will not be for a month or so.

October 20th. Fair wind today. There have been 6 sails in sight today; we were quite near 2 of them, so that we could see the Men on deck quite plain through the glass. One, a large clipper Ship we could see without the glass; the Men, the Captain, also his Wife. She was looking at me, I imagine, anxious with me to see a Woman; she had the glass up to her eyes, I could see. We could almost make out her name.…

November 8th. It has cleared off and is a splendid morning; ’tis quite calm. The welcome cry of “There blows” came from aloft before breakfast this morning; then all was bustle. As usual, at such times, my Husband went aloft with the glass to find out what they were. He thought they were sperm whales, but they were a good ways off and soon went down. Staid down a good while and we had breakfast in the time, keeping a Man to masthead, which they always do through the day.… We had but just done breakfast when the cry was repeated. Now there was no mistake; they were sperm whales and two or three of them. Two boats were lowered and pulled lustily for them.… On board the Ship, they place signals to mast head in different places, and different shaped ones, made from blue and white cloth, to let those in the boats know in what direction the whales are and whether they are up or down, as it is difficult sometimes for the Men in the boats to tell, they are so low on the water and the whales change their position so often.

The Mate’s boat seemed the most likely to get one; the other boat returned to the Ship. The Mate finally got fast to one. My Husband sent two boats to him to help him tow the whale to the Ship. As he was some ways off and there was no breeze to help him, it was long after dinner before they came alongside. It looked queer to me to see those three little boats, attached together with ropes, towing the whale along. Everything was in readiness on board, to make the whale fast before they got here. I went to the side of the Ship to see him after they had made him secure. It looked like a monster to me. They think he will make 40 bbls. of oil.…

It must be quite an art, as well as a good deal of work to cut in the whale. He is all the time lying on the surface of the water as they work at him. He is made secure in the position they want him, at first, lying close alongside of the Ship. A Man goes right down on his back, and hooks a large stout hook into a rope that is made fast to his jaw. This is made fast up aloft by means of ropes and tackles. They have two stagings let down at the side of the Ship. The Men go down and stand on these, with their long spades, and cut. They seem to know exactly where to cut. They begin to cut a great strip. The hook is put through a hole that is cut in the end of this piece by the boarding knife. Then it is drawn up by the tackle as they cut. They do not stop till the piece goes clear around. Then it comes clear up and is let down into the blubber room where it is afterwards cut in pieces suitable for the mincing machine. They keep cutting in that way till it is all off; even the flukes and fins have a good deal of fat on them. The head they cut off and take on board in the same way that the rest is. It was singular to me to see how well they could part the head from the body and find the joint so nicely. When it came on deck, it was such a large head, it swung against the side of the Ship till it seemed to me to shake with the weight of it.

It was all done and I was glad for the Men, for it seemed to me that they must be very tired, and such a bad place for them to work. It made me tremble to see them stand there on that narrow staging, with a rope passed around their bodies and made fast to the Ship to keep them from going over, while they leaned forward to cut. Every Man was at work, from the foremast hand to the Captain. The sharks were around the Ship and I saw one fellow, more bold than the rest, I suppose, venture almost to the whale to get a bite. The huge carcass floated away, and they had it all to themselves.

November 9th. A fine morning, with a gentle breeze. My Husband has kept the Ship off through the night, thinking there might be a school of sperm whales about here, and it happened quite lucky that he did, for about 9 o’clock there was a cry of sperm whales. Three boats lowered for them, did not succeed in taking any before noon, but kept track of them. After dinner the third Mate lowered his boat, for about that time there was a great number seen in another direction. There were 4 boats off chasing those whales. I watched them through the glass all the afternoon. Some of the time I could not see the boats with the naked eye. Those that had sails up I could see distinctly, but when they get fast to the whale, they take the sail down and row. We knew from that that two of the boats were fast. Though they were a good way off, we could tell when the iron was thrown, for the whale spouted blood and we could see it plain. In a short time [whales] seemed to be all around [the boats]. We could see them spouting all around. I should think there were more than a hundred. It was quite an exciting scene to me and mixed with a good deal of fear for the safety of those Men. It seemed to me that they were under the boats and every plunge would dash them in pieces. The Men on the Ship seemed to enjoy the fun, for they would shout and laugh; every time the whale spouted near the boat, they thought they were fast to one, and indeed it was difficult to tell when they did get fast, the whales were so thick around spouting and they were so far off. When they do get fast to one, if it doesn’t die immediately, it takes the boat along with great rapidity.

Presently the first Mate came alongside with one, a cow whale. They are not as large as the males. This one, the Mate told me, had a very small calf. I must say I was sorry to hear it. The poor little thing could not keep up with the rest, the mother would not leave it and lost her life. He says they exhibit the most affection for their young of any dumb animal he ever saw.…

The boat had quite a hole stove in it near the top, by the whale. It did not render her unmanageable. It knocked the iron out of its place, and the Mate had to dodge the blow. The iron that holds the oar, I think it was. There were two boats away then, and it was fast getting night, but in a short time my Husband’s returned. They had also taken one. They were made fast to the Ship, and two boats sent to the assistance of the other two that were now so far off that I could not see them. It was getting quite duskish, too. One of them, the Men knew, had got a whale, but the other one they did not know anything about. It got dark and they had no lanterns in their boats. The Men built a fire on the try works, of bits of tarred rope and scraps, which made a nice blaze. They also hung lanterns in the rigging. They holloaed to them and got the horn and blew. My Husband told me that he was not alarmed about them, for it was calm and they could keep track of the Ship, as she would not go out of the way. If they did not come till morning, they would be all right. All anxiety was at an end in a short time, by the little boats answering to the call of the Ship. Soon they came back, all of them, and the two that were away had each of them a large whale. I was glad when they came, for I was fearful of their safety, and the quiet of the Ship, before, with the fire and the occasional holloaing and blowing of the horn, made it appear an awful, solemn time to me, not being acquainted with such scenes.…

November 11th. A fine morning and good breeze. The Men are still at work on the heads. There is a great deal of work about and the Ship is the dirtiest place that I ever saw when they are cutting in and trying out whales, especially when there is the fat of five on board. The old mincing machine is going yet, and the great fires from the furnaces, fed by the scraps, constantly blazing.

In the afternoon the Mate came to me and wanted me to go with him and take a look down in the reception room, as he termed it. I went, and I could not refrain from laughter, such a comical sight! There the Men were at work up to their waists in blubber. The warm weather had tried out the oil a good deal and made it soft. I don’t see how they could stand in among it, but they were laughing and having a good deal of fun. I had heard the Men tell about the blubber room, but I had not had the pleasure of seeing it before. They do not often have it like that; seldom have they as much blubber together in warm weather. When it is cold it does not get soft like that. The smell of the oil is quite offensive to me. They are not nearly through yet but the heads are all done. They yield a sight of oil, they do not know yet how much. The Men saved the jawbones—I suppose they intend to make something fancy from them when there is leisure. They only save the bone out of the head. It is white out of the sperm whale and black out of the other kinds.…

November 20th. [Off Tristan da Cunha] … The Steward and the Cabin Boy are having some sport trying to catch birds with a hook and line. They use pork for bait. It draws the birds all around the Ship. They have several times taken a bit of the bait; but now one is caught. The Steward has drawn him up and given him to me. He is a beauty and is what they call a Cape Horn Pigeon. He is about the size of a duck, shaped something—the bill and all—like them. He is pure white on the breast and under the wings, with beautiful brown spots on the back and wings. We kept him a spell and let him go.…

November 21st. It is the Sabbath and a very rugged one, too. Nothing but a jar of noises all day; the Sea breaking over the Ship, things rolling about on deck, and the wind whistling through the rigging. The dishes can with difficulty be kept on the table while we are eating.…

November 29th. Quite rugged; going 10 knot. The Ship has gone 220 miles in the last 24 hours. Two Ships in sight today—one that we saw yesterday. Caught a porpoise this morning. Thanksgiving, that day of all others that we take so much comfort in at home with Friends, is over now; we knew nothing about it here. It is the first one I ever spent and did not know when it took place. No-one spoke of it here except when I did. They said that they were used to it.…

At the end of November, they rounded the Cape of Good Hope and early in December caught their first right whale, a much larger variety than the sperm whales they had taken before.

December 4th. This morning the Men were up as soon as they could see to work, cutting in the whale.… I went up on deck when they were hoisting the head up. It certainly is a great curiosity. How can I describe it? It seems to me I should want to examine it for a week to give a correct opinion of it.

I could not stay up but a few minutes, it rained so very hard. My Husband wanted me to walk into the whale’s mouth. He pushed me in a little ways, so I think I can say that I have been inside of a whale’s mouth. Six or eight people could easily go in and sit down at one time. I would not hesitate about going in and sitting down if it was clean, but it was very wet and dirty from the rain.…

December 6th. It is a very fine day, with a good breeze. The oil is all in casks now. It is not far from 100 bbls. All hands seem to be much pleased with the good success they have had so far, and are now ready to see another whale. It seems dull on board, now the excitement is all over. One sail seen this morning from aloft.…

December 20th. It was pleasant this morning, with a good breeze, and before I was up, the cry of whales was given from aloft.…

Now the First Mate has returned. He struck a whale and it capsized his boat. The Men and everything were in the water, but the courageous Men righted the boat and took the same whale. They were so much disabled that the Second Mate took it to the Ship. It is a very large one.… They are all highly elated with their morning’s fortune and are now preparing to cut them in. One of the Men caught a porpoise this morning. That seems to be great fun for them. All hands are very fond of the meat also. I cannot say that I am.…

By Christmas, they were well on their way to New Zealand. The day itself passed unnoticed in Eliza’s journal.

December 26th. The Sabbath has once more come around. All is quiet again on board. It really is pleasant to have it so after so much confusion as has been the last week—the constant noise of heavy chains on deck; the driving of the hoops; the turning over of the casks of oil till it seemed as if the Ship shook; and the loud orders of the Officers—all together, would make a nervous Person go distracted, I think, but it cannot be avoided on board a whale Ship. Oil is what they came after and there is a great deal of hard work and noise, attending it.…

Shortly after the beginning of the new year, 1859, Eliza had exciting news to note in her diary—about an arrival she had not seen fit even to mention in advance.

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.

We have about one hundred Chickens running about the deck, that my Husband got from the Island yesterday. We didn’t get but a few Cocoanuts. They do not like to part with them. It appears that they live almost entirely on them. They are a very indolent People and do not cultivate their land any of any account. I could not learn that they raise anything except a few squashes. Their wants are few as they do not care for anything but their tobacco and pipes. They trade their Chickens to the Ships for these.

The Natives usually come off to the Ships, but they did not this time in consequence of the taboo of the King, which is practiced certain times of the year. These Natives do not wear any clothing.…

April 1st. A beautiful day. We have had company all day. Before I was up this morning, there was a Sail seen from aloft, and when I went on deck we could see her quite plainly from the deck. … It was the Arctic, Captain Philips. He had been to the Sandwich Islands and his Ship is half Clipper. My Husband was acquainted with him, but as to that—the Captains are all acquainted when they meet.

He came on board of us and stayed all day. Our Mate, with a boat’s crew, went on board of them and stopped all day. Captain Philips is a very pleasant, agreeable Man, to all appearance. He is bound to the Japan Sea with us. I suppose he will get there first. He has gone on board of his Ship this evening. He brought us some papers from the Islands, some of them New Bedford papers, later news than any we have had since we left home. I had some nice oranges given me. He had his Wife and four Children with him the last voyage.…

April 8th. …The Carpenter has been making a beautiful little chair for the Baby.…

Poor winds delayed them, and Eliza noted that they almost “despaired of ever getting to the Japan Sea in season,” but finally on April g they entered the whaling grounds.

April 12th. …There is a good deal of land in sight. The mountains are all covered with snow.

The water has been dotted, here and there, with little Japanese Junks. The Men were fishing, but as soon as they saw our Ship heading towards them, they began to hoist their sails and made off as fast as they could. Mr. Morgan took one of them by surprise and overtook him. They seemed to be so busy fishing that they did not observe him, till he got close alongside of them. They appeared frightened almost to death when they saw him. They went to the farthest part of their boat and motioned our Men to be off. They tried to make them understand they were friendly, but it was no use. One of them was so frightened that he frothed at the mouth.

They had on board a dish of boiled rice and some little fish that they had caught. Mr. Morgan made motion to the Fish and one of them took up a little Fish and ate it right down raw. They thought he was after the Fish, and commenced throwing them into our boat. The Mate motioned to them that he did not want them. They then stopped.

The Men are large, stout looking people and there was a Woman on board, who, the Mate said he should think would weigh nearly two hundred. Their boats are rude looking, but strong.…

May 6th. We arrived in the Harbor of Hakodadi [Hakodate, one of the first two Japanese ports that had been opened to American ships by Commodore Perry’s treaty in 1854] last night and anchored about dark. This place is quite large. There is no great show about it—the houses are all rather small, and all with the exception of a very few are brown. This is a splendid Harbor and a large one. There are several Whale Ships and a Russian Man of War in here besides any number of Junks and two or three Schooners in which the Japanese go out after Whales.…

May 8th. …I arose very early this morning, to have everything in readiness to go on shore.

Quite a number of the Japanese Officers came aboard early to transact Ship business with my Husband. They were dressed nicely though quite singularly, to me. Their dress is quite loose and slouching, very loose pants if they can be called such, and a kind of loose cloak with very large sleeves. Their shoes are quite odd. The big Folks wear very handsome ones ornamented with cord; the common People wear wooden ones, making a good deal of noise as they walk.

These Officers carried two sheaths in their belts and my Husband wanted to see them. They did not like to have him even touch them, but after some coaxing, they took them out. One was a sword and one a long, sharp dirk knife, very nice and bright.

They had an interpreter with them and he raised the knives to show how they used them and how the Americans used them. He said they struck with the sword and we ran it into the body—and they cut off the head with the knife, which it seems they do for a small offence.

They were highly pleased with the Baby. They crowded around him, feeling of him, and talking and laughing with him. It appears that they take their offices as soon as they are born, for little fellows that can just walk are dressed like Officers, with their swords by their sides.…

We went on shore.… There was a funeral procession just going to the Temple as we landed. We landed among Junks as thick as they could lie in the water, it seemed. We stepped out of the boat onto the stairs. There are several long steps where the boats land.

There was a crowd of People and we thought we would like to go and see the ceremony, so we followed right along in the procession to the Temple. Four Men were bearing the litter, a frame of some kind, on which was placed a barrel containing the Corpse. It is pressed down in a sitting posture and the barrel covered all over with white cloth and quite a fancy little house over it. When we reached the Temple, it was set down just inside of the door and the house taken off, but the cloth was not removed.

There was a railing all around the room (which was not large) forming a large space in the center and a good deal of room outside of it. There was a stand within the enclosure where stood a row of Men dressed somewhat differently from the rest, chanting or singing over something. The Priest once or twice struck a bell near him. The Doctor also was there. They were all muttering over something. On a stand near them was burning incense in a small saucer. The Japanese were sitting around the floor in the center of the room and the mourners on the floor outside of the railing, with white cloths on their heads. There was no appearance of sorrow among any of them. The Minister made a long prayer, and they all jumped up and hurried away. The Corpse was carried to the mountain, where they are burned and the ashes buried.…

After a month in the Japan Sea, the Florida sailed for the far northern summer whaling grounds in the Sea of Okhotsk. Once there, the small boats were sent out to scout for whales while the crew left aboard the Florida tried to keep the whaler from getting “jammed about with the ice.”

June 5th. …Have just spoken the Bark Florence, Capt. Spencer. He came aboard and stopped a spell. He said that he did not know but he had letters for us. My Husband went aboard of his Ship, and brought me a letter from my Brother Albert. It truly is a great privilege to hear from Friends. I feel it so. And it came so unexpected, too. It was as late as the goth of January. All were well at home then. My Husband has gone aboard of the Northern Light, to tea.

June 6th. It is not very pleasant today. The wind is blowing a gale. Some ice floating about in the night. My Husband was up a good part of the night.

We have taken up the anchor. I hardly know where we are now. I know that the Ship is heading north by west. Have tacked Ship several times; have been steering for the ice and away from it; saw a boat in the ice, the other side, this morning but do not know whether it is ours or another Ship’s. Are quite anxious to find out. I hope in mercy that they will not suffer. The wind and ice will keep us apart a spell I am afraid.… This is the fourth day since we sent the boats off.

June 7th. The wind is still blowing a gale.… About half past six saw boats through the ice. They seemed to have a hard time getting along. They had to get out on the ice and drag their boats over it. About 8 o’clock I went on deck and they were very near us. I counted 12, but there were 15 in company. We took aboard 5 boat’s crews besides our own. We had 10 boats on the cranes at one time. We gave them all their breakfast and in a short time spoke the Ships that they belonged to and they went aboard. There was another Ship near us that took boats also. They did not come far this morning. They stopped over night just around a point of land ahead of where we took them aboard. We saw the smoke last night and concluded they would stop there.

This is the 5th day since [our boats] left the Ship. They could not get very far the first day on account of the ice. The next day they got to the head of the Bay which is 40 miles. They found there a Russian fishing company. There were about 20 houses but only two of them occupied at that time, all the Men but one being off fishing up the river. [Our men] call the place Dobarry Town. There is a large settlement not far [away] where [the Russians] trade. They seemed to be quite comfortable and had plenty of dried salmon and milk. There was quite a number of Women and Children—one crazy one. She was very noisy.

Some of the boats belonged to a Russian Bark. [The men from those boats] could talk very good English, so they could interpret to our Men what those Russians [from Dobarry Town] said. They invited the Officers to stop with them over night, which they did, and the Sailors slept in the unoccupied [houses]. They had benches around the room which they sat on and also slept on, covering themselves with skins. [The Russians] seem to know all about the Whales. They say it is not time for them to come in the Bay yet; they come in their regular season with other fish—first, White Fish which are plenty now, then Salmon Trout (they are catching a few of those now), then Salmon, and last Bowheads. They say the Salmon will come in 7 days and the Bowheads in 15 days, when the Bay will be full of them.…

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.…

August 9th. I have a sad event to record on this page today. The day was propitious of good. The night before, I wished that the first sound that greeted our ears would be the cry of “Whales!” and true, the first sound that I heard, and which awoke me for it was quite early, was the third Mate calling my Husband and telling him that there was a large Whale in sight. He went on deck and had the boats lowered. In the meantime I slept a little, and when I had been dressed a few moments, I heard Mr. Morgan’s voice on deck, talking with my Husband. I knew that something had happened, for I had been just told that his boat was fast to the Whale, and thought he must have lost it by his being back so quickly, but what was my consternation, when he came below, to see that he was wet to the skin.

He told me that Tim was gone. It happened in this way. They hauled up to the Whale, after making fast to him, to kill him with the lance, and he came up under the boat, tipping it to one side until it filled half full of water. It righted again, but three of the Men out of fear jumped into the water and then immediately turned and caught hold of the boat, capsizing her. The other boat was near and picked up the Men, but poor Tim got foul in the line and went down with the Whale. A short time after, they saw the Whale and got him, and they found poor Tim fast in the line, it being wound two or three times around his arms and once around his body. They buried him in the deep. He was bruised a good deal by being dragged on the bottom. It is a dreadful thing—and to think it happened aboard our Shipl He was the best boatsteerer they had and they all say there is no better to be found. He has taken more Whales for us than any other Man aboard of the Ship, and never missed one. But it is not his services alone that I think of; it was such an awful death to die. He was a colored Man. He was a very pleasant Man. I never went on deck and met him but what he had a smile on his face.…

September 3rd. We have had a nice day. The Capt. of the Midas has been aboard. He and my Husband have been to [Okhotsk City] this afternoon. The head Man of the place took them to his house and treated them very kindly. We had one of our Men in the boat that lived with the Russians last winter and could talk with them. They wanted me and the Baby to go and see them. The Gentleman’s Wife sent me a dress such as they wear in cold weather. It is made of Fawnskin, long to the ground almost, trimmed with fur, I don’t know what kind, though it looks nice around the bottom of the sleeves and the bottom of the dress, with velvet about a quarter deep embroidered with silks and worsted in colors, very nicely. There is no opening, but it is put on right over the head and a hood of the same comes close over the head with a piece to come up to the face to keep off the wind. With one of those dresses on, I should think they would never be troubled with cold. I think it a nice present and a curiosity.… The Baby has one tooth. We have just found it.…

With the coming of fall., the whalers left the icy Sea of Okhotsk and headed south, following the whales. During the winter Eliza recorded in her diary some visits ashore in different parts of the Pacific. She particularly enjoyed a stay with a missionary family on Ponapc Island, in the Carolines, and she was fascinated by, though disapproving of, life among the gentry on Guam.

November 30th. …I was truly delighted with the Island. I spent a week very pleasantly with the Missionary Family, the Rev. Mr. Sturges. They are a very good People. I like Mrs. Sturges very much. They have two very pretty little Girls and they were very fond of the Baby and he of them. I enjoyed myself so well there that I hated to leave them. It was pleasant to me to be in such a good Family, where God is worshipped and goodness reigns supreme.… His holy word read and studied, and also taught to the Heathen. They have services every Sunday morning for the Natives in their own language and Sabbath School for all that will attend. They have taught some of them to read pretty well. There are always some to attend the evening prayer meeting and they appear quite devotional. It is very surprising to see such a heathen People go on their knees to a God that they once knew nothing about. Mr. Sturges says that his work is very slow among them, as it appears it is hard to get them interested. He says that he has tried hard to get Nanakin, the Chief or King, interested in the cause of religion, and he thinks that he has succeeded in a measure. I think that will be a great step towards interesting the People, for they look up to him as their head Chief. There is one great hindrance to Mr. Sturges’ doing much good to them right away; there are a few Foreigners on the Island and they are a bad class of Men and their influence is very bad among the People. They brought bad habits with them, drinking and smoking. The Natives are very fond of their tobacco and pipes. They distill a kind of Spirits from the root of a tree that grows on the Island. It is intoxicating. They call it Kava. They prefer foreign liquor to their own if they can get it.…

…The Natives wear but little clothing. The Men mostly wear a belt about the waist with a heavy fringe about a half yard deep hanging from it, and no other clothing. The fringe is made from the Cocoanut, a kind of thin bark fringed out narrow. The Chief, and now and then [a Man] I saw with a pair of pants, shirt, or hat on—seldom more than one article on one. They seem to think they are well-dressed if they have on one thing. The Climate will not admit of one’s wearing much clothing at any time of the year. Mr. Sturges’ Family all go thinly clad. They have induced the Women to dress more than they used to and many of them put a little slip on their Babies. The Women simply wear a piece of cloth, not more than a yard of it I should say, pinned about the hips [and] a handkerchief with a place cut in the center, for the head.…

March 6th. …Now for a short description of Guam. It is the only Spanish Port that I have been in, and I felt somewhat interested as well as amused. Though the People are under Spanish government, there are only two or three real Spaniards on the Island. They are all half [breeds]. The Natives are called Chemoras [Chamorros]. The Governor is a true blood from Spain. There are two families besides that, who are of the quality, and they feel themselves such.…

We were invited to take dinner with all the Ship Masters at the Commissary’s house, and they made a grand dinner. I could not begin to tell the different dishes that were set before us—roast pig, duck, chickens, beef, venison, cooked in all ways, wines and licquers in abundance. At last, coffee and dessert. There were three Priests at dinner—Padres (that is Father with them). At home we would call them hardly Priests, for they look on sins lightly and partake as freely of sins as any of them. As I look at it, Sunday is a holiday with them. They all go to church, or mass, in the morning early, and stop a spell. The rest of the day is spent in music, dancing, drinking, and worst of all, cock fighting. The Priests go and make bets. They are great card players.…

By May of 1860, the Florida was heading north again, and some natives from what is now the Russian island of Sakhalin came aboard to visit. The coast of Sakhalin was known to the whalers as the Coast of Tartary, and Eliza refers to its Mongol inhabitants as Tartars .

May 12th. … The Tartars seemed quite amused and astonished to see the capture of the Whale. They crowded about the Ship to see them cut it in; some went on shore and fetched others off; one Junk came off with what we supposed to be the big Folks, for they were dressed a good deal better than the rest. Some had very queer looking hats on, very high with small round crowns and broad brims, made of a kind of very fine wire. It seemed to me like woven open work. They were dressed in nice white linen—coats and pants—and had their tobacco cases attached to their belts with silk cord. They had on sandals like the Japanese.

These People came aboard just at dinner time. They came down into the Cabin, which seemed to be a curiosity to them, and were interested to see the manner in which we partook of our meals. We offered them something to eat, which all but one took in their hands. I thought that he used the plate, knife and fork as if he had used them before. It amused me very much to see them. They wanted to look at everything, and they were very curious to know all about everything; but they all wanted watching, for they would steal everything that they could lay their hands on. For my part, I was glad when they left, for I began to be tired of them long before they Went. They carried away boatloads of Whale meat. They eat it. I saw a number of them eating great Junks of the Blubber. It made me sick to see the fat running out of their mouths. They were very much pleased with the Baby. William is 16 months old today.…

After another summer season in the Sea of Okhotsk, the Florida returned to Japan, made a two-week stop at Hakodate for water and supplies .

November 1st. … We have been busy all day, getting ready to leave, putting all the things on board that were not already on.

We have a Passenger that we are going to take with us. We are now going direct to the Coast of California to cruise for Whales and are going to see that Mr. Morsland gets to San Francisco. He is going home to his Family in the States. He has been for the past 3 years a Chief Engineer in the Russian Service, on board the Russian Man-of-War Steamer, Japanese. He seems a very smart and nice young Man.

I have not been on shore today but have spent the time that we have been here very pleasantly on shore. We had nice, mild weather the most of the time, and I have been around a good deal to see what was to be seen and shopping. The Japanese have made a great many improvements about their streets, so that it is nice walking. It was very muddy when we were here before. In the stores they had a very large and good assortment of goods such as Malacca and lacquered Ware, Porcelain, and Silks.…

November 11th. A very bad day indeed. The wind blew fearfully all night and all day today, the water coming over onto the deck quite badly and some of the time below a little. All is confusion; everything that can get loose is sliding about the Ship. It is a head wind, which is worse than all, and it is still increasing.

November 12th. It is still blowing a gale, but has abated a good deal. It blew so fearfully in the night that it frightened me very much. I did not know what might happen to us. The Ship was going 10 knots under close-reefed Main Topsail, the Water coming over constantly, over the stern, breaking the skylight, tearing away a hen coop that was built up on the stern soon after we came out from home. The Sea never has affected it till now. The Water came down into the Cabins and Staterooms, so that they dipped it up by pailfuls, wetting the carpets through. All was confusion and with all the rest of the trouble, one heavy roll of the Ship lifted our bedstead out of the place it ran in and tore it down altogether. That frightened me again, and Willie was much frightened.…

November 12th. We have gained this day by crossing the meridian—and a very unpleasant one it is, too. It has been wet and cold, raining and hailing—a strong breeze most of the time, and among the rest of our trials we lost a Man overboard this afternoon. He was standing on the rail, doing something or other, and fell overboard. The Ship was going very fast, but not so fast as she had been going a half hour before. I do not think we could have saved him then. They threw an Oar over for him to catch while they were lowering a boat. He swam well, but could not have stood it more than a minute longer. I knew that something was wrong when I heard the confusion on deck, getting the Ship around and lowering away the boat in such a time. I was afraid they would not get to him before he was gone and was relieved and thankful that he was saved. He was a forward hand and a Portuguese.…

November 29th. …Just at night yesterday, we raised the land. We are now running along the Coast to San Francisco. It has been nearly calm all day, and we have gained but little. We are now about 20 miles from the Harbour.…

November 30th. …We are now going away from San Francisco. We have not been there, as we expected. The wind was not fair—and the greatest thing was that my Husband found out that some of the Men would run away. Then he gave up the idea of going at all. Mr. Morsland left us last evening. We put him on board a Pilot boat. My Husband went aboard with him and took our letters and got some late papers. We shall miss Mr. M. much. He is going to see our Folks when he gets home. I hope that nothing will happen to prevent. I reckoned upon going to San Francisco to spend one day with my Husband and Mr. Morsland, but am disappointed and must make the best of it now. We are going direct to Turtle Bay [off lower California] to cruise for a kind of Whale, called a Devil Fish or California Grey. We have about iooo miles to go.…

In December, the Florida anchored in Turtle Bay. While there, Eliza enjoyed the social life—fifteen whalers were collected in the bay—the weather, and visits to shore during which they fished and hunted for turtles .

December 27th. Capt. Smith, of the Fabious, has got a Whale this afternoon. It is the first one that has been got this season and Capt. Smith was the last one in the Bay.

December 29th. Willie enjoys this place and weather much, I know. He almost lives on deck, and he is generally full of mischief when he is up there, throwing his Shoes and Cap, or something, overboard.…

January 25th. We have had a splendid day—a plenty of Whales in the Bay, and the Callao’s boat has got one. They brought it to our Ship and have now got it cut in. It is necessary to work quickly when they get one in this Bay, for the Sharks are so numerous that in a short time they would eat the whole Whale.

The Florida’s boat has a Whale, and it ran very badly, so that it took them a long way out of the Bay. The Ship has got under way and gone after it.

January 26th. The Florida has come back into the Bay. All hands feel disappointed about the Whale. It was a large one, but they did not save much of him. It was very rugged outside and some time before they could cut him in, so that the Sharks got about all. I think it is quite provoking to be so bothered with Sharks.…

During the whole winter of 1860–61, Eliza never mentioned in her journal that she was again pregnant. The birth of her daughter, Mary, is recorded after a month’s gap in her careful record of the voyage.

March 26th. … We are now bound to the [Hawaiian] Islands. This is the first time that I have taken my pen to write in my Journal, since we left.

An event worthy of recording in these pages has transpired since then. We have had an addition to the Florida’s Crew in the form of a little Daughter, born on the 27th of February in Banderas Bay on the Coast of Mexico. She weighed 6-¾ pounds, is now one month old and weighs 9 pounds. She seems very healthy and is also very quiet. We are, as may be supposed, well pleased with her. Willie is much pleased with his little Sister.…

After stops at Honolulu and Hakodate, the Florida headed back to the Sea of Okhotsk for her final summer of whaling. At this time, the ship had been out for almost three years, and by August even Eliza’s sturdy morale was occasionally shaken .

August 13th. We got one whale off [the beach] as soon as we could in the morning; had to wait for the tide. … It was a bad and long job for the whale was bloated so bad by laying so long. [This whale was already dead when they found it.] There is quite an offensive odor to that I don’t fancy much.…

August 14th. … It has been raining hard and a strong breeze.… We lost more than one half the head [of the dead whale] and it was a nice one. They saw that they would lose it, they took all the precaution they could, they made the bone fast with ropes, but for all that, the largest half sunk. The other half went overboard but it did not sink, the ropes holding it. We sent a boat down and they secured it and towed it ashore; then took it on the beach and cut the bone apart and loaded their boats with it and brought it on board. It is a rainy bad time to cut the whale in and we have a dirty looking ship. We are a dirty looking people altogether, not excepting the baby, the dirt has got all over the ship. … I for one can put up with it first rate if we can only get a good season’s catch and then go home. We have got a very convenient ship to take a good deal of oil on. She is large and we have a plenty of room but not quite as much help as we could do with, nor all as good, but they all have to work hard now, and early and late, my husband as hard as any of them and broke off his rest and sleep quite as much as any one. Little Siss and I are deprived of our nice promenades on deck for they are so lumbered up with casks and bone, and so dirty, that it is quite impossible to walk at all. Willie goes up once in a while and tumbles around in the dirt.…

September 11th. It has been quite a pleasant day, a strong breeze but nearly ahead, we having tacked about all day to gain a little. Some of the time, the land has been quite near, it is deep water close in shore. I suppose that the jib boom might touch the rocks and not be aground. It is very high bold land and quite barren looking. It is quite dull with us now, nothing going on except mending sails, picking over potatoes or something of the kind. It is 4 weeks since we got a whale.…

September 20th. We are now bound right whaling the rest of the season, … and then [we will] steer for our port, San Francisco as fast as we can go. We will most likely have strong winds as they generally do this time of the year in those latitudes. This is our last season, I suppose, and I would like much to get some more oil before going into port.…

September 23rd. … This morning we raised a lone right whale. We lowered two boats and in a few minutes after, Mr. Morgan was fast to him. He did not run but a very short distance and did not act bad at all. They soon had him spouting thick blood and shortly after dinner had him alongside. He is a large whale but they think not very fat. They have commenced to cut in, they say the whale is large enough to make 170 bbls. of oil but is so poor they are much afraid he will not make one hundred. I went on deck a little while the boats were fast to him. I stood looking over the stern at him, the poor fellow was too much exhausted to run but was laying still the most of the time, rolling and spouting thick blood.… The whale went down and stopped some minutes and when he came up it seemed as if he threw the blood thicker than before. He came up near the boats and threw the blood all in the boats and all over some of the men. I did not like to look at the poor whale in his misery any longer and so came down below…

October 1st. … Tonight, we have got under way and are going direct to the port of San Francisco as fast as we can go. We will not be sorry to leave this country, any of us.…

October 3rd. We have had a gale of wind all day and have gone 200 miles the last 24 hours. The ship has been rolling very bad and this morning she shipped a sea when Willie was on deck. He was standing in a good place to catch it all, it knocked him down and the poor little fellow was rolling in the scuppers all drenched through with salt water. The [cabin] boy brought him down, he looked as if he had been overboard. He made a great noise about it, I had to change him and wash him, clothes and all.

October 4th. We have had a pretty fair day with light winds … but a bad swell. I have been starching and ironing for fear that we shall not have even as good a day as this before we get to San Francisco. Tonight, we have a strong breeze.…

October 13th. The weather is much better today but still blowing a strong breeze and a bad swell. This morning sent up the main top sail yard and the ship goes along much easier since the sail was set. It is 12 days tonight since we came through the Straits and we have come some 2000 miles and expect, if the wind holds good, to get in port next Sunday.…

The Florida anchored in San Francisco Bay on the afternoon of October 26, 1861. She had been at sea for almost thirty-eight months, and had taken whale oil and bone worth approximately $63,000. Because of the Civil War, which Eliza never mentioned in her journal, Captain Williams sold the Florida in San Francisco rather than risk capture by Confederate raiders in the Atlantic. The Williamses—with the two children born during the voyage—returned home to Wethersfield, Connecticut, via the difficult Isthmus of Panama route. Eliza remained there during the rest of the Civil War, but in 1866 she went whaling again with her husband. This trip lasted for eighteen months, during which Eliza’s second daughter, Flora, was born. After that the family made its home in Oakland, California, and Eliza’s whaling trips were shorter, lasting one season only. On two of these, Captain Williams’ ships were destroyed by ice in the Arctic, and the family had to be rescued and brought home by other whalers .

It was not fear of danger, however, that finally kept Eliza ashore, but rather the problem of education for the children. From 1874 on, she stayed behind in Oakland, where the children were in school. When Captain Williams died in 1880, she moved the family back to Wethersfield and lived there until her own death in 1885.

Two of the Williamses’ sons, Willie and an older boy, Stancel, also went to sea on whaling ships, and Mary, the little girl born on the Florida, carried on the family tradition by marrying a whaling captain .