United States Schr Boxer At Sea
January 1st 1833 Lat 31o 42ı South
Long 91o 27 East
My Dear Father
We are now 58 days out from Rio de Janeiro and another 10 days sail from our port Bencoolen having experienced head winds until we got abreast of the Cape, our passage so far was rather long (42 days) but soon after taking a fresh and fair breeze which continued with us until 3 or 4 days past; we have been going at the rate 8, 9, & 10 knots an hour every day since it sometime freshened into; in Nautical terms ³nearly a gale of wind² & the sea ran ³mountain high² * [*The Cap & several of the officers remarked ³. they had never seen a higher sea] built saucy little Boxer rode over them very handsomely and proved that she would behave well in ³quite a gale of wind². Plenty of ³the glad mates of the Dark blue sea² rolled in through the Ports and penetrated into the Palace of all places. The reefers steerage & for some days we were obliged to stay in our berths; except during meals & watches. With this exception we have had pleasant weather Thermometer at [18.]
From the Whaling Ship Herald of Fairhaven with which we spoke on the 4th of Dec & by which I sent you a few rigmarole lines (not having the time to write any other) we procured 1 BBS oil and about 1100 Gls water; not having sufficient quantity of the latter on board to suffice until we should reach Bencoolen & being on the allowance of ½ Gls per man a day + [+ The usual allowance of 3 qts drinking water, 1 pt tea water a day; 4 two days in the week 1 pt a man bean water] should have touched at the Cape and filled up; but for this circumstance. The day was calm and clear; the water being in large casks; was towed along side of us by two of the whalers boats. We then hoisted on board & started the water into our tanks; literally speaking we took water out of the ocean & lo & behold it was fresh. I went on board of the ship, in company with several of our officers to have a view of matters and things; while there a large Humpback whale rose clear abreast & continued sporting around for at least 20 minutes he appeared to be 40 feet long. As that species yields very little oil and are dangerous to attack; the whalers do not trouble them, had he have been a sperm whale we should have seen some sport. As you can find a more accurate account of whales and the manner of taking them in Goldsmiths work; than any I can give I shall be mum on the subject. The reason Whaling Ships have so much water, is this. The casks which they carry to contain the oil are new & clean when they leave home; there they fill with water & also their regular casks; should they fill up with oil faster than they consume the water; they start it over board. We passed the [ ] of the Cape on the 12th (without seeing the Flying Dutchman) in the Lat of 31o 40ı South. Have been so far south as 40o 20ı.
Soon after taking a fair breeze in 15 days we made the Island of St. Pauls or Amsterdam (lying in 34o 32ı S. Lat & 77o 52ı E. Long) to come at our long; passed within about 9 miles of it. Our Lat & Long corresponded exactly with that in which the Island is laid down on the charts. I took several views of it while passing & have got them in my journal. Should the breeze lave been light we should have delayed a while there and procured some fresh provisions; but it was fresh & fair so we continued on our course. It is uninhabited but fresh water, Hogs & Goats & wild vegetables can be procured; the anchorage is unsafe during an Easterly wind; the vessels who stop lay off & on. I should suppose its length to be 6 miles.
The Sch. has sailed better since we left Rio than she did previously; she goes 11 knots an hour now when 8 was the most she would go before. Every vessel which we chase we over haul without the least difficulty; though by their movements * [*our hull is painted black & also the mast head] it is plain that they are rather suspicious of us. The Captain of the Whale ship told us, he supposed us to be Pirates, until very near to him & he heard the Boatswain call, his chronometer & some trinkets he had stowed away; not having much else for a Pirate to take.
I like the new Capn very much; he is a perfect Gentleman; and seems to take considerable interest in all his midshipmen. Purser Stockton & I have an occasional yarn about Lancaster.
After we leave Bencoolen we shall follow the track of the Peacock and endeavor to meet her, if we do we shall continue together; we expect to return to Rio in about 8 months; I shall endeavor to be transferred on board of the Peacock as it will be a disadvantage to me to remain longer on board of a Schr. & I have considerable hope I shall be able so to do.
My Birthday & Christmas passed with very little notice; I dined on Bean soup on that day & on Christmas, we had pudding; borrowed a Bottle of wine from the wardroom & were as merry as we could be. New Years passed the same way, at 6 P.M. call all hands ³splice the main brace² and gave the men an extra gill of grog. I should like to have had some of the dishes from your table on those days; for I enjoy a glorious appetite. I should have wished you a Merry Christmas & a happy new year before; however I do it now, and have no doubts but that you spent it so; also to all my friends & acquaintances who may inquire about me, I wish the same; heartily too. My health is excellent, spirits high, & I hope they will continue.
We have crossed the Atlantic 5 times; the Equator 3 times are now in the Indian Ocean and should we meet with no accidents will soon be in the ³Red Sea² where one year ago I had not the least idea of ever going there. We expect to go as high up as Mecca; & if possible to the very end; It depends on the orders which the Commander of the Peacock shall give us.
At Bencoolen we bought some Turtle for the crew one weighing 350 lbs one 300 one 230 & one 120 lbs for which we paid $5.25. We had Turtle Steak & soup to kill.
Bencoolen January 30th 1833
We arrived here on the 21st inst, being 78 days from Rio De Janeiro, for ten days previous to our arrival we had very light winds & frequent calms on the whole it may be considered a tolerable passage; I have not been unwell a single day during it.
We anchored about 6 miles distant from the town; in Rat Island Basin; a very safe place of anchorage; being encircled on all sides by coral reefs; which shield it from the winds & sea it could contain about 4 or 5 vessels of 3 or [ ] tons; the entrance is about 100 yards wide. We got in safe (& the people on shore when we visited them expressed their surprise at hearing we went in merely by the sailing directions & and no person on board who was qualified to act as Pilot). Moored head & stern to anchors which were placed there by the English when they had possession of the place; immediately under our Til Boom the water is about 5 feet deep, & close under our stern is a coral Bank; so you may think some nautical skill was necessary & [ ] to get in & out of such a hole. Rat Island contains ½ an acre of ground & is 100 yards dirt from on it is covered with cocoa nut trees & inhabited by a few Malays; who for a living catch fish & turtles of which there is the greatest abundance some of the fish are very beautiful, I have procured & preserved some of them; also some shells.
Bencoolen contains 60 or 70 houses and 30 Foreign Residents, exclusive of the Garrison which consist of 30 Dutch soldiers and a number of Malays. The Foreign houses are constructed of bricks; of the Natives Bamboo. The principal trade is in Nutmeg, Mace & Cloves. Pepper is found further to the N – very few vessels arrive here. There are some Chinese & Persians among the Inhabitants; who deal in toys & trifling articles.
The Governor (a Dutchman) & some of the Inhabitants; entertained us very hospitably during our stay. There are no Hotels in the place, the distance we lay from shore; & the state of the land & sea breeze obliging as to remain on shore for 2 or 3 days; so they had a fair chance to show their characters as Hosts and they did; like Gentlemen too; it was impossible to do more.
There is no Bread to be procured for a substitute rice is used cooked in a peculiar manner. Fruits are the usual in Tropical climates; nearly all of our vegetables flourish here. Horses are plenty; small but vicious & active; Buffalos destitute of hair are used for the draught; in the manner of our oxen. Poultry are abundant and a lover of good things would be satisfied in that line.
Tuesday February 5th 1833
We have been out from Bencoolen 4 days; have had light wind and a great quantity of rain are now among a cluster of the Sunda Islands vis. Dusolah Isıd Song Do; Tamamno do &c the outermost ones form a circle, the center of which is interspersed by numbers of smaller islands of a variety of forms & sizes. They all present a beautiful appearance being covered with trees and in the greatest vendue. Yesterday morning we becalmed near to several of the Islands; the Cap. Mr. Craven, the Purser & myself went in the gig ashore (being well armed) there was plenty of water until we came near the shore; when we found that the Island was encircled by a reef of the most beautiful coral imagined and of the greatest variety of forms; & numbers of different colored fish; sporting among & coasting along the shore; observed smoke to rise on the beach; pulled in for it; found a passage over the coral bank; and got into very warm water; muddy bottom the heat being too great for the coral to live when we approached within a boats length of the beach the heat of the water was so great; as to oblige us to haul our hands out faster than we* [*In the sailing directions Boiling springs are mentioned as being on Crocatoo Island; where which we land] put them in; the water boiled up in Whirlpools from the bottom to the surface of the water & along the beach the vapours arose as thick as it would from a large fire, under the circumstances we did not land at that place but pulled on further & landed taking our guns with us; we set off on a tramp & come on the trail of a Hog along the break; followed it for some time, but it led up in to the interior among the bushes it left off. Then we came to a place where a fire had recently been built the sticks and stones used for building it were remaining; its appearance indicated it to have been made but a few days before; saw no bones near; neither any tracks of men. Birds were in plenty & some excellent songsters among them; the trees were large; some resembled our hickory in appearance; the Banyan tree whose branches take root in the ground & spring up [ ] (Some single ones are known to cover acres of ground) we observed several of them. Upon some of the trees; were ten or twelve different kinds of branches & leaves; and on the tops of many a sprig of the cocoa nut three shot forth; the birds probably dropping seeds the original limbs caused the extra ones to make their appearance; we did not see any fruit trees; not penetrating into the Interior of the Island. Picked up some beans the pods being 1 ½ feet long. Near the place at which we landed were evident [ ] of persons having debarked recently; And as among these Islands is the place of report Malay Pirates who come off in large boats; attack unarmed vessels who may have the misfortune to be calmed between them; they might have been the ones who visited Crocutoo Island; however today several canoes have come off with fruit from an island [ ] about 24 miles from Crocutoo & they might have been the visitors; we are becalmed now with the kedge down, 5 vessels in sight in the same situation; are about 50 miles from Batavia & with little prospect of getting there for two or three days. Well we observed some large white Ant Hills & heard a howl resembling that of a Wolf, nothing else of note showing itself; embarked and returned on Board.
February 8th 1833
Arrived day before yesterday at this place a number of Dutch Men of War & Merchant men here, three American ships; one of which the Gibraltar [ ] sail for Boston on Monday & by her I shall send this letter. We arrived at 5 in the evening; & were immediately visited by officers from the Dutch men of war; next day I went on shore with the Captain. After pulling about1 mile we found ourselves at the mouth of the River (as they called it) though it is exactly similar to our Canals; we proceeded 1 mile further where carriages took the Captain up to town; I proceeded on in the Boat ½ miles more & arrived at the store of an American merchant. The Country around is a Perfect Paradise & looked more like ³home² than any place I have before visited; observed numbers of the Natives in chains employed in dragging boats up the Canal.
The town is considered the most unhealthy in the known world & here I quote an author whom I believe you have never read; Sir Geo. Staunton; Secretary to the English Embassy ³The Road of Batavia is a very capacious & has a safe anchorage for shipping being protected from any swell by a circular range of Islands; several Chinese Junks laying at anchor; and the vast quantity of Dutch vessels lying before the city; announce it; as their chief place of trade; as well as their principal seat of Government.² Such is now the [ ].
³The City of Batavia situated amid swamps & stagnated Pools independent of climate & in attention to cleanness is perhaps one of the most unwholesome places in the universe. The morning sea Breeze ushers in noxious vapors & the Meridian sun deleterious water. The wan & languish appearance of the people & the obituary of the Public Hospital which recognized nearly a hundred thousand deaths; in the last 20 years are melancholy proof of the operation & proclaim it with justice the grave of Europeans.
We do not apprehend any dangers; only taking care to abstain from Fruit; & keep out of the sun & night air. Neither of the Yankee vessels now here; have lost any men by sickness.
The River & its branches intersect all parts of the Town; its source is 50 miles in the interior & the produce brought from hence; is conveyed to the town on its water. Carriages & horses are plenty; every article in the Eating & Drinking line is in the greatest abundance. Fowls 3 doz for one Dollar.
February 12th 1833
I have been on shore; 24 hours & returned very much pleased with my visit. The City is larger than Philaıd & contains between one & one hundred & fifty Inhabitants. The business part of the town is situated nearest to the Roads & is not remarkable for its Beauty; Farther back & along the banks of the River & artificial canals (by which the whole city is divided) are situated the princely habitations of the foreign residents; not in the manner of our cities; but each in the midst of a spacious green which is tastefully ornamental by Shrubbery and Flowers. The houses are built of brick, plastered & whitened and of a Plan suited to the climate. The roads throughout the whole Island are as level as a floor. Two run parallel with each other one for heavy vehicles; the other for light carriages, horsemen & foot passengers. They are kept in order by the natives & all the labor which is done is performed by them. The Dutch oppress them very much, taxing them for every trifling article. Fish for instance &c. The Chinese camp is a part of the City occupied by Natives of China who are here in considerable numbers; they vend fruits & the products of their country. In features a difference is hardly to be distinguished between them; they strongly resemble the pictures we have seen of them at home. The hair is shaved off, but a space of 4 inches in circumference on the crown of the head, this they never curtail but plait it & it hangs down their back some have them so long as to touch the ground. Their houses are built of Bamboo & do not present a very cleanly appearance. The natives occupy another part of the town. Their dress is generally a cloth tied round the waist some wear a shirt & short drawers. Religion is Mahometism, they live chiefly on vegetables; do not use Spirituous Liquors, our Friday is their Sunday but few of them pay any regard to it.
On a national vesselıs arrival at a foreign Port, it is customary for gentlemen of the same nation residing there to entertain & show to the officers all the attention & civilities in their power, such we have always heretofore received from our Countrymen & Englishmen.
Here however the case is different; a general misunderstanding exist between the American resident; From the principal one, an invitation may [ ] inviting us to visit him, but concluded in such terms as to make it appear insincere. The Cap. took up his quarters with him, but the rest of the officers have given him a wide berth; & patronized a French Hotel.
I went on shore in company with 1st Lieut, the Master, Passed, Mid Hurst on our leaving the boat we went to this gentlemenıs store; he did not ask us to sit down; but as an off hand manner asked us to dine with him; we excused ourselves; procured a carriage & set off for the Hotel; as we bade him good bye he observed ³I suppose I will see you to morrow², think I to myself, I suppose not. We drove to the Hotel it is now about 5 oıclock; they were just at dinner but we did not partake of it; as we had dined at our house on board ship. I trotted about the grounds of the House & at 7 took a cold supper; had a sociable chat and at 10 turned in a good comfortable bed. Slept soundly until 5 oıclock A.M. turned out; took a cup of coffee jumped in to a coach & four that was in waiting for us; & had a pleasant ride into the country; saw corn & pepper fields; the later grows in the same manner & resembles the Hop. Returned at 4 took a view of the Stables. The Horses are all smaller than the generality of Ponies you have in the U.S. & are in great plenty. There were up most of 1000 in the Stables as no respectable person walks a step; but if it is only to cross the street step into his carriage they are a great many in constant use. Each is attended by one or more footman & at night they have a flaming torch to light the way. The charge is the same for 5 minutes as for a whole day. We breakfasted & Mr. Benham, the 1st Lieut receiving a note from a young man with whom he had been acquainted in Boston & who had recently came out here inviting him to call & see him. We made sail in our coach for his residence. Mr. Poor having previously gone with the Cap to Breakfast with gentleman alluded to; unwillingly, but the Captain insisted so strenuously upon it, that he could not decline.
We arrived at Mr. Derbyıs place of abode; he was living with a Mr. Barrell also an American & a Bachelor. The House is very pleasantly situated being accessible to both the sea & sand beaches. We left them well pleased with our visit; both being very entertaining gentleman; they gave us a hearty initiation to make their house our home when we should come on shore, as it would be much pleasanter than staying a Hotel where we could neither understand or be understood; offering to show us all the curiosities of the Place. Mr. Barrell was formally a partner of Mr. Foresture, the gentleman I have alluded to; but was obliged to part with him leaving 40,000 Guilders of his in Mr. Fı___e hands; & of which he has since heard nothing. Mr. Fı____e had great reasons to be obligated to Mr. Derbyıs family but on the Young manıs arrival he treats him rather cavalierly; and they are not on speaking terms. We returned to the Hotel; took another ride; got into the boat and returned on board. My bill for supper, breakfast lodging; carriage was $4.40. I may go on shore once more during our stay; but not oftener. The day after I came on board I was taken with the toothache, have had ever since 3 days & nights; confined to my berth; have it now; & sitting in my berth with my jaw tied up writing this epistle; as the ship will sail to morrow (Friday) for certain. The Doctor is unwilling to operate on my tooth, he has gone ashore today; & if he can find a good Dentist he will send me to him. If not & it still continues to ache; he will make a venture.
The Peacock arrived in Bencoolen in August having [ ] days passage from Rio de Janeiro. She left word there that she would proceed to Canton, touch on several Ports on her way and probably be in Batavia by the 13th of February; as our arriving at Bencoolen no news to that time rendered it needless to follow her to Canton, we proceed here. The officers are of opinion that in 4 or 5 months we shall sail for Rio.
My sincere love to you all & to my friends and acquaintances; & hoping you may all steer clear of the Cholera.
I am your most affectionate Son