Friday, October 31

Mr. Araiza's Hair

Our ship was once set upon by a plague of lice that came aboard with several of the dirtier sailors. Through the efforts of the doctor no one was lost, but many were laid low for quite some time. The doctor hisself was among the first stricken, but he was soon cured by having his mate to shave his head and apply lye soap and fresh water to his clothing. The doctor was a handsome fellow with a full head of hair which he wore cut at the collar in the modern fashion. When he was recovered enough to come up above deck to take the air, a topmast fellow named Araiza, on seeing him all shaved, laughed so hard he fell down. Araiza later told me he knew he was in the wrong, but it just struck him as so comic that he couldn’t help hisself.

It was not long after that Araiza come down with a fever and a flux. He had some taint of a Spaniard or Portuguese in his ancestry, but it had gifted him with a full head of thick black hair that he wore in a beautiful que that reached to his belt. The doctor had the mate to shave it off and apply cooling rags. The mate, an old Frenchman whose hair had mostly jumped ship on him, looked like he was going to weep the whole while he was at the task. Araiza said it was of no concern to him because it grew fast on him and he would have it back soon enough.

Arazia recovered shortly, but throughout the rest of the commission anytime he grew a bit of hair the doctor would have his mate to shave Araiza’s head on some pretext of ill health. I reckon that that Spanish blood made him too proud to seek the doctor’s forgiveness.

Three days before we finally made port at the end of the commission Arazia broke two fingers on his left hand. After he had set them the doctor had his mate to shave Araiza s head, just as a precaution against an infection fever he said.

-James Cullen, Remembrances of Eight years before the Mast, 1834.

Thursday, October 30

A letter to Miss Nowack

My dearest Miss Nowack

I don't mean to have you worry about not hearing from me for so long. The Doctor keeps me so busy I hardly get a moment to stop and write. Slave driver, he is. Last month he left his new bride behind to drag myself, one of the midshipmen, Haberfield, and Taylor inland for a covert mission to recover something or other related to the war.

Don't imagine my lovely Miss Nowack that I strayed an inch away from you, even surrounded as I was by some rather lovely ladies all eager to dance with me. I vowed I shant dance with a soul whilst apart from you. I'll be as true to you as I ever was.

I don't suspect I can be too candid in my note to you, you understand, on account it was for the Admiralty, but I can tell you we were successful in our mission and all returned safely. Since we have been back, though, our ship has fallen under a plague of lice, the Doctor, Jean Baptiste and I have set a large quantity of men aboard ship to the razor to remove their hair to help rid us of the pests. But don't worry my sweet, I've managed to stay clean of the vermin and keep my hair.

I will end this letter for now, but not to end my love for you, dear Miss Nowack. Write me soon so I may survive the long days apart from you.

Ever yours,

Wednesday, October 29

HMS Bounty Remembered

HMS Bounty, 29th October, 2012

Originally published 30th October, 2012

I can't help but think about this tragedy in terms of what it might have been like had it occurred in the early 19th Century and the era surrounding the War of 1812. 

No radios or GPS tracking, no Coast Guard scrambled and ready to the rescue. Just a crew that knew their ship was in dire trouble and working as hard as they could to keep her afloat in a terrifyingly difficult sea. They knew it was that, or brave the tiny, open longboats over miles of rough, freezing, stormy water. 

A shipwreck of this magnitude wouldn't be all over the news outlets in a matter of hours as it was [in October of 2012], instead, it would have just been overdue at its next port of call, likely never heard from again. Family and friends would be left to wonder about the true fate of the ship and their loved ones. 

And so, today, while I think on how tragic this entire story is for everyone involved, from ship owners, to Captain, to crew and their family and friends... I'll also be thinking about the haunting image above, and the tragedy that might have been had this happened 200 years ago. 

Tuesday, October 28

Lice Aboard Ship!

It has come to my attention that several of the men have become infested with lice. I had them brought in straight away and Vassermann, Baptiste and I have since been furiously at work with my little combs, but have made little headway (so to speak). An infestation of lice aboard a blockading vessel when nearly every man aboard, save the officers, has long hair, can very quickly become a problem.

Therefore, I have ordered each effected man to be combed thoroughly, and bathed with lye soap. Likewise all their clothing is to be washed in the freshest water available with lye soap.

If we can not be rid of the lice with a good combing and a wash of each effected man, I'll order their heads shaved and keep them in the sickbay until I feel that they can be released back among the general population.

Monday, October 27

George Francis Seymour, Volunteer First Class

A portrait miniature of a young boy, thought to be
Sir George Francis Seymour (1787-1870), leaning on
an anchor, a ship in the distance by Richard Cosway,
Watercolour on ivory, 18th Century, Oval, 89mm (3 ½ in.) high
SEYMOUR, Kt., C.B., G.C.H.
Acasta Volunteer First Class under Capt. Fellowes, c.1802, aged approx 15.

Sir George Francis Seymour, born in Sept. 1787, is eldest son of the late Vice-Admiral Lord Hugh Seymour (fifth son of Francis, first Marquess of Hertford, K.G.) by Anne Horatia, third daughter of James, second Earl of Waldegrave...

This officer entered the Navy, 10 Oct. 1797, as Fst.-cl. Vol., on board the Princess Augusta yacht, Capt. Edw. Riou, lying in the river Thames; and from March, 1798, until May, 1802, was employed on the Channel and West India stations, the last two years and four months in the capacity of Midshipman, in the Sanspareil 80, Prince of Wales 98, and Sanspareil again, all flag-ships of his father, and Acasta 40, Capt. Edw. Fellowes. In the Prince of Wales he witnessed the surrender of Surinam in Aug. 1799 ; and in the Acasta he assisted in making a variety of prizes. He was subsequently, in the course of 1802-3, employed on the Home, Newfoundland, and Mediterranean stations, in the Endymion 40, Capt. John Larmour, Isis 50, hearing the flag of Vice-Admiral Jas. Gamhier, Endymion a second time, Capt. Hon. Chas. Paget, and Victory 100, bearing the flag of Lord Nelson...

...In 1818 Sir G. F. Seymour was appointed by his uncle, the Marquess of Hertford, then Lord Chamberlain, Serjeant-at-Arms to the House of Lords. From 4 Aug. 1830 until he resigned, 11 Nov. following, he was a Naval Aide-de-Camp to William IV.; under whom he filled the office of Master of the Robes from 13 Sept. 1830 until the period of his death.
Mezzotint of Admiral,
Sir George Francis Seymour
(1787-1870), Admiral of the Fleet.


Friday, October 24

Capt. Kerr's Grave Monument

St John and St Cuthbert (joint)'s Church Cemetery, Edinburgh, Lothian, Scotland 

Capt Alexander Robert Kerr
age 61

Charlotte Maule
age 70
wife of Alexander Robert Kerr

Jessie Kerr
age 1
daughter of Alexander Robert Kerr

Matilda Ann Kerr
age 17
daughter of Alexander Robert Kerr

John Hunter Kerr
age 53
son of Alexander Robert Kerr

Charles Maule Kerr
age 74
son of Alexander Robert Kerr

Robert Kerr
son of Alexander Robert Kerr

Anna Maria Beresford Kerr
age 76
daughter of Alexander Robert Kerr

Thursday, October 23

During a Hot Press

From Ship's Carpenter, Jas. Apple:

Sometimes as I recall during a hot press it was often necessary while in the search of able seaman to go outside of the normal bounds and look for men. We simply needed two arms, two hands and two legs, two feet and a body with a head on top

And often those who had heard the rumor that we were on the prowl would switch into long clothes and slip right off the reel, not be seen or heard from again till the coast was clear, that is to say we had set sail.

So with very little to tender we would crack on and start to careen from tavern to pub the nasties, and as I recall rarely did we find Jack or Joe, but more likely a spitkid full of dogsbodys begging for hanky panky to stay warm if it was cold. And lord we promised them a easy number, warm food and signing bonus and prize money.

So with a fair amount of hogging, even the worst chaffered up enough to make a landsman and on occasion with time if they didn't die or get whittled down make a damn fine and able seaman.