Friday, May 25

A Letter from Williamsburg

From: Doctr. Lester Meade
Nassau Street

To : Ship’s Surgeon,
HMS Acasta,

Dear Colleague,

  It may seem rather unorthodox to receive a letter from a complete stranger, but I flatter myself that in the future we may count one another among friends- and I write to ask a favor of the utmost scientific urgency. By way of introduction I am Lester Meade, doctor of physic and natural philosophy.  We have a mutual acquaintance. Mr. Jean Baptste Girard, who I understand is currently serving as your mate, has twice served me as an assistant in collecting specimens, the first instance in Louisiana where I first made his acquaintance, the second in Virginia. I would advise you that he could serve you well in this capacity also. His aboriginal upbringing in the Illinois country and interest and fondness for all creatures that creep, crawl and fly make him particularly suited to such endeavors, although he is wont to put the utmost faith in the quaintest of superstitions about such, but I digress.

 Mr. Francois Rochambeau of Louisiana, my friend and former employer of Mr. Girard, has suggested I enlist your aide. It was through Mr. Girard's letter to him that he, and through him myself, learned of your presence and interest in natural philosophy. But to my point- I am sure you have heard of the Cahow, which once inhabited Bermuda, and has been extinct now this last two centuries?  The bird still exists! I know this for a fact, for I have heard it's call with my own ears! I had booked passage to the island specifically for the purpose of collecting sea bird specimens and eggs, zoology being of particular interest to me.  I was returning from collecting on several of the smaller islets off the main island, weary but happy with the fruits of my work, in a small hired boat. Night had already fallen, but the moon had not yet risen, as we passed through Castle harbor. Suddenly, to my wonder, I heard the eerie call so often described by the island's early settlers! The two boatmen assured me that it was indeed a Cahow, that a very tiny number still nested on one of the small islets in the harbor.  I pleaded with them to take me there immediately, but they insisted that the tides were wrong at the time, and that they would bring me there on the morrow should the weather be suitable. 

It seemed that I had no sooner returned to my ship and suitably packaged those eggs I had collected, than the weather turned. For the next three days we were lashed most frightfully but a wind coming straight into the harbor and as soon as it subsided our Captain insisted on setting sail lest we be trapped in the harbor longer. Cruel fate! Vainly I searched the rocky islets we passed by as we left the harbor, but caught not a glimpse of a Cahow.

My intent was to return as soon as my finances and domestic affairs allowed and then Alas! full war was declared between our countries! As a man of science I am sure you will agree that we cannot let the current difficulties between our nations stand in the way of such an opportunity. As a ship of the blockade I am sure you supply in ether Halifax- from which Mr. Girard posted his letter- or Bermuda. It is my hope that at some point you will be sent to Bermuda. I have sent a duplicate copy of this letter there.

Here is what I have learned of the Cahow  from my boatmen. The birds are gone from the harbor from mid June until October. They nest from January to June and they do so in burrows in the earth. When I questioned them of numbers both agreed that "there could not be more than a dozen" and that they nested on only one small islet.

The boatmen I had hired were John Morton and Issac Still. They can guide you to the islet, or if you can not find these two I am sure other local fishermen know the location as well. My hope is that  you might arrive during the nesting period. If you were so fortunate my suggestion is to locate the nest burrows, cover the entrance with a net, and attempt to run a long flexible pole down the burrow to drive the adult into the net. Mr. Girard would certainly be a willing assistant. Take care that he does not club an adult, but rather throttles them, so as to do no damage to the skull. Try and keep the pole to the top of the burrow so as to do no damage to any eggs it may contain. If you are successful in capturing an adult, take a distance to watch and wait for the other of the pair. Once you have collected both adults then dig out the nest to find any eggs or chicks it may contain. I have used this technique with success on other species. I admonish you to leave not a bird behind, for with so few remaining a single storm during the nesting season could destroy them all, and all would be lost.  I would also recommend that you preserve those you collect by several different methods, lest one method becomes corrupt, other specimens would still exist.

Lastly Sir, I regret to say I do not even know your name, for Mr. Girard only said you were the Surgeon of the ship Acasta and a man of science.

I pray that you will look upon me as a friend and colleague, and I anticipate a happy meeting at some future date, 

Doctr. Lester Meade

The Bermuda Petrel (Pterodroma cahow) is commonly known in Bermuda as the Cahow, a name derived from its cries. It's eerie calls at night supposedly kept the superstitious Spanish from colonizing the island. It is nocturnal and ground-nesting. Despite being protected by one of the world's earliest conservation decrees, the Governor's proclamation "against the spoyle and havocke of the Cohowes," the birds were believed to be extinct by 1625. The Cahow was rediscovered again, with specimens collected, in the early 20th century and then believed to have once again gone extinct. In 1951, 18 surviving nesting pairs were found on rocky islets in Castle Harbor. Through extensive conservation efforts the birds now number over 250 individuals, but remain critically endangered. The Cahow is now the national bird of Bermuda. 

The ethic of conservation is a relatively new facet to the world of science. Throughout the eighteenth, nineteenth and well into the twentieth century, collection for study and museum specimens, with no thought for the continued survival of the species, was the norm. The last know individuals of several now extinct species were killed in the name of science.

This post written by: Tony Gerard

Thursday, May 24

Wednesday, May 23

Even More Mail!

Even MORE video of Acastas having gotten their mail and reading through it!

Tuesday, May 22

A Letter from Billie

1815 28 febr
Namerican stayshun
Father & Mather

I am sorry that I ran aweigh and you must have asumd me knoked in the head in a ditch and never to come home agaen, a few of us agrid to meet up and join the war and thay told us that if we sighed our names than we we got a shiling each and we could join the navey and gett prise monies and have pleney of good meat and things green to eat the whole thyme we are on ship and we would be landsman and sounded fair since we growed up not on the cosst, thay sid I could milk cows and that lift things and ay toell them that I can do that at home so thay made me pull lines and klimb up ento the masts and I got guud at it and the give me a difrnt things to doo now thay are a lot of felleows on here with me and a few of those are kind to me bat they took patrkic fryy willam eveens robart shuemaker to diffent ships and I shant seed them since thay put us. all on this tender ship afoe id come to here and I hope they famieles got letders like this one I have sent to you and are heavy with prise monies like the say I am wen we get back home plus I git payd every month since I am gone also how is my dog?
Youer son

Monday, May 21

A Letter to Mr. Apple

to: Jas. Apple
H.M.S. Acasta
At Sea

March 5, 1814

Dear James,                                                                                          

I hope this letter finds you in good health and spirits. Everyone here is in good health. You know, poor hand that I am at it, I would never take to write you were it not of some important matter. As you know your father left some time past for Germany, leaving the business in the hands of your mother and I. Thomas has took a clerk position in Shoreditch and they has a fine, healthy baby boy, which keeps most of his time occupied. Which brings me to the problem. 

Your mother, good hearted soul that she is, is to soft hearted in extending credit and insisting on payment. You remember Lord Hathcock's young son Bradford? Well as soon as his old Father passed he ordered a top of the line carriage- and a finer coach we have never put to wheels. Now he spends all of his time running about town playing the rake- even has a livery dressed in silk more colorful than a dancing monkey- but we have yet to see payment beyond that which he put down to begin with. When pressed for payment he comes up with a story about having trouble collecting from his tenants and we will be paid as soon as they are settled. Yet he has the money to dress his livery in silk and be about town all evening? And now two of his young rake friends has put in carriage orders also. 

Now James you have known me since you was small and we are as close to family as people can get without being blood kin. I have tried to speak with your brother about this, but he is occupied with other affairs. I do not want to overstep my position or offend your mother, but she does not take my advice on insisting on payment when payment is due. I am feared we may be in ruin before your father returns. If you could write to her and encourage her to allow me to take charge of debts and payments I am sure I could soon set matters straight. Please do so as soon as you may be able. Hopefully this war will end soon and you can have liberty to come home. 

yr, Obt. Svt,
Wm. Driver

Friday, May 18

Success to Nelson!

February 8, 1805
Royal Navy Dockyard,
Halifax, Nova Scotia.

To: Dr. Albert Roberts,
Ship's Surgeon,
HMS Acasta
At sea..

From: Thomas Hurlbut, 
HMS Satyr.

My Dear Doctor

While briefly at home here in Halifax, my ship receiving a much needed "small repair", I was greeted one morning with a package in the post . 

As I am known to be particular about the mail (lose not a moment!), our very dutiful, and earnestly persistent servant brought the package to our bedroom. Surprisingly, it was from your assistant, Baptiste. 

I hadn't realized the man knew I existed. I'm not sure we've had two words between us, and so to receive anything from him was puzzling. 

More to the point Doctor, his known fascination with natural philosophy (and particularly small creatures, no doubt in proud emulation of yourself!) gave both my wife and I some concern.

When the sender of the package was made known the sudden trepidation surrounding the possible contents of the parcel was palpable. The imagination can be truly frightening, can it not? We instantly were compelled to give it a wide berth.

Our morning routine ruined, we quickly made for the main room to have our breakfast. The package followed, and was placed on the table between us by the sevant. We both drew back as far as we could.

"Earnest" then produced a letter opener to enable me to see the contents. Never did I feel a weapon at hand was more inadequate to the task. I would rather a pistol, even a club!

My wife moved to the doorway, to be able to close the door and trap the contents (and me!!) so that it (they?) could not escape.

I plunged the knife into the brown paper, expecting the appearance of many legs to emerge from the hole produced.


I peeled back the paper (slowly!), wondering if a small head might poke out..

Still nothing. 

(Well, it's been at sea a while, maybe it's dead?)

Finally, knife in hand, I lifted the top of the small box, and.

Actually, I discovered a fine drinking vessel for my morning coffee (that was produced just as I pulled it from the package! "Earnest" again!).

I must express my appreciation when next I see your man. Perhaps I'll send a word through my cox'n who I understand is a friend to him (I believe they both are fluent in French!).

I am enjoying my brief respite from my patrol. The North Atlantic is miserable this time of year.

Your Humble Servant

Thomas Hurlbut,

Thursday, May 17

A Letter from Baptiste

Marie, Baptiste's wife, finds an old tar to read her her letter.

16 May 1814

Dearest Marie, 

I miss you so! And the Boys! I suppose that by now they can say hole thoughts not just words. I am writing to you in English. Perhaps Mr Clark will read this for you. I have been trying hard to learn this. My friend Apple the Carpenter, and sometimes the Doctor, tutor me. I find that writing in English is much like talking in English. You no how English is almost the same as French, just pronounced incorectly? Witting is much the same. In English each letter has something to say, none of them seem to be there just to make the word more handsome. Once I became accustomed to this lack of beauty in English words it was not so difficult.

We are back on the Blockade of Baltimore and things are very dull except the times we chase after a prize. We have captured several, and I am entitled to an amount of money for each. It is called prize money. None of our captures have put up what could be called a fight, and do not fear for me in anycase, for when we come close I am safe below decks with the surgeon.

Things are so dull I find I become meloncoly. Most this is from missing you and the boys- but I find I also miss the small creatures of the land- birds in the morning and crickets in the evening. The only creatures here are rats and roaches. I do have some leeches- and they have become my friends! I won at cards them from an apothacary’s assistant when we were in Halifax. They are the good leeches from Europe. A  pressed man named Booke stole many for fishing bait. He and I later become friends and he told me he was sorry for thiefing them. He escaped in Bermuda. He offered for me to go with him, but I was afraid the risk was to great and the chance of success to small. I suppose he succeeded, for I have heard no more of him and I am sure news would have reached us if he were caught. But back to my friends the leeches. Dear old Messer Duvall once told me that their behavior changes with the weather, and I have found this to be true. Each morning I see what they are doing  and  compare it with the weather. They do more than you would thing a worm would do. Sometimes they climb out of the water and hang like grapes on the jar edge, sometimes they swim frantically and sometimes they even lay on the bottom on their backs.  The first time I saw this I thought they were dead, but now I know it is just something they do. I have found sometime I can predict a change in weather coming by what they are doing.

I have had one accident. A big pressed landsman fell down a hatch and knocked off a fellow coming down below him. I just happened to be passing below with a small oil lamp I use for cupping. Both fellows landed on me. I was nocked almost senseless with my face pressed into the oil from the lamp which caught fire! I was able to kill the fire with my cap, but it burned off almost all my side whiskers on the one side.  I shaved them off so the other fellows would not make a jest of me. I no how handsome you think they are- but I promise I will have them grown back buy the time you read these words.

I will close now. This letter will be sent out with others of the Doctor’s. He has made a friend of another natural philosopher in America, so it should not have a problem reaching you. My love to you and the boys.

Always your loving husband,