[Manchester—Wednesday, 5 August 1868]

Wednesday August 5th Yesterday J. was in town with R.H. Dana Jr. They are busy over a new edition of “Two Years.” Dana gave him a circumstantial description, which he D. has never yet found time to write down, of his later journey round the world. “Ah!” said D. “if I had only taken that month from England on my return which I passed in seeing people and had written my book I should be glad now.” He left his wife, in infirm health in Cambridge with a child of seven years, an infant in arms & a family between their ages, because his health was in a very precarious condition, too much labor having over strained his nerves. Of course under these circumstances he was deeply depressed by the thought of leaving home and this sadness haunted him until he had taken ship in New York, then he said he must confess the love of adventure was so strong in him, the smell of tar, the groaning of cordage, the creak of the mast was too much. His old love completely conquered unavailing regret and he dashed into sea life with the curiosity of days long since fled. Everything went well with him until he found himself one calm afternoon about 7 days from Honolulu in a fine ship of 1000 tons called The Mastiff in which he had embarked from San Francisco.

There were 200 Chinamen on board & 40 crew. The ship was the home of the excellent Captain and his wife who had embarked in her after their marriage. All their wedding gifts and household associations were embarked here and had grown up about their cabin. The Captain was exceedingly fond of animals also, and included a beautiful cow, a terrier, a mastiff, two kangaroos, one wild and one tame, a cat and I think a parrot among the members of his family.

It was about four o clock on the afternoon in question when as D. was walking the deck he saw suddenly a small tongue of flame creep stealthily up between the boards. He quietly drew the attention of the second mate to the fact, who, the next time the Captain made the tour of the deck which he also was passing at that time, touched his cap and quietly drew his attention to the flaming point. Without reply, the Captain went below, returning immediately he gave the order, “Man the engine.” It had been dry and warm weather, the hose were somewhat stiff and it took time to get things in readiness, nevertheless the work went steadily forward, meantime the Captain again went below. They had been working the engine for a short time only when the Captain again appeared, “Never mind the engine” he said (then Dana knew destruction was inevitable) “Get down the boats.” There were three life boats holding 15 men each. These were safely lowered. The first mate was to command the 1st The second mate the 2d & Dana the 3d while the Captain stayed as long as possible. At this juncture the China men began to rush up from below, but the sailors had been quickly armed with heavy iron spikes with orders to drive them back. They hit fearlessly right and left and intimidated the poor wretches into submission. Then Dana began with the Captain to make them understand that their five women were all to go in his boat, they were not to be forgotten and when they saw this they were pacified. Just as they were getting the Captains wife over the side of the vessel, the mate said [to] him, “What is that, Sir” pointing to something on the horizon. The Captain at first saw nothing but seizing his telescope he said it is a vessel bound our way and I think she sees us. Then said Dana, I saw her, and as I was ready, every boat being filled, to get over the side of our ship I saw them distinctly lowering a boat from theirs. We were about three miles apart. “Give me six men” said D. in place of some of these and I promise to go to her and return for the rest of you.” The six men were granted and he made his way over the windless Pacific Sea to the other ship. It was a Britisher bound for Australia. The two ships were running nearly on the same course taking advantage of the Trade Winds. Soon after the fire broke out the first mate of the English vessel being on duty called the Captain. “See that vessel over there, Sir? What is She?” “A Whaler trying out a whale.” Mate looked again.

“Don’t think so Sir. Too much smoke for a whaler. Shall we bear down that way, Sir, and see?”

Happily they bore that way and Dana busily rowing from ship to ship with the help of the other boats brought all the passengers away in safety. It was after six when he returned for the last time to the burning vessel. The Captain was standing alone upon the deck. One chinaman had gone below for gold & had perished. He was the only man lost. “Can I speak to you” said the Captain, “yes said Dana, what is it” “Have I done all I could to save the ship” “Yes Everything and now you must save yourself. She must blow up shortly”. “There’s one more thing,” said the Captain. “The cow, we must kill her.” He brought the fine fair creature to the deck and knocked her on the head. “I can’t leave the dogs,” he said. Dana helped him get them into the boat. He put the tame kangaroo in after them but the wild one jumped into the flames and perished, then the bird and cat were stowed safely away, but still the Captain lingered.

“You can do nothing more said Dana you must leave her to her fate.” Slowly and unwillingly the Captain left her side, Dana pushed quickly off but he had scarcely left her five minutes before the heavens were illumined and a mass of flame rose up from the body of the ship. It was a magnificent sight. It was strange, at night said Dana, to see our burning ship lying in the distant horizon like a star!

The new world, into which the preserved people had come was not plentifully stocked with comforts. The ship was short of water and had nothing but wheat on board. However they got up the cargo of wheat and during the 7 days to Honolulu which was their nearest port, the Chinamen ate wheat boiled, fried, roasted, baked, in every imaginable form, and nothing else. The water was brought to the deck and given to them by the wine glassful. There was of course no shelter for them so they lay at night upon the deck as best they might.

Fortunately the ship’s cargo of gold $80,000 had been saved which was a matter of rejoicing but on their arrival at Honolulu the English captain laid claim to ½ that amount for salvage. Then Mr. Dana felt himself on accustomed ground & assuring his Captain that he knew the law in these matters he went into court in Honolulu and settled the case, awarding $8,000 to the Britisher as his right.

Well said Dana in conclusion. I’m not tempted by fine horses or fine houses or fine estates, but a fine ship, and the swell of her, rouses the spirit of adventure in me which will hardly be allayed.

J. came down from town to a house full of invalids and talked brilliantly all tea time giving us this account, until the sick minister forgot to complain and went to bed to sleep well.

The perpetual organ at the ministers next door keeps De Quincey’s story of Ferrar well in mind.


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