Elizabeth Jollie Diary: May, 1892

Chapter 1. South Pacific

24th May, 1892 (aboard S.S. Aorangi)  Family predicted that I should not write very much of my diary and its prediction seems to have come true.  I have already been eleven days on board yet have written nothing except my name. 

We were prevented from leaving Lyttelton on the 14th May owing to the non-arrival of the Rotomahana from the North with mails and passengers.  We waited for her until Sunday evening when a tug came out from Lyttelton to say that the Rotomahana had put back to Wellington, after dragging her anchor under Cape Campbell and being driven to one of the Sounds for shelter.  We (slipped) anchor and sailed at 10 o'clock on Sunday evening. 

The two following days were Mondays and were spent by me in bed, not very seasick but not at all comfortably.  On Tuesday I went on deck and drank Porter, which revived me considerably.  The weather was roughish and cold. 

The Captain [Sutcliffe] (he has a beard not whiskers) took a single glance at Ethel and me, and said we might sit in his cabin any afternoon we liked as he was never there before four o'clock, so we evidently made a good impression on him.  He is a nice man and very gentlemanly and has the reputation of being a great flirt.  So far we have only once taken advantage of his kind invitation, and that was the day before yesterday by special request.  It was rough, wet and cold on deck and stuffy down below so he thought it might be a change for me, and we enjoyed it immensely, it seemed almost like being on shore again.  He also said we might take any books we liked out of his cases.

Everyone is awfully kind.  All the passengers seem peaceable steady-going sort of people, and the officers all most kind.  Mrs. Buchanan is amusing in rough weather.  She always imagines the ship is going to be engulfed when the big rolls come and makes exclamations to that effect most of the night.  She complains that she can't sleep at night at which I don't wonder considering that she can sleep placidly from 1 o'clock dinner till 5 o'clock tea without any effort.  Besides which she is a great amusement to Mr. T L [?] and myself because of her eating powers.  As he says "she sees us all out" at every meal besides extras such as beef tea at eleven and water arrowroot for supper, but she is a dear, kind old lady and I can't think what we should have done without her.  She generally addresses me as "Miss Jollie, dear."

May 26th  Nothing much to say except that the weather is fine, not quite so cold as yesterday and people more willing to sit up on deck again.  Mr. Archer has just been round stirring people up to get up a concert for Saturday night.

NB How many sd [?] bits will sit on a half crown, also - how many trains does one pass crossing America, the journey lasting seven days and a train starting from either side every morning - 13.

There is a dreadfully innocent girl on board travelling with her grandmother who is over 70 years old.  She was watching the 2nd officer take sights today and suddenly bleated "Oh!  I see how it is now!"  I said "How what is?"  "Oh, how it is that the sun looks sometimes blue and sometimes red.  He (meaning Mr. Hammond) had different coloured glasses" (in his sextant). 

We had a great little storm in a tea-cup last evening.  I wished Mr. Leaver to sing a Coster song which he had sung once before.  He sings both Coster and other songs beautifully.  Well he sang it, great to the scandalisation of the Lowe party, who hissed him when he had finished loud enough for him to hear, whereupon he l[?]ed and sat down with his back toward them.  But that did not prevent his singing two more.  What they chiefly objected to was the Coster chucking his Sally under the chin.  As Miss Lily Smith said to me "He chucked her under the chin!  So low!" with great scorn. 

Mr. Watson and I were immensely amused and I was obliged to confess that I had asked him to sing and liked coster songs very much when well sung, being the only lady of that opinion.  It was all so funny.  Mr. Leaver says he prefers an audience of fine men.  He is the youth who was always worrying about getting his luggage up.  He was also heard to remark that "Maori nannies are so stupid" so Ethel and I took a violent dislike to him.  Another objectionable is the clergyman, Mr. Watts,* and I am very anxious to see how he will turn out.  He gives us all the idea that he is a dreadful liar.

It would be pretty dull were it not for Mr. Kitson, who keeps our end of the table alive; likewise the publican commonly called "The Warrior".

* Probably The Reverend Edwin Watts (1854-1934), who had recently resigned as incumbent of the Otago parish of Clyde and Dunstan.


May 27th  Miss Good said the bath water was not cold this morning.  I wonder what she would call cold?  But one always gets beautifully warm after these salt water baths.  Our log was 309 miles, Weather fine, sea choppy, a very curious vibration is going on at present which does not make one feel particularly comfortable.  The Man in Corduroy or "The British King" is going to recite at the concert tomorrow.

May 28th  Run 312 miles, the longest we have had so far.  There was an alarm of fire just before dinner, so all the stewards had to rush out and stand in their places in the rain, so that we became anxious about our dinner.  Of course we all rushed up to see what was going on and amongst others the Calf[?].  She saw the hoses pouring over the side of the ship and said: "They wouldn't do that if it were a real fire would they?" in her bleating voice.  Then "How do they know when there is a real fire?"  She is one of our great amusements.

Choir practice this morning.  Miss V. very much all there as she plays the harmonium.

First saloon gave a concert in the evening at which some of our people performed.  Miss B. Dressed in a trained skirt, with her hair done up, bleated out her top note without any ado greatly to my relief as I had dreaded it all through her song, she being nervous.  Mrs. Claxton sang about the best.  

Corduroy recited one of Gordon's poems, a very sad one which seemed so appropriate, poor little chap.  When the interval came Mr. Claxton gave it out adding "for refreshments" though none appeared.  Whilst a song was going on the stewardess walked right through the saloon carrying two India-rubber hot bottles, which caused a titter.  She is a wretch and drinks.  

Mr. Lever sang four Coster songs, being twice encored.  Mrs. Parkinson came to our cabin afterwards and we had cake, biscuits and ginger ale.  Miss A. Smith got a chill and was in pain for some time.

Sunday, May 29th  We were wakened early this morning by groaning next door.  Mrs. Buchanan kind old thing got up to see what was the matter and found Mrs. Tanner suffering from pains which made her think she was poisoned.  However she soon recovered with the aid of hot water bottles, etc.  She must have found squabbling with the stewardess awkward.  

The doctor refused to come, but sent medicine.  Mr. Claxton is acting doctor for the time being, Dr. Hayes having an abscess on his knee (which did not prevent his going to the concert).  Mr. Claxton is a missionary from Samoa,* and knows something about medicine because he was in a hospital for a year to learn.  (Mr. Kitson says "with a broken leg?").

* A friend of Robert Louis Stevenson, the Reverend Arthur Edgar Claxton of the London Missionary Society, published Stevenson As I Knew Him in 1908.


Sighted land today for the first time since leaving New Zealand  It has been rough and cold all day, hailing in the morning.  Many passengers were again seasick or felt squeamish.  Ethel was the only 2nd class lady at service in the 1st this morning.  Service in the 2nd tonight by Mr. Watt.  There was an unexpected collection.  I hurriedly asked Mrs. Parkinson whether she could lend me any money.  She whispered: "A shilling or two pennies" and handed them to me.  Just then the plate was handed to me so I put all in without looking except when too late I saw a disintegrated linen button which I had put in amongst the rest.  Fortunately I was afterward able to reclaim it from Mr. Archer.

30th May  Passed Cape Horn this morning and between Staten Island and the mainland during the afternoon.  Thermometer down to 37°, very cold wind.  In sight of land all day but got no comfort by that as it looked dreadfully bare and desolate.  Rocky hills sprinkled by snow.  Saw a Whale, also lots of birds, amongst others one like a large white pigeon.  Very rough towards evening which made many of us squeamish.

31st May  Last night was very rough swell so that we could not sleep for the knocking about, noise and heat.  The latter because all the hatches were shut up because of the sea breaking over.  All three in bed to breakfast, Mrs. Buchanan remaining there for the rest of the day because of her cold.  She was alarmed last night by the great rolls and [?] of the sea breaking over and thought too much sail was up, etc.  She is very amusing in that way, always getting frightened when it is rough.

It was too misty to see the Falkland Islands today.  It is wonderful what a difference there is today in the length of it, as it was still twilight at teatime.  Now that we are safely out of the Pacific our speed has been slowed down to 11 or 12 knots.  Our run today was 276 miles, better than yesterday the wind being right aft. 

The melancholy youth in the first has made up his mind that he is to die during the hot weather. His disease is that he can't stop eating, so has his meals in his cabin.

I finished reading "David Grieve"* this evening which is the third book I have read since coming on board.

Mrs. Tanner squabbled with her steward today.  She now thinks of leaving the ship at Rio.  She is a silly woman.

* The History of David Grieve by Mrs. Humphrey Ward, published January, 1892