Chapter 3 The North Atlantic
Wednesday, June 15th June, 1892 Water 84 degrees. Run 274 miles.
The concert went beautifully last night on the Starboard side of the quarter deck. Each took its own chair. The piano was placed in the centre of the deck, which made it difficult for performers to be heard at either end of the deck, but it couldn't very well be arranged otherwise. The Blue Jacket sang his song very well in character. He stood opposite Mrs. Hammond, Rhodes* and Claxton, and appeared to be singing at them entirely. His encore song was awful, but the only words I could hear were that he was a tailor made young fellow, with whiskers on his feet and a bustle to keep him warm. I think it all went off splendidly, even the encore duet sung by the Captain and Chief Engineer, Mr. Wildish and called "Excelsior". I don't want to hear it again!
* Arthur Edgar Gravenor Rhodes (1859–1922) was a New Zealand Member of Parliament and Mayor of Christchurch from 1901.
Mr. Buchanan came to afternoon tea.
Began our concerts on deck tonight and made everyone join in. Captain Doveton's contribution was immense! He asked us to join in the chorus, but it was impossible to even make out the tune.
We have seen ships every day since leaving Rio.
Thursday 16th I saw Portuguese Men-of-War for the first time today.
Miss Vernon asked me to afternoon tea to help eat an excellent cake. I greatly enjoyed that and tea with fresh lime juice instead of milk and much preferable.
It rained most of the morning until about 4 o'clock. Terribly stuffy below and too wet to go on deck, however, the evening was fine and cool so we sang until interruption to see two steamers passing, one half a mile away.
June 17th Run 276 miles. We are on about the same latitude as Barbados today. It seems odd to think that we shall be out of the tropics the day after tomorrow!
Mr. Buchanan weighed us all today on a sort of swinging rope. Mrs. Lowe, over 12 Stone, was top lady weight, Mrs. Parkinson 10.10, Ethel 10 stone, Miss Lowe 10.5, I was 8 Stone, 8 Pounds.
Passed close to the Windbrant at 2 pm, but did not signal.
Mr. Reid reads "Romola" to Miss Lily Smith and I every afternoon. It makes me very sleepy! Mr. Buchanan, Mrs. Dillon and children came up on deck in the evening, Mr. Buchanan bringing his banjo with him. He sang two songs that I have not heard. One called "Poppa, toppa-top pompom" founded on "He did but he didn't know why". Also one composed by a friend about "Butterflies" and very pretty. He played many accompaniments for Mrs. Lowe, Mrs. Dillon and me to sing to. He promised to call us early next morning to see Cape Verde Islands.
June 18th, Saturday Run 254 miles.
A voice called down the skylight at 5.30 this morning, "Does anybody want to see land and the sunrise?" Some of us woke, rubbed our eyes and went to sleep again.
At 5.45 Mr. Hill came down the companion, stood on the lowest step, took a good look at us all in the saloon and said "Does anybody want to see the land or buy oranges, a boat is coming from shore?" This effectually woke me, so I looked from my porthole and saw a dim, misty craggy outline and nothing more.
The wind has been quite cool all day, this evening I was obliged to don my cape. The sea is also rougher, a good deal of pitching and the horizon misty.
Ethel has gone to the impromptu dance and concert in the first this evening, I felt tired and had no longings that a-way. In ten days we shall be in England, being next Tuesday week the 28th. I shall be very sorry when the voyage is over, everybody has been so awfully kind to me.
Mr. Rundle told me this evening that he came out in the Mermaid with Mother and Father thirty years ago. Mrs. Dillon and Amy Rhodes came over this afternoon and played quoits with us.
June 19th Run 239 miles. Head wind, ship pitching rather uncomfortably. Did not go to service.
June 20th Run 248 miles. Still a head wind. It is said we shall not get to Tenerife 'till Wednesday morning.
One of the Rhodes' maids was formerly with Lady Rosebury and said yesterday, talking of the Rhodes, "I suppose they will go to a private hotel then the other colonials will call on them." Rather cutting!
Mr. Buchanan told us all about how Miss Duckworth tried to commit suicide. He was one of the officers of the Rimutaka at the time. Two priests saw her swimming and after some arguing about it considered it best to tell the officer on watch. They thought it best to mention there was a lady in a blue and white striped gown swimming along behind. She swam for twenty minutes before being picked up and said it was the happiest time of her life.
June 21st Run 227 miles. The nicest day we have had. 2.55. We have just sighted the Peak of Tenerife a hundred miles away, but very faint.
June 22nd Arrived at Santa Cruz de Tenerife at about 4 o'clock this morning and woke up soon afterwards.
Got up at about 5.30 because the portholes were shut for coaling and the heat below intense. Wills brought me the nicest cup of tea I have had on board. Went on deck where coaling operations were just commencing accompanied by much shouting. A French troopship lay alongside us, called the Cavour.
The morning seemed endless, also very hot. We amused ourselves with buying baskets, fruit, dolls etc. Some of the baskets were very pretty. The wicker chairs cost 10/- and 8/-, the tables 7/-. We left at 12.30, having a lovely view of the Peak till dark.
Yesterday evening Ethel, Mrs. J. And I spent in Mr. Buchanan's cabin looking at his photographs and talking gossip. The iced champagne and hot cabin rather upset me so that I could hardly keep my eyes open. Mr. Buchanan offered to see me safely up the alley way, but I managed quite well by myself whilst he stood outside his cabin door singing "Ititibits"[?] after us.
We took on a new passenger at Tenerife called Mr. Ross, a young large-nosed man. We're not allowed to land because of quarantine. Only been 14 instead of 15 days. Got grimed with coal dust. Mrs. Buchanan's eyes black all round next day!
23rd Great excitement! Saw what was thought to be a boat, turned about, everyone gazing their eyes out, when it was found to be a spar! We went down to dinner. Most of us were rather exhausted after Tenerife. Run 230 miles. Head wind.
24th Run 306 miles. Head wind. Sea very calm.
Mr. Forsyth, the Second Engineer, took a party; Miss Good, Mr. Chisholm, Mr. Reid, the Doctor and myself, to see the engines, refrigeration and dynamos and furnaces. It was most interesting, but awfully hot; 106 degrees. We walked between the furnaces having to stoop, the opening being like this [illustration of concave inverted V shape]. I don't pity the firemen so much as I used, there being a tremendous draught along the furnaces and a dry heat. Mr. Forsyth opened one of the doors and held me in front!
We were off the coast of Spain all day, being opposite Lisbon at mid-day, as far as I remember. Couldn't see it though.
25th Land is only 30 miles away.
Our boxes come up to be packed this morning. We are to be at Plymouth on Monday morning at 11 o'clock, at London docks Tuesday at 4 p.m., so Mr. Forsyth says.
7 p.m. The fog whistle has been blowing every minute for the last hour or so, to continue all through the night if the fog lasts. We are now crossing the Bay of Biscay, but it is calm and foggy. Just after dinner we passed a pretty schooner rigged sailing yacht, so close that we saw the people on board easily and mutually waved handkerchiefs.
In the afternoon a large steamer passed us, some said a P & O, others an Orient or a Messageries boat. Strange if she were the Omba, with Ettie on board.
Mr. Archer brought me a letter and packet this morning from Alf! I was so surprised! He had evidently sent it down to Lyttleton asking Mr. Archer to give them to me on my birthday. Mrs. Parkinson gave me a photo of Eric and Mrs. Lowe persuaded Mr. King to give Ethel and me a cake.
10.25 p.m. Mr. Wildish took a party of the first and me down the engine room where I went yesterday, then down a dreadful iron ladder to the refrigerator, there the Dillon children pelted me with snow and rubbed our faces with icicles which soon cooled us down.
The fog whistle does not now sound so often, someone having represented to the captain that the children were terrified by it. And certainly it reminded one of Meturchadnezzon's [?] band when Mary Murgatroyd, Eric, Alice Coombes and Staffy h[?].
27th Foggy all night, whistle blowing every minute and double lookouts. We all slept better than last night. During the morning the fog lifted a little. When it was at all clear we steamed quickly, otherwise we were hardly making any headway. The pilot came on board at about 11.30 amidst cheers. We anchored at 12.30 inside Plymouth breakwater.
I stood on the gangway between the 1st and 2nd decks and watched for Mrs. Buchanan who really came. Just as the dinner bell rang I heard there was a letter for me. It contained one from Bob, Carrie and Mrs. Matthews saying I was to get off at Plymouth and come straight to Bath.
I had hardly twenty minutes to pack my clothes, change my dress, etc. Smith and stewardess hung about the cabin in a state of expectation. I just managed it and bustled onto the waiting launch with my sleeves undone, gloves in my hand and bonnet chucked on anyhow, and not even time to say goodbye except to those near the gangway.
Mr. Hammon wrung and wrung my hand. The Dovetons, Parkinsons, Mrs. Coombs, Mr. Hills and several other passengers also landed. I joined onto the first and travelled as far as Bristol with them, where they and Mr. Hills (whom I discovered to be a cousin of Sir John Willis) got out, also Mr. and Mrs. Elcock from the steerage, the former of whom played the banjo in the train for our benefit, also gave us each half an apple.
We easily got through the Customs and had some tea and scones, which were most refreshing both from our not having had any dinner and the pleasure of having fresh milk, nice tea and good butter.