The Journal of Hugh Campbell, Part VI: Hugh’s on a Boat

Hugh’s get­ting set­tled into life on board, and it’s any­thing but bor­ing. If you want­ed to know what life on board a transat­lantic ship was like in the ear­ly 19th cen­tu­ry, this entry begins to describe this well.
(Click here for Part V if you need to be brought up to speed on the story.)

Note that under the date, Hugh has begun to plot the lat­i­tude and lon­gi­tude, so you can use the lines on a map to see exact­ly where he was when he made each entry.

[June] 26th
Lon. 11 W. Lat. 57 N.

Hav­ing now got fair­ly clear of all dan­ger we began to put things in a train for ren­der­ing our­selves com­fort­able dur­ing our voy­age. A com­modore or pres­i­dent was elect­ed. Berths were laid out for pas­sen­gers and the males were very prop­er­ly sep­a­rat­ed from the females. We engaged a cook to keep on a fire and attend the sick­ly and aged pas­sen­gers. He was an old Innishown pen­sion­er and proved of great ser­vice in the course of the voy­age. Each pas­sen­ger agreed to pay him one shilling for his trou­ble. The ship was reg­u­lar­ly washed out by the pas­sen­gers, once a week, to pre­serve cleanliness.


One shilling, cir­ca 1818. One shilling was worth about $4.12 USD in 2010. 

In order to avoid the cruis­ers off the Euro­pean coast and those about “the Banks of New­found­land,” the Capt. deter­mined that our course should be first W.N.W. and after­wards W.S.W. Our ves­sel, from her form and eye, proved to be a very slow sailor and dis­cour­aged us con­sid­er­ably, but we heard our crew was numer­ous and well accus­tomed to a sea­far­ing life, which is a thing of no lit­tle impor­tance to emi­grants unac­quaint­ed with sailing.

The steer­age pas­sen­gers formed them­selves into mess­es.* Every three or four took a berth, joined their stock of pro­vi­sions and cooked alter­nate­ly. Great cau­tion ought to be used in mak­ing choice of a part­ner as the com­fort of a sea voy­age is great­ly increased by a con­nec­tion with an agree­able and clever mess­mate. My sit­u­a­tion as a cab­in pas­sen­ger pre­vent­ed me from feel­ing any incon­ve­nience from asso­ci­at­ing myself with any per­son. I
walked about when and where I pleased and noth­ing to attend to but the steward’s call to
din­ner, and unless when a ves­sel came in sight that looked like a cruis­er. We were then oblig­ed to con­ceal our­selves in the old dun­geon until all dan­ger was past. In this we were very often deceived dur­ing the voyage.

29th June
W. Lon. 13 N. Lat. 57 Degrees 30

I believe there is no peri­od that emi­grants feel more sor­row than when com­menc­ing a wide sea voy­age. They com­pare their many pri­va­tions and dan­gers with the secu­ri­ty and ease they left behind. It makes them con­scious of being cast loose from the secure anchor­age of set­tled life and sent adrift upon a doubt­ful world. Sen­si­ble of their sit­u­a­tion, the pas­sen­gers began to be rec­on­ciled to what turned their atten­tion from lamen­ta­tions about their friend to enquire how fast the ship was sail­ing and how the wind blew.

Pas­sen­gers below decks in their bunks.

Late in the evening, it began to blow a strong gale accom­pa­nied by rain and light­ning. The sea rose into tremen­dous waves, and the ves­sel rolled in the most awful man­ner through them. The storm con­tin­ued until day break next morn­ing. Dur­ing the night every mov­able in the ship was put in motion by the great heav­ing. The kegs full of water for imme­di­ate use and the buck­ets full of all kinds of filth were hurled in the great­est con­fu­sion through the steer­age to the great offense of our smelling organs. The jars, crocks, bot­tles and glass­es were com­plete­ly bro­ken to pieces by encoun­ter­ing the loose box­es which they met in their progress.

The more timid pas­sen­gers thought by the loud and fre­quent calls of the sailors to each oth­er that we were on the brink of Eter­ni­ty, while the more coura­geous and unthink­ing laughed at their fears and roared out to drown their moans and prayers. Next morn­ing exhib­it­ed a scene tru­ly com­i­cal. Every­thing in the steer­age was in the utmost con­fu­sion and dis­or­der. The smell and sight were salut­ed with the most dis­gust­ing appear­ances, and the ears with com­plaints of bro­ken shins or some such dis­as­ter. To pre­vent a recur­rence of such acci­dents in future, the Capt. ordered all spare box­es and trunks down to the hold reserv­ing only one box for each mess, which was to be prop­er­ly fas­tened. The water was to be brought up from the casks and an allowance of 3 quarts to be giv­en to each pas­sen­ger  per day.  Var­i­ous reg­u­la­tions were made to pro­mote our com­fort and security.


* A mess is a group of peo­ple — usu­al­ly sailors — who reg­u­lar­ly eat their meals together.

Next week: The ship cel­e­brates the 4th of July. Sailor-style.