© 2004-2017

Patagonia Bookshelf

New England whalers and sealers at the Malvinas / Falkland Islands (Summer 1834)
Fishery operations, glimpsed through the journal of Rev. Titus Coan

Sunday, March 2nd, 1834 through Sunday, March 9th, 1834

March 2d. Sabbath. The morning opened with much calmness and serenity and my glad heart hailed its rising beams with the sweet anticipation of a more peaceful and undisturbed sabbath than any I had recently enjoyed. Entered into conversation with the Captain about the church going scenes in our native land, and finding him interested I gradually [led] to the subjects of "Righteousness, temperance and a judgment to come". He conversed with much candour and evident tenderness of feeling, and on my proposing preaching on board in the afternoon, he very readily acceded to it, and seemed pleased with the idea. I had selected my subject and the hour had nearly arrived for preaching, when the cry of "Sail ho!" broke from the deck. A Schooner was descried coming into the harbour, and as this crew have long waited here for the arrival of the Talma from the Shetland Islands - a vessel with which the Hancox is joined in sealing - all was bustle until it was ascertained that she was the expected vessel. She came in and anchored near us, and the remainder of the day was spent in the passing and repassing of the crews from one vessel to another, and in attending to the business of their compact. Thus our religious services were prevented, and the feelings of sobriety and reflection, which had been induced were again dissipated. Saw Captain Allyn of the Talma who is intending to sail as soon as possible for the U.S., and though he has a large crew and little provision, yet he agreed to take Brother Arms and myself as passengers.

On board the Talma I found Mr. Luther B. Johnson, the man who was confined in irons for a time on board the Antarctic and who was finally left by Captain Nash on Eagle Island. Captain Allyn, hearing of his condition, sailed down to the place of his banishment and offered him a passage to the States, which offer was readily accepted by the lonely exile. I had never before had an opportunity of speaking to Johnson and I find that his statements in relation to his difficulties differ very materially from those of Captain Nash.

[March 3rd -- no entry]

March 4th. Left Ship Harbour in the Hancox to return to my companion at New Island. Captain Allyn remains a few days, to prepare for sea, when he promises to come to New Island and take us should we have no opportunity of getting back to Ship Harbour. On our passage to New Island we saw large numbers of whales, sporting around us and "making a path to shine after them" as they passed through the deep. Were becalmed most of the day so that at night we had advanced but a few miles on our way.

March 5th. Wednesday. Our vessel rolled about upon the sea during the night and when morning came we were still several miles from the place of our destination. A light breeze sprung up and about 7 A.M. we came to anchor near the Hamilton. Found one of her tenders, the McDonough, Captain Clift, of New London, discharging a large whale which she had recently taken, while the great kettles were smoking with the blubber which was trying. It is supposed that this whale will produce more than 100 barrels of oil. Endeavoured to get a conveyance for ourselves and our effects to the Talma, but were unable, as it is a favourable time for whaling and all hands are busy.

Captain Davison of the Hancox has treated me with great kindness. He has taken a deep interest in our situation and has spared no pains in endeavouring to secure for us a passage to the States. He is bound on a sealing voyage to the western coast of Patagonia, and feels that he must lose no more time at these Islands, else he would return with us to the Talma. Indeed he would even now do it, could he obtain the consent of his crew.

Ship Hamilton, March 6th. A fresh northerly wind prevailing this morning, the Hancox left the harbour for the Strait of Magellan. Shortly after her departure the Whale ship Atlantic of Bridgeport, Connecticut, Captain Young, came in. She is to make this harbour her rendezvous. Captain Young came on board and brought us papers up to the first of November last. He has lost one of his men since he came out, in an effort to take a whale. This mighty animal, finding himself smarting with the harpooner's iron became furious with rage, and turning upon his pursuers with his ponderous flukes cut the boat twice in two and scattered the whole crew upon the bosom of the deep. One man was instantly killed, the rest all escaped and were taken on board another boat. It requires no little courage, as well as skill, to take these huge animals, as those who make fast to them have no surety that they will not be, the next moment, launched into eternity. I am told that scenes of danger often occur in this business in which the most hardened turn pale. It is but a few days since a boat's crew from this ship (Hamilton) made fast to a whale but were towed through the water with such velocity that two of the men leaped overboard in a fright, and the boat steerer was obliged to cut loose from the whale and attend to saving his men. But notwithstanding all the danger attending this business, multitudes are continually engaged in it, with the hope of a little profit.

At 4 P.M. the Talma came in and was hailed by my companion and myself with no little joy, as we hope, through the goodness of our Heavenly Father, that she will soon convey us over the deep to our native shores. Our little harbour has this day contained two ships and four schooners, all from my own beloved country, and all the Captains from my native State.

[March 7th -- no entry]

March 8th. Went on shore this morning to take my last ramble on these islands. After walking over a weary hill and through the rank Tussocks for a mile and a half, came to a large Rookery of Penguins, Mollymauks etc. This rookery covered several acres and I am told that in the season of incubation it is so completely covered with birds that the ground can hardly be seen. Most of the birds have now reared their young and left the Rookery, though several thousands are still left, as their young ones are not yet sufficiently grown to leave their nests. Saw several young mollymauks on high nests raised with mud and grass from the ground. They are now larger than a goose, though not yet so fledged as to be able to take wing.

On returning from this tour my guide pointed out to me the spot where the crew of a whale boat - six in number - were all drowned together by means of the boats being towed under water by a whale. This sad event transpired about a year ago.

In the afternoon took our luggage on board the Talma ready to sail for New London. Captain Pendleton of the Hamilton not only refuses to accept of any remuneration for our board while with him but also - in connection with Captain Young of the "Atlantic" who asked the privilege - generously supplies us with stores for our voyage. Since we have been in this harbour we have been uniformly treated with much kindness and respect, both by officers and sailors, and on bidding them farewell we received many a hearty good wish for our speedy and safe arrival in our native land.

Schooner Talma, Lord's day. March 9th. As the morning was pleasant and the wind favourable the Captain ordered the anchor to be weighed and the sails unfurled for sea. It would have been more agreeable to my feelings to have commenced our voyage on some other day than the Sabbath; but there are few ship masters who appear to be conscientious on this subject. I have now been at these islands about six weeks, during which time I have fallen in with several hundreds of immortal beings, mostly my own countrymen, and as I leave these shores probably forever, and these souls, perhaps till the judgment, my eye affects my heart. Most of these sailors are thoughtless and impenitent, with few salutary restraints to check them in their rapid and fearful descent down to the gulf below! When will the storm-cradled sailor find the haven of eternal rest?

The weather continued fine during the day and we receded rapidly from the land, till the last lingering peak of the Falklands faded from my view in the evening twilight. There has been much quietness on board today. Brother Arms is afflicted with seasickness, but, as yet, I escape the influence of that uncomfortable disease.

<end of extract>