The Diary of Betsey Alexander: Part 2 – Goin’ for Guano

In our last blog, Betsey Alexander, rounding Cape Horn in the ship Scioto from Brunswick, Maine, summed up March, 1857, thusly:

  • Tuesday 31 Calm and clear PM Cloudy and cold nothing goes right

AlbatrossIn April the cold weather continued, as did Betsey’s longing for home. Eli seemed to thrive, even catching albatross to eat. No mention about whether or not the albatross tasted like chicken:

  • Friday 3 Wind WSW Cold and cloudy  Ship roling bad  Eli & Mr. Buryin trying for Bird
  • Saturday 4 Wind WSW and vary cold  Mr Richardson and Eli catching Albertross  Eli caught two  he feels plenty big enough now  I shall have to lengthen his pants if he ketches any more
  • Sunday 5 Wind WSW thick wether and raining all day and vary cold  a lonesome Day for Sunday  I wish we were home
  • Monday 6 Wind W rather more Pleaant to day  I should like to be at home to wash some of our clothes.
  • Wensday 8 Wind W Pleasant and quite warm  a Ship in company with us  I feel glad when we have company for Thomas is most discouraged bad wether and hed winds  Poor Cook and lazy Stewardess  what is worse
  • Monday 13 Wind blowing a gale and a heavy sea the  Ship roling so that we could not Stand and the man to the Wheel lashed  a gloomy time  this is going to sea calio [Port of Callao, Peru]
  • Thursday 16 Wind NNW in the morning Clear and pleasant  Afternooon Wind N and thick wether  Eli caught an Albertross  I labeld him and let him go for some one els to ketch if they can.
  • Wensday 22 Wind S Clear and Pleasant with a heavy sea  saw plenty of Whales long side of the ship

In May Dennis the Pig met his fate and moods improved with the warm breeze and other ships in sight:

  • Saturday 2 Wind S and Pleasant  I have been ironing Shirts  the Mate and Cook killed Denis the Pig  we shall live again  I should like to be at home to Day with the Children and the rest of the folks
  • Sunday 3 Wind S thick wether  looks vary much like rain  I wish that I was at home to Day  I think that I should make some calls  we saw a Ship this afternoon  it was quite a sight  it was good for sore eyes and lonesome folks
  • Monday 4 Wind S and pleasant  a Ship in company with us, to day I am washing  it seems quite natural to wash on Monday
  • Tuesday 5 Wind S and a beautifull breeze and a lovely Day  something like going to sea
  • Wensday 6 Wind S the ship going along like a bird  light sea  it is like being at home  I have been Sewing all day

peliquins on dockThe Scioto anchored in the Port of Callao, Peru, to deliver their cargo of English coal. Sailors ran away; captains and their wives socialized:

  • Friday 8 AM I ironed Shirts  PM went on Deck to see the Ship go into Callio, Ship came to Anchor in Calio at 5 PM  Capt Edwards cam on board and made a social call
  • Saturday 9 at Anchor Safe in Callao  Thomas gon on Shore  PM Capted Wards on board the Men clearing away and getting ready to discharge Cargo
  • Sunday 10 this is a beautifull Day  it seems like our Spring mornings at home only the birds are to [too] large to sing
  • Monday 11 this morning thick and foggy  the Sailors Denied Duty and trying to run away  afternoon Sailors all gon.  Capt York & Wife & Mrs. Bluny Capt Edwards & Wife made a call  Thomas went to Lemia [Lima, Peru] in the Cars
  • Tuesday 12 Thomas on Shore most all Day  took Jack [Eli’s dog?] with him and lost him, Commenced discharging the Ship with a new gang of Sailors  I alone most all the time and reparing dresses to Make some calls if Pleasant
  • Thursday 21 a Pleasant morning  went on Shore with Thomas & Eli  met with Capt Purington & Lady Capt Harriman & Lady Capt. Edwards & Lady Mr. Hart & Capt. Emons &  all went to Lima in the Cars  had a social time  took a long walk where there was beautifull trees  then went into two Churches that was splendid  walked round and saw the City wich is not vary pretty
  • Monday 25 on board the Ship  sewing all day  Thomas on shore most of the day  Eli goes to the shore [illegible] four times a day in the boat with the boys  caugt one of the runaway Sailors to day
  • Tuesday 26 I am washing to Day  finished in the forenoon  the afternoon had caller on board, lost the runaway Sailor through carelessness  spoilt Thomases nights rest and did not help me to sleep any sounder than usual.
  • Wensday 27 I am all alone to day and vary lonesome  Thomas on shore full of business bothered with the Sailors  they are all sorts of cretures
  • Thursday 28 In the morning ironing and doing other chores  Afternoon sewing, the Ship Sam Duning came up from the Island.  One of the Men got hurt  (he was) to work in the hole
  • Friday 29 this morning fine and Pleasant  Thomas been on shore to the market  Eli went with him & says he see nothing but beef and Old womn  Capt Skoldfield of Ship Sam Duning [from Brunswick, Maine] and a number of others on board afternoon  Capt Skoldfield on board  Thomas went on board his Ship with him and spent evening
  • Thursday 12 alone most of the day  finished Discharging Coals  Thomas and Eli on shore this afternoon Bonny[?] in the cabbin with me  quite good company  better than none
  • Saturday 13 alone to day  Thomas gon to Lema, afternoon Customhouse officers on board the Ship

rock islandJune 15th, the Scioto left Callao, headed for the Chinces Islands for some of “the good stuff”:

  • Monday 15 Pleasant  the Capt gon on to lima  I washing  Eli waiting on me. All confusion on board the Ship getting ready for the Chinces [Chincha Islands, Peru]
  • Tuesday 16 AM Sailed for the Chincy Island  PM wind all died away and left us in a calm
  • Thursday 18 fine breeze to the SE I am Mending for Eli and Thomas on deck most of the time do day a Ship in company he takes to be the Sun Shine Cap Purse (?) from Calloa bound to the Chinces Islands for some of the good stuff
  • Sunday 21 Pleasant and light breeze to the SE  I have been on deck this afternoon looking at the Ships that are in company with us bound to the Chinces  Thomas on Deck most of the time so I am alone  Eli is all over the Ship  cant keep him with me except he is asleep.
  • Tuesday 23 Still to sea  Thomas on Deck walking to pass away the time  I ironing  Eli on deck with the men  rather lonesome to day
  • Wensday 24 not arrived to the Chinces yet  head winds and heavy sea  it puts me in mind of the Cape Horn
  • Thursday 25 in Sight of the Chinses nothing but head Winds  Thomas Skolding about his bad luck  everybody beating him

gulls green dockThe Scioto arrived at the Chincha Islands, Peru, home of the marine birds that produced the commodity so valued by Europeans — guano. The sailors shoveled guano; captains and their wives socialized:

  • Friday 26 AM Arrived at the Chinces at last  all well  a number of Yanky Capt came on board to escort us in and help to Moor the Ship  Capt Night took Thomas on shore and I am alone again  Evening Capt Mitchell on board and spent the evening
  • Sunday 28 vary Still and lonely  Ships with their Cullers [colors/flags] flying Afternoon Capt Edwards Wife 2 Children on board and made a social call  Evening Capt Mitchell spent the evening with us.
  • Monday 29 Washing this morning  Thomas gon on board som Ship  Eli waiting on me. Afternoon a Plenty of callers  Capt York & Wife Capt Freeman & Wife & Capt Goodens Capt Edwards & Wife Mrs Hariman & Mrs Purington Capt Whipple  all made a gentell call
  • Tuesday 30 at 6 oclock AM  Thomas went to see the Ship Edwin Fly go to sea  Eli & I takes our breakfast in the aft cabin alone so we can enjoy it better and take our own time. Thomas making Calls on business
  • Wensday July the 1  all in good health and Spirits  Thomas gon to help Capt Cooper Ship Gull Haven to sea  I sewing all day
  • Friday 3 Thomas gon on Shore  Eli with him  I sewing all day  afternoon Ship Reporter Arived here  Dr Coke Called to see a sick Sailor, so passes away the time

blue fireworksThe Fourth of July, 1857, ended with celebrations on all the ships except for one:

  • Saturday the glorious & all seem to respect the day the Ships fireing Salutes. Thomas gon again to assist Capt Burges to Sea Ship OS(?) Talbot bound to Callao and Gaudaloop  this is the evening of the fourth  the Americans are fireing and ringing their bells and sending up Ski Rockets and wherrawing and making all the noise they can except the Scioto and her crew. This is the fourth at the Chincy Islands.

Next blog in one week: Diary of Betsey Alexander, Part 3: A Passenger Comes Aboard

Sources:

  • The Diary of Betsey Alexander: September 25, 1856, to January 17, 1858. Photocopied by Arlene L. Bradbury, Pownal, before 2001
  • Digital images from http://www.morguefile.com
  • “A Singleness of Purpose” The Skolfields and Their Ships. Reynolds, Ermini S, and Kenneth R. Martin, Maine Maritime Museum, Bath, 1987
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About Barbara Desmarais

Writer and amateur historian
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