December 1831 Archives

Enf of year porpoises

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In the morning very uncomfortable; got up about noon & enjoyed some few moments of comparative ease. A shoal of porpoises dashing round the vessel & a stormy petrel skimming over the waves were the first objects of interest I have seen.

I spent a very pleasant afternoon lying on the sofa, either talking to the Captain or reading Humboldt glowing accounts of tropical scenery. Nothing could be better adapted for cheering the heart of a sea-sick man.

Christmas Day: not a sober man in the ship

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Went to Church in the morning and founf there old Cambridge friend Hoare.

I dined at 4 oclock with Gunroom officers, it does me good occasionally dining there, for it makes me properly grateful for my good luck in living with the Captain. The officers are all good friends yet there is a want of intimacy, owing I suppose to gradation of rank, which much destroys all pleasure in their society.

The probability of quarrelling & the misery on ship board consequent on it produces an effect contrary to what one would suppose. Instead of each one endeavouring to encourage habits of friendship, it seems a generally received maxim that the best friends soon turn out the greatest enemies.

It is a wonder to me that this independence one from another, which is so essential a part of a sailors character, does not produce extreme selfishness. I do not think it has this effect, & very likely answers their end in lessening the number of quarrels which always must necessarily arise in men so closely united. Let the cause be what it may, it is quite surprising that the conversation of active intelligent men who have seen so much & whose characters are so early & decidedly brought out should be so entirely devoid of interest.

Christmas day is one of great importance to the men: the whole of it has been given up to revelry, at present there is not a sober man in the ship: King is obliged to perform duty of sentry, the last one sentinel came staggering below declaring he would no longer stand sentinel on duty, whereupon he is now in irons getting sober as fast as he can.

Wherever they may be, they claim Christmas day for themselves, & this they exclusively give up to drunkedness -- that sole & never failing pleasure to which a sailor always looks forward to.

It's becoming wearisome

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It is daily becoming more wearisome remaining so long in harbour; at last I have nothing more to do. Every thing is on board & we only wait for the present wind to blow cease & we shall then sail.

This morning it blew a very heavy gale from that unlucky point SW. The Beagle struck her Top Gallant masts & veered her yards to the wind.

Ever slept in a hammock?

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I'm writing this on board. It's about one o'clock & I am determined to sleep in my hammock. I slept in it for the first time last night and experienced a most ludicrous difficulty in getting into it; I shouldn't have put my legs in first.

As the hammock was suspended, I only succeded in pushing it away without making any progress in inserting my own body. It seems the correct method is to sit accurately in the centre of the hammock, then give yourself a dexterous twist and your head and feet just ... come into their respective places. After a little time I daresay I shall, like others, find it very comfortable.

In the morning the ship rolled a good deal, but I did not feel uncomfortable; this gives me great hopes of escaping sea sickness. Others hope so too. Let our hopes not be confounded.

I will now go & wish Stuart (officer on duty) good night & then practise my skill in vaulting into my hammock.

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