The Clipper Ship Era: An Epitome of Famous American and British Clipper Ships, Their Owners, Builders, Commanders, and Crews 1843-1869.

p. 29, on ships of East India Company: On Sunday mornings the crew was mustered and inspected by the chief officer, and then assembled for Divine service, which was read by the commander, as the Court of Directors required the captains “to keep up the worship of Almighty God, under a penalty of two guineas for every omission not satisfactorily accounted for in the log-book.”

p. 31: Indeed, the maritime records of the East India Company read more like a naval history than the annals of ships engaged in commercial pursuits.

In some respects these Indiamen were remarkable ships, and they should, like men, be judged by the standards of the times in which they existed. They were owned by a company which for more than two centuries held a monopoly of the British China and East India trade without the spur of competition urging them to perfect their vessels and to exact vigorous service from the officers and crews who sailed them. Under such a system there could be no marked progress in naval science. It would, of course, be an exaggeration to say that there had been no improvement in British shipping from the reign of Queen Elizabeth to the Victorian era, but it was so gradual as to be perceptible only when measured by centuries. Thus we speak of the ships of the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries, and upon examination are surprised to find how few and slight were the improvements made during these three hundred years in the design and construction of hulls or in spars, rigging, and sails. The only striking improvement was a modification of the really beautiful ornamentation which embellished and at the same time lumbered up the lofty hulls of the earlier ships.

p. 148-49, on the work of Matthew Fontaine Maury on winds and currents: In 1856 the captains and officers of a fleet of no less than a thousand merchant ships, sailing under the United States flag upon every sea and ocean, were recording daily and almost hourly observations of the winds and currents. Under the British flag were to be counted the whole Navy of Great Britain and over one hundred merchantmen; under the flag of Holland, two hundred and twenty-five merchant ships and those of the Royal Navy. Besides these there were the ships of France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Belgium, Prussia, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Russia, Chili, Bremen, and Hamburg, all co-operating and assisting this great scientist in his noble work.

Maury’s Physical Geography of the Sea (1853), the first work of the kind which appeared, ran through twenty editions and was translated into French, Dutch, Swedish, Spanish, and Italian. This book treats of the clouds, winds, and currents of the ocean in a scientific yet attractive manner, dispelling the last of the sea myths which forages had been the delight of poets and the terror of sailors, and in their stead relating a story of scientific discovery of greater wonder and beauty than any fable.

Maury’s researches had, however, a very practical side to them. Hunt’s for May, 1854, states that on the outward passages alone from New York to California, Australia, and Rio Janeiro, American ships, through the use of Maury’s Sailing Directions, were saving in time the sum of $2,250,000 per annum, and it is probable that could an estimate have been made of the sav ing in time to all of the ships using the Sailing Directions, the total amount must have consider ably exceeded $10,000,000 per annum.

p. 149-50: In 1861, Lieutenant Maury resigned the office of Chief Superintendent of the National Observatory and Hydrographic Office, deeming it his duty as a Virginian to take the side of his State at the outbreak of the Civil War. Upon this occasion he received letters of invitation from the Grand Duke Constantine offering him residence in Russia and every facility for continuing his scientific researches. A similar offer was made by Prince Napoleon on behalf of France, and also by the Archduke Maximilian of Austria. In 1866 a pecuniary testimonial was presented to Lieutenant Maury at Willis’s Rooms, London, where he was entertained by English naval officers and scientific men of the highest distinction, Sir John Parkington being chairman. England, France, Russia, and Holland contributed 3000 guineas, a substantial token of their esteem and gratitude for his labors in the service of mankind.

p. 184: Off Cape Horn three men fell from aloft, one of whom was drowned while two struck the deck and were killed. The bodies of the men who died were sewn up in canvas with holystones at their feet, and were buried in the sea. Captain Waterman read the funeral service over their remains, but the ship was not hove to as the braces were never al lowed to be started except when absolutely neces sary, owing to the difficulty and danger of handling the yards with such an inferior crew. The bodies of the two men who attempted to murder the chief officer were taken from where they fell and lowered into the sea. Many years afterward Captain Water man told me that he could not bring himself to read the Christian burial service over these corpses, but that he gave the crew permission to take the bodies forward, and offered them canvas, holystones, and a prayer-book with which to hold their own service, but none of the crew would volunteer to bury these men.

The Challenge had moderate winds the whole passage, excepting a succession of westerly gales off Cape Horn, and with her wretched crew besides, there was really no opportunity properly to test her speed. Her best day’s run was only 336 miles, with the wind abeam and skysails set. She was 55 days from Sandy Hook to Cape Horn, thence 34 days to the equator in the Pacific, and 19 days from the equator to San Francisco. The great wonder is, not that Captain Waterman made such a fine passage, but that he succeeded in getting his ship to San Francisco at all.