Olmsted was a passenger aboard the whaler North American [a temperance ship] in 1839, a trip taken as a kind of rest cure for his chronic nervous debility. He returned to Yale for medical school and in fact graduated but died in 1844 after a second voyage.
p. 52-53: The forecastle of the North American is much larger than those of most ships of her tonnage, and is scrubbed out regularly every morning. There is a table and a lamp, so that the men have convenience for reading and writing if they choose to avail themselves of them; and many of them are practicing writing every day or learning how to write. Their stationery they purchase out of the ship’s stores, and then come to one of the officers or myself for copies, or to have their pens mended. When not otherwise occupied, they draw books from the library in the cabin, and read; or if they do not know how, get some one to teach them. Sailors, as a general thing, are ready to avail themselves of any opportunities for mental improvement; and I have no doubt the efforts of the benevolent in supplying ships with good books and tracts, will be attended with great success. Notwithstanding the immorality that is to be so much deplored among seamen, they have generally a respect for religion and its observances. It is very gratifying to take a look at the forecastle upon the Sabbath in pleasant weather. Perfect stillness prevails aboard the ship; no loud talking is allowed, while the ‘people,’ after washing and dressing themselves neatly, are seated around the forecastle, or upon the windlass, poring over the Bible or some tract.
p. 76: Having always had a penchant for medical studies, I brought among my books for the voyage, several works upon medicine, which have been studied with great interest. In several cases of sickness that we have had, Capt. R., has had confidence enough in me to consult me, and very fortunately, in every instance my suggestions have proved successful….
p. 128: With the name of fisherman we are apt to associate ideas of rudeness and ignorance; but as a general fact, the crews of our whalemen are fully as intelligent as the average of seamen…most of the crew of whalemen are young men, with whom the stirring scenes and dangers of the whaling business have a romantic charm, which comports well with their adventurous spirits. Their officers are many of them scientific navigators….
p. 152, Mr. Freeman’s recipe for duff: To a quantity of flour, more or less, (more would be preferable in Mr. F’s opinion,) wet up with equal parts of salt and fresh water and well stirred, add a quantity of ‘slush’ or lard, and yeast; the mixture to be boiled in a bag, until it can be dropped from the top-gallant cross-trees on deck, without breaking, when it is cooked.