Nimrod of the Sea; Or, The American Whaleman.

p. 93, on facilities for seamen in Honolulu, providing a reading-room, a good library, and help in writing home: And let me here alarm the Christian hearts of the American people by informing them that in no other Christian port on the west coast of America was there a door to welcome or a roof to shelter the sixteen thousand souls engaged in whaling, other than that of a gaming-house, a grog-shop, or a brothel.

p. 156: Sept. 5. It is about three weeks since we took our last whale, and we have had the greatest trial which attend the whalemen. The dullness and tedium of life on board ship at such quiet times are almost unendurable. The uninterrupted fine weather, the steady trade-wind, the daily routine of make sail, man mast-heads, scrub decks; breakfast, dinner, supper; shorten sail, boat’s-crew watch, and “turn in,” give not a line for a journal. The men become morose and quarrelsome; we hate each other, and numerous scores are run up, and appointments made to fight them out in the first port we make. …All the whales seem to have gone to the bottom for a Rip Van Winkle nap. We all know they can do this, though it is contrary to the books, which tell us that they are warm-blooded mammals: even this is not the worst names the learned have given them. But whales are uneducated, don’t take the papers, and without thought of irregularity, stay down to suit their convenience an hour or a week.

p. 191-92, Sept. 20 (Sunday): We have on board a scant ship’s library of uninteresting religious books, provided by some Seaman’s Friend Society with kindly intent, and an inexhaustible store of tracts entirely too childish for men famishing for intellectual food. We turn unsatisfied from these dying experiences of some good souls as they descend to the dark stream of death, as we live habitually so close to the brink of the somber river that we are not impressed by them. Pardon me for speaking plainly, but the picture of our life would be incomplete if I withheld expression of the thoughts of the forecastle on such subjects. The comments of the men on these tracts, if hard by the givers would not encourage their distribution. Seamen se so little difference between the partial and capricious Deity pictured by the dyspeptic fancies of presumptuous writers and their own officers, that they mix up in a disrespectful jumble captain, gods, and mates. [Davis goes on to describe his reading of the “old heathen” Pythagoras, concluding thus:] And this reading seemed to satisfy their sense of the relation between themselves and their Author. They may not have known, but I think they felt, that the power of this Deity found expression in the beautiful and wonderful works in which we live.

p. 243, en route to Maui, following a gam with a passing whaler: The visit was at an end: Captain West went to his own ship, and our mate’s boat returned, with some interesting books, secured in exchange for those we had exhausted.

p. 260: In consequence of uncongenial surroundings, I feel very lonely and restive Only three foremast hands in our watch speak English, and but one with whom I can speak on subject other than those of our passing life. The yarn, the song, and the skylark are seldom heard charming the hours and banishing the drowse of the nightwatch as of old. The books in our library are of such a class as only to increase the gloom and melancholy. A few books of worth would serve much to brighten the dark, long, lone path that opens up before us. But cast on my own resources, I may be weeding tares from my garden, and growing truer to my own nature. Who knows? A whale-chase to stir us from this deadly stupor would be a Godsend.

p. 291, on St. Elmo’s fires, an illusion of flames on nearby decks, masts, or even the sea. Quotes both Shakespeare and Longfellow on the subject.

p. 323: The next day I went on board his vessel and receive a number of books; but I fear much they were not peculiarly adapted to the wants of our boys.