Arctic Rovings; Or, The Adventures of a New Bedford Boy on Sea and Land.

A youthful autobiographical account of the cruelty of unjust captains in exercising their power. The whaler was the Condor and the Captain a Mr. Whiteside. Records various incidents that “relieve the monotony of sea life”: a man overboard; a suicide under delirium tremens; beatings for no apparent reason by a vindictive captain; the thrill of “There she blows!”

p. 29-30: From the commencement of the voyage the discipline of the ship had been maintained with a degree of severity altogether uncalled for, and in my opinion, unjustifiable. It is not my present intention to cast reproach upon any one on board the Condor… but, I shall, in the course of my narrative, describe a few cases of punishment in which I was myself particularly concerned. In doing this, I shall “naught extenuate, nor set down aught in malice” [Othello]; and having stated facts in plain terms, I shall leave the reader to judge for himself in regard to the treatment received by the crew of the Condor, at the hands of the commander and superior officers. [Hall goes on to tell a hair raising account of the captain’s sadistic malice which eventually caused Hall to escape the ship in Siberia; at home his father later sued Captain Whiteside, who on bail went on to captain the Charles W. Morgan. The case which Hall asks the reader to judge for himself is a compelling one.]

p. 43-47, when he and another off duty sailor named Pope were “sky-larking”: For the benefit of my landsmen readers, I will state in this connection, that in the term sky-larking, is comprehended wrestling, sparring, and all the other athletic sports and boisterous pastimes, by which sailors seek to assuage the tedium vit æ , or relieve the exuberance of animal spirits.

On this particular occasion Pope and myself were having a “set to” at sparring, merely for the fun of the thing, and without the slightest ill will or anger upon either side.

While amusing ourselves in this manner, the mate came forward, and ordering us on deck, bade us walk aft and report ourselves to the captain.

The captain was pacing the quarter deck at the time, apparently in very bad humor; but as Pope and myself approached him, he greeted us with an oath, which I will not shock the reader by repeating, and immediately ordered us to the mast head, telling us to remain there until we received permission to come down.

In obedience to this command, Pope ascended to the main top-gallant cross-tress, while I clambered up the mizzen rigging and perched myself upon the royal yard. We were allowed to remain at our posts for about half an hour; for what reason I cannot imagine, unless, indeed, it were that we might have sufficient time to reflect upon the enormity of the crime we had just committed, and repent of our sins before receiving their well merited punishment. If this were really so, I fear we were not sufficiently grateful for this clemency on the part of our kind hearted commander; but I digress.

We were at length commanded to come down, and stationed side by side near the mizzen rigging; when the captain informed us that we had been “making believe fight for our own amusement we should now fight in earnest for his,” adding, that whoever got whipped should receive a flogging from him also.

Having no alternative but to obey, we commenced fighting, taking care, however to strike as lightly as we dared under the circumstances. After a few minutes of this compulsory fighting, Pope gave up, saying that I was too much for him; but this was not sufficient to satisfy the captain, who exclaimed: “That is no fighting at all!” adding with an oath, “I will show you how to fight and help you myself in the bargain.”

He then procured a short whip, having several lashes of small tarred cords, similar to what is known on shipboard as the ‘Cat,’ and, to my surprise, ordered me ‘to strip!’ The reader can well imagine, that I obeyed this command most unwillingly: I was completely in his power, however, and neither dared to disobey, or even to express my indignation at this piece of injustice. I accordingly removed all my clothing above the waist; after which, the captain bade me “take fast hold of the mizzen belaying pins,” and not to let go when he struck, unless “I wished to receive a double portion.” He then proceeded to give me eighteen blows upon my bare back, with the whip, laying them on with his whole strength, and causing the blood to flow freely at nearly every blow; after which he handed the instrument to Pope, and bade him give me half a dozen.” This was promptly done; the blows which I received from my fellow sufferer, however, being far less painful than those given me by the captain. [Pope then received eighteen blows from the Captain and none from Hall.]

We were then allowed to resume our clothing, and, with many curses, were ordered to return to the forecastle. We suffered intensely for many days afterwards, from the effects of this flogging, and it was with no little difficulty that we performed our duties: Still, we dared not complain, for we knew to well the temper of our commander; and were well aware that a still more painful punishment would attend a refusal to perform our appropriate labors.

[The remainder of the book recounts Hall’s escape from the ship, his adventures in Siberia, his rescue following his father’s advertisement in New Bedford for other whalemen to seek his son on their whaling journeys, and finally his reunion with his father in New Bedford.