1858 - Shaw, D. D. A gallop to the Antipodes, Returning Overland through India [New Zealand sections only] - Chapter I. Preliminaries of the Voyage, p 1-9

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  1858 - Shaw, D. D. A gallop to the Antipodes, Returning Overland through India [New Zealand sections only] - Chapter I. Preliminaries of the Voyage, p 1-9
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ON my arrival in London to make the requisite preparations for a second trip to the antipodes, I for some time keenly debated with myself whether Liverpool or the metropolis should be my starting-point. Unable to decide, each port appearing to have its advantages and disadvantages, I took up the advertising sheet of the world-wide Times in hopes of finding something to assist me in coming to a decision in the matter. My eye, on running over its pages, falling upon the advertisement. -- "Steam to Australia under sixty days eclipsed," thanks to science, said I, for having achieved one of the wonders of the nineteenth century, for that science has shortened in a most wonderful manner the voyage from these shores to the antipodes; no stronger proof can be produced than the following --that on my way to that region in 1850, I spent 150 days on the water: in 1857 but 72 days only.

It will be allowed, I think, that the inference

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which I drew from this advertisement was not at all an illogical one, viz., that certain Liverpool vessels of clipper build had frequently run from these shores to the antipodes in less than 60 days, beating a renowned steamer, "The Royal Charter;" but since then I have had a little light thrown on the subject. The facts appear to be that the steamer "Royal Charter" once upon a time performed the outward voyage to Australia in 50 days, but the bottom of the vessel having become faulty, she became so lazy that she was 90 days on one occasion in accomplishing her voyage home. A sailing clipper that started with the "Royal Charter" having made the return trip in 80 days, thereby beating her by ten, the proprietors of a certain line of clipper vessels at Liverpool were induced to send to the Times the advertisement alluded to. How far this step was consistent with mercantile honour is for the commercial world, not for me, to determine. And little difficulty will any right-minded man have in coming to a correct decision in the matter; for surely it does not by any means follow as a logical sequence that because a sailing clipper beat, a steamer clipper ten days in a home run of 90 days, that the former accomplished her voyage to the antipodes in less than 60 days, as the advertisement, "Steam to Australia in 60 days eclipsed," was intended to make the world believe. Were the champion of all England, while engaged in a running match, to be suddenly seized with paralysis in one leg and articular rheumatism in the other, his antagonist, instead of having anything to boast of, would necessarily feel, if possessed of the smallest portion of common sense, that on such an

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occasion a few faded common cabbage-leaves round his brow would infinitely more become him than those noble leaves which everywhere adorn the warrior's brow. The steamer "yal Charter" in her foul state, and this champion of England with his rheumatic and paralytic affection, appear to me so analogous that they may, without any very great violation of the principles of logic, be placed in the same category.

But notwithstanding this boasted triumph of sails over steam, in the true spirit of the advertisement, I never for a moment felt disposed to cancel the resolve I had previously taken to have nothing to do with canvass in all time coming, having often experienced its disadvantages during my previous voyage to Australia, especially in crossing the tropical calms. In passing from the N. E. to the S. E. trade-winds these calms prevail, and sometimes occupy a space of from 300 to 400 miles, a gap to get over which vessels have been known to occupy the greater part of a complete month, suffering all the torture arising from the burning heat of a tropical sun, the effect of which is not only severely felt by the passengers, but is frequently detrimental, yea even destructive, if not carefully watched, to sundry portions of the wardrobes of those on board; all which delay, torture, and suffering may be entirely obviated under the benign and powerful influence of steam, the screw and the paddle-wheel. For that which requires from ten to fourteen days for its completion, under canvass, may be effected by steam in two or two and-a-half days.

Taking up the Times one morning, my eye soon rested upon an advertisement couched in modest

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and unpretending language, intimating that the Undaunted steam clipper ship would leave the British shores for Melbourne on a given day, and was expected to make the run in seventy-two days. At first sight I, as a traveller, did not much relish the idea of losing ten or twelve complete days in the passage out, which would have been the case if the voyage had ordinarily been performed in sixty days. But though the "Undaunted" was a new ship, and about to proceed on her trial trip, I, putting a little down to exaggeration in the Liverpool advertisement, and trusting to the "Undaunted" turning out a better vessel than even her owners gave her credit for, resolved to proceed to the antipodes by her, and to fix the matter I at once proceeded to the agent and paid him the half of the fare, requesting him to favour me with the precise date she was to leave Plymouth, the port from which she was to take her departure.

The 28th of May, being the day fixed for the "Undaunted" leaving Plymouth, I took leave rather hurriedly of some old and kind friends in the forenoon of the 27th, and proceeding by an express train in the afternoon, arriving at Bath a little before sunset, where the departing rays of Sol shone gloriously on those hills that form the most beautiful landscapes to be found in the world, as they terminated the boundary line of the horizon, merging into the unique and unparalleled ranges of beautiful hills which characterize the far-famed county of Devon.

On the surface of this widely-extended world of ours there are to be found many, many beautiful spots, which, once seen, deeply impress the

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soul, and are conjured up, and majestically drawn again and again, when fancy reigns supreme before the mental vision of the traveller; and, although he may never view the place a second time, the impression accompanies him to the grave, and may never lose its hold, even in the regions of vast eternity.

"A thing of beauty is a joy for ever!"

Such, in my opinion, is the county of Devon. In journeying from the valley of Chamouni to Geneva, some faint resemblance to the Devonshire hills is presented to the eye of the traveller. In the Azores, the physical configuration of the country is somewhat analogous; and, in other parts of the world, faint traces or points of resemblance may be observed, but, taking it all in all, it stands without a rival--isolated and alone in the world--a perfect and unique picture of English landscape.

Finding on my arrival at Plymouth that I would have a complete week for sight-seeing, the sailing of the vessel having been put off to the 5th of June (so much for punctuality), I embraced the opportunity thus afforded me of visiting the Docks, the Victualling Department, Mount Edgecombe, Ivy-bridge, and other places of minor importance. In my previous visit to Plymouth, some twenty years before, I was quite delighted with the execution of the members of the Marine band, then reckoned the best performers in the kingdom. In hopes of finding the band of 1857 equal in all respects to that of 1837, I strolled as far as the barracks to listen to their entrancing notes, but was invariably dis-

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appointed until the evening before I was to embark, when I succeeded in my object. But oh, what a falling off was there! I had anticipated a rich treat, from associating them with the band of bygone days; but, though sorry should I be to pass an unjust censure upon any body of men, and above all upon any portion of the musical community, with whom I deeply sympathize at all times and in all countries, I feel bound to state, in justice to myself as a little bit of a connoisseur in music, that I derived scarcely any pleasure whatever from the performances of the then Plymouth Marine Band. If any of the members of the band of 1857 were the sons of those of 1837, the mantle of Elijah had evidently not fallen upon Elisha.

Hearing that the "Undaunted" was about to sail, I hastened to the Agents, when meeting with the captain--and being told by him that I might go on board on the following day; ay, on the afternoon of that day, took leave of mine host of the hotel, and with my trappings proceeded in a small boat to the clipper steamer, then at anchor about a mile and a half from the shore, expecting a hearty welcome, although on approaching her a sad presentiment came over me that all was not right, or that some impediment or impending danger was near.

It being almost dark, I scrambled up the side of the vessel in the best manner I could, but ere I had reached the deck a midshipman greeted me with, "Are you the cabin passenger for this ship?"

And on being answered in the affirmative, he retorted, "Be so good as to see the chief officer,

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who is now in the cuddy, before hauling up your baggage."

Proceeding as requested, the chief officer told me that the agent in Plymouth had instructed him to prevent me going out in the "Undaunted," the Government having chartered her for the conveyance of emigrants, the majority of whom were single women, and it being contrary to law and custom to carry other passengers under such circumstances. Perfectly astounded at this peremptory declaration, having so recently seen both the captain and the agent, neither of whom had made the slightest allusion to the subject, I could not help remarking that I had been treated by owners, agent, and captain in a manner altogether unworthy of the character of British merchants and sailors; but the only remark that this drew from the chief officer was, "Certain orders are given, and all I have got to do is to obey them."

At this moment another individual who was seated at the same table with his superior, cracking nuts, and sipping a little of the juice of the grape, addressed me, in a tone of voice which betokened a little sympathy, thus: "I tell you what it is," --here he paused, for a moment, assuming a judge-like aspect, and then with somewhat of energy as well as gesture arising from the deep conviction that he was pronouncing a most elevated thought, proceeded to deliver himself of the profound conclusion he had come to on the subject in nearly the following words: "If you are determined to go out in the vessel there is only one way of doing it, and that is by signing the articles." This, which might very appropriately be termed shock the second from the electric battery of

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the purser, was certainly the full realization of my previous presentiments.

On my way from the ship to the inn many unpleasant reflections arose in my breast; and not the least was, that its worthy occupants might fancy that they had been harbouring a person of bad character--a member of the swell-mob. On my return to the inn, therefore, I related to them all that had passed between the ship's officers and myself. On mentioning the kind suggestion of the purser, the landlord's daughter, a most intelligent woman, said, with an air of remonstrance, --"Why, if you sign the ship's articles, you will be completely in their power, and you must not be at all surprised if you are ordered to do the dirty work of an under steward, or that of a cuddy waiter. Sign the articles, indeed! why it is even possible that they may maltreat you. Sign the articles," she continued, with a dignified air; "why, you would be at the beck and call of every sub-official, who might ill-use you and abuse you. Much better would it be for you, a gentleman, to jump into African slavery at once --live in a desert, and die in a bog--than sign the ship's articles, and run the risk of suffering such indignities at their hands."

At the close of this outpouring of the young lady's wrath, she, acting the part of a Job's comforter, said that I might make up my mind to lose my passage, for great indeed must the interest of that gentleman be who could obtain from her Majesty's Government permission to proceed as a passenger in a vessel carrying from 200 to 300 female emigrants, the greater portion being unmarried.

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But, though my prospects were not of the brightest kind, I, with the full resolve of doing all I could to obtain leave to occupy a berth in the "Undaunted," instantly proceeded to the agent's; and, after mentioning to him that I had felt so much interest in the cause of emigration that I had not only aided many emigrants with my personal advice, hut had been induced to write a little work in its favour, he advised me to lay my case before the Emigration Commissioners in London, and, as they were expected at Plymouth the following day, to meet them at his office on their arrival. Upon this advice I acted; but, my letter not being received by them before they left London, I furnished them with a copy on their arrival in Plymouth, with a copy of my work on emigration, and with such testimonials as I had with me; and, after waiting rather anxiously for half an hour, I was kindly favoured with a passport to proceed, to the no small astonishment of my friends at the hotel, I being the first to whom they had ever heard of such a favour being granted under similar circumstances.

Those who may do me the favour to dip into the preceding pages may fancy that this lengthened account of myself savours strongly of egotism. I beg therefore to state that they were written, not from anything like an egotistical motive, but to warn all emigrants--or those who, like myself, take occasional trips of pleasure to the colonies--against the tricks of agents and a certain class of shipowners, who, to obtain colonial passengers, are often not over-scrupulous as to the means they employ.

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