Wednesday 12 October 1836

[, on board the wrote. | Read source notes.]

<p>Barque Africaine in the Indian Ocean, Wednesday 12 October 1836. JM Skipper, 1836. Image courtesy of the National Library of Australia></p>

OCTOBER 12.-Although several times we had had very high winds and rough weather we had not as yet had anything that could be called a storm, but this day and the following night we were destined to experience such a one as the oldest sailor on board had not seen for many years, and in which they declared many a vessel would have foundered and gone down. In the morning there was nothing more than a stiff breeze, but about noon it rose considerably, and continued to increase till it became a complete hurricane. The vessel plunged and rolled from side to side in such a manner that those who had never been to sea can have no idea of, and the waves dashed over the ship with fearful violence. The captain, mates, and crew were upon the deck the whole night. For myself, I neither undressed nor lay down, but continued sitting at my cabin door, listening to and watching the progress of the storm, which from 9 to 12 o’clock was truly awful. The wind then lowered a little for about an hour, when it again rose with redoubled fury, and so continued till daylight. Then it ceased blowing with violence, but the agitation of the sea continued unabated for several hours.

Fortunately our lamp, which hung midway between the cabins, and which was usually extinguished at 10 o’clock, was on this occasion suffered to burn the whole night. I was very glad of such a companion, as I was sitting alone, being, I believe, the only passenger who was so foolish, it may be called, as to sit up. But I could not be satisfied otherwise, for had an accident occurred we would have been instantly overflowed, as, notwithstanding the hatches were close shut, the water frequently came over the decks with such force as to pour through the crevices in torrents. About midnight a sailor came down with a pail and a mop to soak it up, and again at 6 o’clock in the morning, when, as I thought, the storm being over, we would have no more for that time. I followed with a cloth, and made the floor as dry as I could, but had scarcely finished when a tremendous wave dashed through a square hole which had been left open, and not only completely deluged the part which the sailor and I had been so industriously endeavouring to dry, but also overflowed my own cabin, which till then had escaped such a disaster.

I could not help laughing, though I was well drenched myself, to see our work so quickly undone, but the only remedy was to do it again, which I did without the help of the sailor, who probably was not aware of what had happened.

I have often said that I would like to witness a storm at sea, but then I meant myself to be on dry land and only a spectator of the warring elements, for little did I conceive the terrors of such an awful scene. Yet, as it pleased God to bring us safely through the danger, I am not now sorry that I have heard the terrific roar of the winds and the rush of the mighty waters, though I candidly confess that I do not wish to hear them in like manner again. We had one satisfaction, however, and that was that the wind, though violent, was still in our favour, and sent us swiftly on.

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