Crossing the Atlantic in 1855 – 3 – Icebergs!

May 3

Iceberg2.jpgThe air is cold which shows our near approach to ice.  At 5 o’clock this afternoon I was looking over the ship’s bulwark and was the fist to notice a large irregular lump of ice* right ahead of us on the horizon.  I immediately gave the alarm and in a few minutes everybody was on deck to get a sight of it.  We were going very fast at the time and in about half an hour we passed it at no great distance.  It was pure white and had a splendid appearance.  It was supposed to be about 60 feet below the water and 30 above.  There were 3 smaller pieces floating not far from it.


About 6 o’clock a signal was given that there was a ship right ahead.  They hoisted a flag and we returned the compliment by hoisting another in return.  The Captain and first mate were busy with glasses to see who she was.  She turned out to be one of the Black Ball line of Clippers, Liverpool** returning from America.   We were glad to see her as we have seen nothing of the kind for a fortnight.  She was making for our Native homeland. 


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May 4

Complete hurricane of wind last night with some rain…waves dashing oil over the deck with fearful violence betimes.  I was greatly amused band could not refrain from laughing at some of the water cans that got loose about midnight and tumbled about on the floor just as though some “Chiel”*** had been amusing himself with beating on the bottom of an old white iron pail. 

We were enveloped this morning in a close mist and the sea very rough also.  One of the sailors is doing nothing but lowing a tin horn in case of coming in contact with any ship in the mist. Our bell likewise ringing every 15 minutes…The ship has been heaving terrible all day long.  Some of us have been getting terrible tumbles, everybody laughing heartily at their neighbours. Sometimes very dangerous but nobody hurt very seriously as yet.

May 6  Sunday

Quiet night.  Two whales were seen near the ship in the forenoon making the water spout a great height into the air…This is my third Sabbath on the Mighty Deep.  I indeed feel very thankful to our ever merciful Father in Heaven for his kindness toward us in this voyage.  Truly he “holds the winds in his fists and the water in the hollow of his hands.”  He indeed “walketh on the wings of the wind”

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*Icebergs still pose a risk to vessels in the Grand Banks of Newfoundland and every year there are hundreds of them that pass in what is called Iceberg Alley.  This spring, 2017, has seen a much higher number of icebergs and ships are having to alter their course to avoid them.  It was in April 1912 that the famous Titanic disaster happened in the north Atlantic.   You can see where icebergs are  currently along the Newfoundland coast with a real-time map at this iceberg finder website.

**The Black Ball ship line made passages from New York and Boston to Liverpool and also from Liverpool to Australia during the 1850’s.  The ship’s flag was a Black Ball on a red background and there was also a big black ball on one of the main sails.  I tried to locate what ship might be crossing from America to Britain in May 1855 but have not found it…yet.8fc0b8a0f5909be917d9be9498ac38a8.jpg

*** “Chiel” is an old Scottish variant of child.

2 thoughts on “Crossing the Atlantic in 1855 – 3 – Icebergs!

  1. What a fascinating journal – thank heaven you have it and can share it. Looking forward to the next episode.

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