Flying fish and salt horse: seafaring tales

Today we are starting a new feature, a daily diary entry from the journal of 16 year old Richard Peele Hobson aboard the ship Philanthropist, as it sailed from Liverpool with a cargo of coal for Rio de Janeiro, and then around treacherous Cape Horn to Callao in Peru to pick up a rich cargo of guano. Hobson, from Old Bolingbroke in Lincolnshire, had signed up for the voyage for the adventure, a decision he occasionally rued.

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The first volume of Hobson’s journal, a plain exercise book (ms38777)

There are 2 parts of the journal; the first we bought at auction in 2010, and then remarkably came across the second part last year, which completes the return journey to London. Some days there are long entries, some are very brief, sometimes there is no entry at all. Hobson writes of stowaways, storms, death on board, encounters with other ships, seamen’s customs, the daily routine and friendships with the crew, life in Rio de Janeiro and other ports, the less than desirable food on board, seasickness and homesickness.

The first entry is dated 30th July 1859, Liverpool:

“Came on board. Hauled out a rope first then I and Ned were cleaning up decks all day after. Ship got loose nearly run into an American ship in the middle of night, turned out for about 15 minutes. Turned in again. Had no hammocks or berth put our beds on sails in room, slept with our clothes on.”

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Hobson came from a comfortable rural background where sleeping with his clothes on was odd enough to be remarked upon. This was only the first of many discomforts and hardships he was to experience on the 15 month trip. I hope you will come with us on the journey and find out more about Hobson and life at sea in the mid-19th century.

-MS

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