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Sunday, May 18, 2014

Homeward bound, with turtle soup

On the Friendship their share of the turtle bounty is taken on board, and Eleanor resumes her journal



Next day, when the turtle was divided, three came to our share; they were immense creatures, weighing upwards of 400 pounds each. Our people brought on board several buckets full of turtle eggs, which they found buried in the sand; they were perfectly round, about the size of a small orange, with a soft flexible skin; they also brought off a number of little turtles, about the size of small crabs, and a number of tropic birds, who were so stupid as to suffer themselves to be taken by hand when sitting upon the rocks.

All being ready, we left the island on the 23d of March, and proceeded with a fine strong trade-wind towards the Equator, which we crossed on the 28th of March; from that time until the 3d of April we had much unsettled weather, with squalls, thunder and lightning, and almost constant rain. This was expected about these latitudes: however we now got into the regular north-east trade winds, about four degrees north, and proceeded steadily on, in a north-west direction, until we came to about 23° north, and 37° west, where we fell in with a vast quantity of gulph weed, which at times was so thick in all directions, as to have frightened people unacquainted with its appearance. We were several days sailing through these fields of floating marine substance, and caught many branches of it; they were extremely elegant, and greatly resembled some land plants. Many very curious marine animals were found adhering to these branches.


About the 27th degree of latitude we were clear of the sea-weed, and then began to get into the variable winds, which enabled us to get round the Azores, or Western Islands, but had much bad weather, the ship at times taking in great quantities of water over the decks. This continued until we arrived in soundings off Scilly, where we encountered a most severe gale, in which a poor fellow named Hunt, a seaman, had both thighs broken by the falling of the arm-chest. 

The limbs were immediately set by Doctor L[aird], and Mrs. D. with so much skill and success (notwithstanding the violent motion of the ship) that when the man was afterwards taken to the London Hospital, the surgeons there said the operation did great credit to those who had performed it: the man perfectly recovered, and sailed afterwards with the captain to India. The passengers kindly made up a purse of 30 guinease for this poor fellow.

So who was the resourceful "Mrs. D"?  The wife of either Capt. D. or  Mr. C-- D--, evidently, but in the absence of a passenger list, it is impossible to tell who she was.  Which leaves us with yet another unsung female heroine of the sea ....

1 comment:

Spencer Muirhead said...

The painting is a beautiful example of the tall ships of olden days sailing. However, I could never condone the killing of turtles or thier young to make turtle soup.

I'm happy to say that turtles are now a protected speceis in the Carribean (where turtle soup has bèen very popular). As the saying goes "There are plenty of fish in the sea", so long live turtles.
Buddha Bless, NMRK