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Thursday, June 26, 2014

Death of a baby

Once upon a time there was a really pretty whaling wife

 Her name was Elizabeth Brightman, usually known as "Lizzie."

On July 3, 1872, she married George Fox Brightman ... and just one month later he sailed off on a four-year voyage, as first mate of the whaling bark California.

It was a common story with New England wives, but as we know a few did manage to join their husbands at sea. This was a privilege mostly confined to the wives of captains, though, so Lizzie had to wait until George was given his own command -- of the same ship California.

On November 8, 1876, that's exactly what she did -- she left port on board the ship.  It was the start of a remarkable career.

Over the next thirteen years she made three four-year voyages, circling the world three times.

She learned to navigate, and took charge of the ship when George was down in a boat chasing whales, or was too sick to preside on the quarterdeck.

If the steward was sick ... or drunk ... or had run away, she did his job, taking over the cabin housekeeping duties.

She became famous for bringing good luck to the ship. But her own luck ran out when she had a baby on Norfolk Island.  It was April 19, 1882.  Little Georgie died three days later, and the sad parents buried him in the old cemetery.

When Lizzie and George arrived home, they had a gravestone and foot-marker made, and carried them to the island, where they put up the stones, and had a fence erected around the grave, New England fashion. You can see what it was like in this very old picture taken at the time.

 And this is how it looks now.

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