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Immigrants on the high seas   -   Part 1

A Voyage letter written by E. Robbins on the S. Parthenope from L.pool to Melbourne, Australia, June to September 1881.   Part 2   Part 3

Ship Parthenope
Thursday June 16th 1881

My Dear Father & Mother & all,
I have not felt anything of sea sickness to-day but could not stay long on deck because of the rain so we went down and put our house in order and we have made it very comfortable considering everything went to bed early.

Friday 17th,Felt rather shaky before rising had breakfast in bed. Walter was very sick indeed. I did not feel it till I got out of bed and that was half past 10 went on deck and was very sick, could not stand at all, it was very rough, the waves dashed over the sides in fine style, went down stairs early. The tug left us about 8 o'clock, it was very rough indeed in the night, talk about being rocked to sleep, we were, if you like, nearly out of bed at times.

Saturday, 18th, very rough, sea don't feel much better, had breakfast in bed. Walter has had to bring everything in as yet, we have had fresh meat every day at each meal, soup extra for dinner, for breakfast we had some of the ham we took and coffee, it was good, we did enjoy it. I think I have got on very well so far. I have not been so bad as some are by all accounts. I tried to do a little at crocheting but found I could not manage very well. Walter has got well in with the cook, he has already given us a plain cake. We tried some of Mr. Fleets marmalade, it was good. There are two Irish women on board, I cannot understand them at all sometimes, the rest seem very nice people. I have had two fleas on me, the carpenter says it is according to the passengers if we have any vermin on us, the people next us are very nice come from L.pool, they have four children, the mother has not been sick at all, they are going out on speck.

Sunday 19th, I feel much better this morning, the sea is much calmer, I got out of bed for the first time for breakfast but felt rather shaky until I came on deck. I have felt better ever since, it seems so queer they don't have any service so we have a reading of our own. It is proper on deck now I am writing this sitting on the bulwarks, the sun is shining grand and a nice clear blue sky, the waves dashing. I do not feel the least afraid. Walter is so good and kind, I feel quite content, it is school time with you, I guess it will be sometime before I attend school again. Walter has quite got over his sickness, we sat and watched the sun set from the bulwarks, saw it sink right down on the water as it were, it looked grand, altogether the day passed very pleasantly.

Monday 20th, such a difference in the weather, the waves rolled and tossed mountains high, I came up for a few minuets but it was so rough and cold I soon went down again and was in bed nearly all day was so sick and could not eat much. They have begun to put us on rations now so we shall have to be careful. I felt a little better towards night, went to bed early. Walter has put up shelves for the preserves pickles etc. he has made the bed every day yet and brings every think from the cook, in fact he looks after me well.

Tuesday 21st, splendid morning had breakfast on deck coffee and marmalade, enjoyed it very well. Started to make Walter a Wool Tam O shanta hat. Dinner we had rice pudding and boiled beef and preserved potatoes. I did not have any but W. said they were nice. After dinner Mrs. Jeffrey and I did some washing and they are now drying on a line across the deck. Mrs. H. is a very nice person indeed, I think we shall get on well together. It is proper, the sky is all blue and sitting up here is grand, the biscuits they give us are very hard.

Wednesday 22nd, we have passed the bay of Biscay, it was awfully rough in the night. W. sleeps very well but I am awake a deal, the bed is a great comfort I am so glad we brought it with us, the floor of the bedroom was pitched so W. has been scraping it of to-day, it was a nasty job. I have finished W.'s hat and am doing some of the fringe. Mrs. Potts taught me, tell her we have not seen any fish yet. Dinner salt pork and soup, the latter was very good, beautiful day. The Captain gave Mrs. J. and I an orange each.

Thursday 23rd, very calm, scarcely a ripple on the waves going very slow, it is very close down stairs to-day we are on deck as much as possible. The 2nd mate is taking his daughter out and he has asked me to make her some under clothes, I shall perhaps start next week if all well.

Friday, 24th, I hardly had any asleep, the ship rocked so, I am beginning to enjoy my food better now, it is very good on the whole, the captain has put up a swing for us, he is a nice man. I am sitting on deck in my chair, it is about 7 o'clock. W. is by me reading, it seems a long time since we left you all and yet only 1 week. I feel alright now I eat plenty they tell me I am getting sunburnt love to you all and Lizzie Patch. I must just add about the sunset it is real grand, every tint imaginable, we are going direct south now.

Saturday 25th, cleaning day all have their beds up to air. W. has scrubed our room and it looks very well we had some very nice bread for tea, we did like it so, there are six in our mess as they call it, we live together and can manage better like that.

They measured the water out to us to-day and give us 4 quarts each, the tinned meat that we got is very good, the vinagar butter too, grandma's preserves is good, give our love to her.

Dear Father & Mother, I have not written any since last Sunday I found if I wrote each day I should not be able to send it as a letter so I thought I had better write weekly, we have had splendid weather all this week we are now about 500 miles of the African coast the ship goes along so steady making from 7 to 10 knots an hour. The carpenter says it is just possible that we shall meet a homeward vessel and if we do I shall send this by it so don't be surprised if you get this and dont be disappointed if you dont. I have enjoyed my food very much this week the cook has given us some hash now and then, the remains from fowl etc. the steward has given us a nice piece of chicken duck etc. several pieces of beef, cheese and plain cakes. I did enjoy those bits I can tell. I fancied I was at home again but when I had plenty I did not appreciate them as I ought to. It is getting very warm now the captain ordered a tent put up for us to shade us from the sun, it is nice and cool there we shall get to the line shortly so we shall have it warm now for some time. Last Saturday 25th June we had the pleasure of seeing a comet, it looked very nice, we saw it so plain, we have also spoken two vessels one going to America South and the other going to France. Walter saw a shoal of porpoises playing round the ship, also some flying fish last Friday 1st July. On Saturday Walter went up the main mast with the carpenter a height of 180 feet, they look like little specks up there.

Sunday July 10th, another week has gone and I think it has passed much quicker than the last. We have it very hot now, we are about 250 miles from the line, it has been 116 degrees in the sun, we could almost do without any clothes only that it is chilly at night on deck but down below it is very hot indeed, we don't need any clothes on the bed but a sheet. I lay some nights fanning myself with that fan Aggie gave me, we can stand it all right enough on deck but its down below where it is so bad but it will not last long, I guess we shall have it cold. Just now we find the carpenter's shop the coolest place on the ship, there is a draught right through, I am there now, it's proper I write this on his bench. Walter is down stairs having a sleep and the carpenter is in his bunk so I have it all to myself. We often wonder and talk about you all and wish you could know how we are that we are all well and on the whole enjoying it, but nevertheless we shall be glad when we get there. I should not like to be a sailor if I were a man. I should like our Willie and Aggie to be here some times, they would like it to see all the workings of the ship, it is a proper sight. Some days there is hardly any wind and then all of a sudden there will come gusts of wind and rain and then don't it make the sailors run about. We hope you have all kept well since we left you, we shall be glad to hear from you.

We have been very well indeed, we have nothing to complain of in the way of eating, we have had very little salt pork. The cook is very good, he gives us as I said before many a good dinner and the steward nice bits for supper. I have made a meat pie and hash with the tin meat we get, used some of those onions we brought, we want a plain pudding for Sunday. I make it all ready on Saturday night except putting the water because the cook wants it before seven o-clock, we have had one to-day and it was very nice. Bill Robbins always took the carpenter a bit on Sunday so we do the same, he is very good to us. I have made a tart for tea with the flour we took so you can partly guess we are doing very well in spite of being isolated from all friends. I had a flying fish for my tea Monday, it is a great deal like a herring but tastes better, the 1st mate gave it Walter, it flies so long as its wings are wet and when they get dry it drops in the sea, if it does not get caught. We have had some splendid moonlight nights we have sat for hours watching it and thought of you at home looking at the same moon, it is real grand to see it rising and the stars first one and then the other peeps forth, it gets dark very soon now about six, it makes a long night, we often sit on the forecastle at night anyone who is not used to the swaying of the vessels would soon be sick, but we enjoy it very much, that boat behind the market cannot come up to this, our Aggie would have some rare fun if she were here, I am sure it would do Mother good we have rare appetites every day and are very well, good bye, love to all.
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Last update: 5th April 2000