The shipboard diary of Henry Bottle

Ship Himalaya
HIMALAYA. [picture] : 1008 tons. Built at Sunderland. Sold to America and renamed Star of Peru. Brodie Collection, La Trobe Picture Collection, State Library of Victoria.
In 1879 a young man named Henry Garmston Bottle undertook a great, but not uncommon journey from London to Lyttelton aboard the Himalaya.

He kept a diary while on board, and wrote several letters to his family back in England, to his father (My dear Papa), his sister Nellie and his brother Fred.

His shipboard diary is largely an unsentimental and factual account but it nevertheless conjures up fascinating images and vignettes of life onboard ship for months at a time. The following are some excerpts from his shipboard diary which covers 11 January – 14 April 1879.

21st – Vessel rolled very much when at breakfast the whole table was cleared and some things broken, running down coast of Portugal, pigs got loose had a spree.

24th – Heavy gale during night could not sleep. Off Str of Gibralter, went on deck & got drenched from head to foot by a sea, about 1ft of water in our cabin.

25th – Pig died, thrown overboard, saw a shark eat it

8th – Lat 4 Long 22 N Heat 96. 97 miles killed a rat in our cabin, slept on deck

Unsurprisingly there’s an awful lot of people being sick to start with and a surprising number of animal escapees including one passenger’s canary.

My dear Papa, letter from Henry Bottle to his fatherSimilarly his letters offer a glimpse into the “excitements” of life on board the Himalaya like this description of bad weather in a letter to his father dated 10 February 1879 –

We had a heavy gale yesterday morning it came on all at once & the wind blew & it rained as I never saw it before it came down in streams like pailfulls we all took our shoes & stockings off rolled our trousers up put macktos [mackintoshes] on, no hat & went on deck to catch water we caught a good lot. The gale lasted an hour.

You can read more about Henry Bottle’s journey and his life in Oamaru and Waimate in his digitised papers.

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