Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘17th century cartography’ Category

I fear ambush, although better judgment tells me Juet has gotten under my skin, into my head.  Day after day, and night after night he urges me to set more men on watch, expecting the people of the country to come over the bulwarks.

extraordinaryfish

I see nothing by night, and by day my eyes detect shoals at every turn.  Juet, in the attracting pull of the new continent, has been so thoroughly transformed that I suspect he’s no longer the same man.  Days before, we caught a most extraordinary fish. As Juet struggled to bring the fish in, he spoke of dominating this new people. He’s a new soul, his old soul having been banished back to England by the spirits of these waters.

Cathay, the ship’s cat, knows it.  As captain, I’m resisting it, denying  any distraction.

Bend on more sail, tomorrow I’ll tell the men.  Full speed ahead;  drive us northward and then on to Cathay, ye zephyrs of August.

(Painting: retouched image of Frederic Edwin Church’s Grand Manan Island, Bay of Fundy, 1852)

Advertisement

Read Full Post »

Two weeks out of the St George for the south, and I’m still preoccupied with our meeting the people of the new land, this new race and civilization.  So much food for thought was this encounter that in a perfect, unhurried world, I’d have our ship put to sea for a  thousand days so that I could process this fantastic exchange.  So wondrous were the Algonquin that I’ve thought this place may be as fascinating as Cathay.

dinnertalk

Juet has been mulling it over too, but for him the encounter has  generated sheer terror.  At dinners in my cabin, he wants to talk exclusively of weapons:  cannon, knives, and hooks.

I confess I’ve indulged him, as he goes on about “besting the new people.”  His every imagining relates to better catching to kill every beast, fowl, and fish.   I’ve never seen him smile more than when he talks of sailing as a teen  and seeing his captain then beating a sailor.  Along the sandy coast, he spoke incessantly of firing grape into the Algonquin’s wigwams.

Read Full Post »

Sail away to the west!!   Twice now in the past fortnight our watch has spotted sail.  First on 25th of June a sail we spied and gave chase, thinking only to discover local knowledge from and compare position plotting with this vessel.  For whatever reason, they sped away and were more expeditious than we.
grandbanks
This morning as dawn broke we saw three vessels a few leagues to west southwest and two other to the south.  At first I suspected they might be Basque, but through the glass, we see by the vessels’ design, they likely are French.  The bottom when we sounded was at 30 fathoms;  these must be the Grand Banks.  Previously when we sounded, we found no bottom.  The men wanted to strike sail for a few hours and fish;  they are happier now that they’ve eaten fat fresh bacalao from the famed Banks.  The fish was so agreeable to Cathay, our fine ship’s feline,  that she’s purring, curled up on the capstan, happy we’ve left the cold, wet storms, ecstatic we’re no longer plumbing the icy NorthEast Passage.

Read Full Post »

Since leaving our beach promenade in the Faeroes, we’re had alternating fair weather and fog, along with gales and more gales mostly from easterlies.  Fog and gales . . . or as the Dutch crewmen say, mist en sterk wind.

It’s a secret confided only to my personal diary that our heading west southwest is my choice, my defiance of orders from the VOC to attempt only the Northeast Passage over Nova Zembla to Cathay, but this adverse weather plays in my favor.

westerlies
Some day after we arrive at and register the VOC letters with Cathay, we shall return to Amsterdam and besides the Directors van Os and Poppe, I will face my friends Yope—Jodocus Hondius—and Emanuel van Meteren, and they may demand explanation for my traveling to the west rather than the north and east.  But here I have my excuses:  we made for the Northeast Passage, we tried, we struggled, but the weather overwhelmed us.  To save VOC property . . .  this vessel Half Moon, we had no option to heave-to,  lie-a-trie, or even lie-a-hull and allow the easterlies to have their way with us, almost, nearly throwing us onto numerous icebergs and the shoals of many fata morgans.  .

Driven by the gales to Cathay . . .  auspicates well.

Read Full Post »

The “keeper of the north” has rebuffed but forgiven me once again:  icy billows washing over our ship, gusts, snow, hail.  Adding to this, this arctic demon seems again to have possessed my crew, stealing their souls perhaps but more threatening is this demon leads them to mutiny.  Blackened right eye and bulging left one have convinced me: we got as far as latitude 71 N, but to save our ship and this mission to Cathay—after all, not to the borealis—I order the helm made for the southwest, VOC and their contract notwithstanding.

at stern

Here’s my plan:  after stopping here in the Faeroes to replenish our fresh water, we make for the southwest and to Jamestown so that from thence . . . we cross the isthmus and make for Cathay.

Thanks to Towmasters, for the background photo.

Read Full Post »

Déjà vu . . . déjà vu. That’s the term coming to mind. Only last year we followed the Norwegian shore. I know its tricky winds and my crew have seen the denizens of its waters . . . from spouting whales, feeding puffins, and at least one frolicking mermaid. I can’t be sure I’ve seen her, but my dreams of her are quite vivid. I sense she knows me and guides our ship. Maybe her destiny and mine are somehow intertwined. Maybe what Cathay offers me, it also offers her. My obsession is hers too, ours shared.

monsters

As we climb the latitudes I spend much time on the quarter deck with the spyglass and cross-staff. Taking readings and looking for Nord Kap is what the crew thinks, and of course that’s what Mr Juet and I are doing, but in my case . . . .in my case, I’m imagining that our mermaid also guides. I watch all signs of nature, including the supernatural ones At at such point that she suggests in her inimitable non-verbal communication that we turn for the isthmus of Smith and Champlain, then that we certain shall do, VOC be damned.

Read Full Post »

((Editor’s Note: Although Henry channeled this logbook installment some days back, we’ve lost the artwork–water color–several times, owing to the splash of the North Sea washing the tint off the medium.  Be assured that Bowsprite and I are consulting  the best 17th-century telecom specialists still around to assist with technical onshore aquarelle dehydration aka TOAD.))

Half Moon, my equus maritimus, has been riding the North Sea well, galloping happily away from the wharf in Amsterdam.  Our course has taken us close enough for brief landfalls at Peterhead in Scotland and Lerwick in the Shetlands.  From there we make for the Lofotens, which the high mountains will reveal some distance out at sea.  We follow that over the top of Nordkap and east to Cathay.  Except for Cathay, these landfalls are nothing new;  we were here only 12 moonths ago.

Spirits are high on board;  the crew seem as elated as I am to leave our beloveds and our places to seek out and discover.  Each landfall conjures up ideas of adventures deferred.  How might Peterhead girls sing?  What grog can be bought in the Shetlands?  What savory fish permeates Lofoten kitchens?  I’d love to know, but not now.  Nordkap beckons and Cathay awaits with its own girls, grog, and grub.  Spirit us there, equus maritimus aka half moon, a name I despise as it associates closely with halfs like half-hearted, half-baked, and a farmer’s term I recently learned from the bawdy Dutch … half-assed.

And if the privacy of the journal allows–I pray you speak to on one of this–a word about contingencies:  a map came into my possession one moonless night on the Amsterdam wharfs, a map copied from John Smith.  Virginia, he suggests, is but a thin isthmus beyond which lies the great Ocean that laps on the shores of Cathay.  If no Northeast Passage opens, then Smith’s map will present an alternative.

Read Full Post »

As the vernal equinox approaches, so grows my awareness that by this month’s end I hope to be at sea.  At sea and Cathay-bound!    My new crew seems more excited about this departure than my two previous commands.  Maybe it’s their chemistry, as we have some English, some Hollanders, even some Frisians, and possibly the Javanese Pernomo—who quickly became adept at skating—although by now the canals are free of their ice.  He’s eager to get past NordKap so he might there skate again.

Labors ongoing on the wharf have increased in frenzy, as there is much much to getting Half Moon shipshape.  Riggers reinforce the lines and stays.  Gunsmiths work out the most favorable array of cannon and other arms.  Carpenters attend to dozens of repairs and  modifications for the cold voyage.  And VOC wharfmen provision the ship with casks of flour, cheese, salted meats, and of course grog.  The crew with families spend as much time as possible with their loved ones while the crew with no families seek Amsterdammer fellowship in the drinkhouses.   My son John will again sail with me, and he has spent much time with his mother Katherine and siblings.

jenever2

It will thrill my soul to have him beside me as we sail into Cathay, for I know on this voyage we shall.  I’ve told him that as ship’s boy, he will do the honors of drawing the spirits from the juniper grog cask as we enter the port of Cathay.  He will offer drinks to the wealthy Cathaynese merchants there.

*Art modified above was by Jan Karel Donatus Van Beecq (1638-1722).

Read Full Post »

This dark time always sends me back to this log page:

15 June 1608: All day and through the night there was sunshine,

sunrisesetflat4

with the wind out of the east; latitude at noon was 75 degrees 7 minutes. This morning crewman Thomas Hiles and Robert Rayner while looking overboard saw a mermaid, calling the rest of the crew to see her. One more came up; by that time she was close to the ship’s side and looking earnestly at the men; a little after, the sea came up and overturned her. As they saw her from the navel upward, her back and breasts were like a woman’s, her body as big as ours, her skin very white, and she had long, black hair hanging down behind. In her going down they saw her tail, which was like the tail of a porpoise, and speckled like a mackerel.

16 June 1608: Clear weather with an east wind.

Now in the obscurity of the advent or solstice, even the roaring fire in the hearth beside my desk fails to warm me, illuminate me, or block out recall of this event from six months back. Where our manly crewmen Hiles and Rayner saw a beauty, I feared the appearance of Sedna, reputed to be the ruler and regulator of the northern regions. What if she had claimed a life to spare ours?

mermaidflat

Read Full Post »

Let me explain about my first voyage.  I had learned from Captain Knight—the late Captain Knight, bless him—who had the right idea but lost his nerve when the shrouds and sails glazed over with ice.  He lost his judgment, and let the men eat frozen but rotten ice bear meat.  He went mad the days last far longer than they should have.

Then Muscovy made me Hopewell‘s master, and, armed with the maps of Robert Thorne and Barrents, we sailed Hopewell straight north for Tabis.  We saw sunlight at midnight and then some.

3hob

My critics say I failed when I first sailed for Cathay through the Scylla and Charbdis of Tabis . . .  but no–they delude themselves!!   Those scoundrels blind themselves to the fact that I discoved Thorne’s map was wrong.  To those chthonic rapscallions I say that to disprove a cartographer’s theory is to succeed at updating guides into the unknown, into the future, toward Cathay!

Read Full Post »