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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)

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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((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.

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