Friday, March 12, 2010

06Feb1872, A Storm at Sea

ON BOARD THE " NILE," Tuesday, February 6th, 1872.
—Another tumbling night, and F., going on deck before breakfast, came down to warn me off ; for behold a real, true, glorious gale was blowing. We had left a crack open in our port-hole at night, and about 3.30 a.m. in popped a sea, cold-pigging me on the side of my head, and doing some little mischief to clothes, etc. I went with F. when I was dressed to the top of the saloon staircase. At that minute a small stay-sail broke away from its block, and as they hauled it down, we saw the wind split it right up. At breakfast a grand country dance of everything on the table took place : F.'s plate, well laden with half-picked turkey bones, skum across full against his opposite neighbour's portly waistcoat, overleaping fiddles and a dish of salt fish. Shortly after came a mighty thump against the ship's side which made me think, though I knew it was impossible, that we had struck ; but it was only a sea which proceeded to pour through the skylights souse on to my back ; cold pig the second, very chilly and surprising. Poor D. J. [FN: Dismal Jemmy .] disappeared from sight. After luncheon we again went to the top of the staircase, and I remained a long time, making the most of this my 1st sight of a storm at sea. The ship is said to behave beautifully, and indeed one can see that she does, even with inexperienced eyes. Looking forward to the bows, one could see her curtseying and bounding over the great hills and valleys of water, running away from the green monsters that pursued her : the sail set square and straining before the wind. While I was there, two great seas came sweeping over the decks, and plunging down the hatchways into the regions below ; then out shone a beautiful rainbow straight ahead of us. Below, it certainly is not very agreeable ; the mighty lurches endangering heads and limbs ; the screw getting out of the water and whirling and thumping ; and the ship giving long shudders now and then as if she really could not stand it any longer ; creaks, crashes, and roarings ad libitum. But I am very glad to have seen the glorious sight above. On the lower deck it is wonderful to look through the ports and see oneself under the sea every few seconds.

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