England, Liverpool, April 28th, 1851.

The leaden skies, the chilly rain, the general out-door aspect and
prospect of discomfort prevailing in New York when our good steamship
BALTIC cast loose from her dock at noon on the 16th inst., were not
particularly calculated to inspire and exhilarate the goodly number who
were then bidding adieu, for months at least, to home, country, and
friends. The most sanguine of the inexperienced, however, appealed for
solace to the wind, which they, so long as the City completely sheltered
us on the east, insisted was blowing from “a point _West_ of
North”–whence they very logically deduced that the north-east storm,
now some thirty-six to forty-eight hours old, had spent its force, and
would soon give place to a serene and lucid atmosphere. I believe the
Barometer at no time countenanced this augury, which a brief experience
sufficed most signally to confute. Before we had passed Coney Island, it
was abundantly certain that our freshening breeze hailed directly from
Labrador and the icebergs beyond, and had no idea of changing its

By the time we were fairly outside of Sandy Hook, we were
struggling with as uncomfortable and damaging a cross-sea as had ever
enlarged _my_ slender nautical experience; and in the course of the next
hour the high resolves, the valorous defiances, of the scores who had
embarked in the settled determination that they _would not_ be sea-sick,
had been exchanged for pallid faces and heaving bosoms. Of our two
hundred passengers, possibly one-half were able to face the dinner-table
at 4 P. M.; less than one-fourth mustered to supper at 7; while a stern
but scanty remnant–perhaps twenty in all–answered the summons to
breakfast next morning.

I was not in any one of these categories. So long as I was able, I
walked the deck, and sought to occupy my eyes, my limbs, my brain, with
something else than the sea and its perturbations. The attempt, however,
proved a signal failure. By the time we were five miles off the Hook, I
was a decided case; another hour laid me prostrate, though I refused to
leave the deck; at six o’clock a friend, finding me recumbent and
hopeless in the smokers’ room, persuaded and helped me to go below.
There I unbooted and swayed into my berth, which endured me, perforce,
for the next twenty-four hours. I then summoned strength to crawl on
deck, because, while I remained below, my sufferings were barely less
than while walking above, and my recovery hopeless.

I shall not harrow up the souls nor the stomachs of landsmen, as yet
reveling in blissful ignorance of its tortures, with any description of
sea-sickness. They will know all in ample season; or if not, so much the
better. But naked honesty requires a correction of the prevalent error
that this malady is necessarily transient and easily overcome. Thousands
who imagine they have been sea-sick on some River or Lake steamboat, or
even during a brief sleigh-ride, are annually putting to sea with as
little necessity or urgency as suffices to send them on a jaunt to
Niagara or the White Mountains.

They suppose they may very probably be
“qualmish” for a few hours, but that (they fancy) will but highten the
general enjoyment of the voyage. Now it is quite true that any green
sea-goer _may_ be sick for a few hours only; he may even not be sick at
all. But the _probability_ is very far from this, especially when the
voyage is undertaken in any other than one of the four sunniest,
blandest months in the year. Of every hundred who cross the Atlantic for
the first time, I am confident that two-thirds endure more than they had
done in all the five years preceding–more than they would do during two
months’ hard labor as convicts in a State Prison. Of _our_ two hundred,
I think fifty did not see a healthy or really happy hour during the
passage; while as many more were sufferers for at least half the time.
The other hundred were mainly Ocean’s old acquaintances, and on that
account treated more kindly; but many of these had some trying hours.

Utter indifference to life and all its belongings is one of the
characteristics of a genuine case of sea-sickness No. 1. I enjoyed some
opportunities of observing this during our voyage. For instance: One
evening I was standing by a sick gentleman who had dragged himself or
been carried on deck and laid down on a water-proof mattress which
raised him two or three inches from the floor. Suddenly a great wave
broke square over the bow of the ship and rushed aft in a river through
either gangway–the two streams reuniting beyond the purser’s and
doctor’s offices, just where the sick man lay. Any live man would have
jumped to his feet as suddenly as if a rattlesnake were whizzing in his
blanket; but the sufferer never moved, and the languid coolness of eye
wherewith he regarded the rushing flood which made an island of him was
most expressive. Happily, the wave had nearly spent its force and was
now so rapidly diffused that his refuge was not quite overflowed.

Of course, those who have voyaged and not suffered will pronounce my
general picture grossly exaggerated; wherein they will be faithful to
their own experience, as I am to mine. I write for the benefit of the
uninitiated, to warn them, not against braving the ocean when they must
or ought, but against resorting to it for pastime. Voyaging cannot be
enjoyment to most of them; it must be suffering. The sonorous rhymesters
in praise of “A Life on the Ocean Wave,” “The Sea! the Sea! the Open
Sea!” &c. were probably never out of sight of land in a gale in their
lives. If they were ever “half seas over,” the liquid which buoyed them
up was not brine, but wine, which is quite another affair. And, as they
are continually luring people out of soundings who might far better have
remained on terra firma, I lift up my voice in warning against them.

“A home on the raging deep,” is _not_ a scene of enjoyment, even to the
sailor, who suffers only from hardship and exposure; no other laborer’s
wages are so dearly earned as his, and his season of enjoyment is not
the voyage but the stay in port. He is compelled to work hardest just
when other out-door laborers deem working at all out of the question. To
him Night and Day are alike in their duties as in their exemptions;
while the more furious and blinding the tempest, the greater must be his
exertions, perils and privations. In fair weather his hours of rest are
equal to his hours of labor; in bad weather he may have _no_ hours of
rest whatever. Should he find such, he flings himself into his bunk for
a few hours in his wet clothes, and turns out smoking like a coal-pit at
the next summons to duty, to be drenched afresh in the cold affusions of
sea and sky–and so on. An old sea-captain assured me that his crew were
sometimes in wet clothing throughout an Atlantic voyage.

Our weather was certainly bad, though not the worst. We started on our
course, after leaving Sandy-Hook, in the teeth of a North-Easter, and it
clung to us like a brother. It varied to East North-East, East
South-East, South East, and occasionally condescended to blow a little
from nearly North or nearly South, but we had not six hours of Westerly
or semi-Westerly wind throughout the passage. There may have been two
days in all, though I think not, in which some of the principal sails
could be made to draw; but they were necessarily set so sharply at
angles with the ship as to do little good.

Usually, one or two trysails were all the canvass displayed, and they rather served to steady the
ship than to aid her progress; while for days together, stripped to her
naked spars, she was compelled to push her bowsprit into the wind’s very
eye by the force of her engines alone. And that wind, though no
hurricane, had a will of its own; while the waves, rolled perpetually
against her bow by so long a succession of easterly winds, were a
decided impediment to our progress. I doubt whether there is another
steamship which could have made the passage safely and without extra
effort in less time than the Baltic did.

Our weather was not all bad, though we had no thoroughly fair day–no
day entirely free from rain–none in which the decks were dry
throughout. In fact, the spray often kept them thoroughly drenched,
especially aft, when there was no rain at all. During four or five of
the twelve days we had some hour or more of semi-sunshine either at
morning, midday or toward night. The only gales of much account were
those of our first night off Long Island and our last before seeing land
(Saturday), when on coming into soundings off the coast of Ireland, we
had a very decided blow and (the ship having become very light by the
consumption of most of her coal) the worst kind of a sea. It gave me my
sickest hour, though not my worst day.

Our dreariest days were Wednesday and Thursday, 23d and 24th, when we
were a little more than half way across. With the wind precisely ahead
and very strong, the skies black and lowering, a pretty constant rain,
and a driving, blinding spray which drenched every thing above the
decks, themselves ankle-deep in water, I cannot well imagine how two
hundred fellow-passengers, driven down and kept down in the cabins and
state-rooms of a steamship, could well be treated to a more dismal
prospect. I thought the philosophy even of the card-players (who were by
far the most industrious and least miserable class among us) was tried
by it.

Spacious as the Baltic is, two hundred passengers with fifty or sixty
attendants, confined for days together to her cabins, fill her quite
full enough. For those who are thoroughly well, there are society,
reading, eating, play and other pastimes; but for the sick and helpless,
who can neither read nor play, whom even conversation fatigues, and to
whom the under-deck smell, especially in connection with food, is
intensely revolting, I can imagine no heavier hours short of absolute
torture. Having endured these, I had nothing beyond them to dread, and
it was rather a satisfaction, on reaching the Irish coast, to be greeted
with a succession of hail-squalls–to work up the Channel against a wet
North-Easter, and be landed in Liverpool (after a tedious detention for
lack of water on the bar at the mouth of the Mersey) under sullen skies
and in a dripping rain. I wanted to see the thing out, and would have
taken amiss any deceitful smiles of Fortune after I had learned to
dispense with her favors.

There yet remains the grateful duty of speaking of the mitigations of
our trials. And in the first place, the Baltic herself is unquestionably
one of the safest and most commodious sea-boats in the world. She is
probably not the fastest, especially with a strong head wind and sea,
because of her great bulk and the area of resistance she presents both
above and below the water-line; but for strength and excellence of
construction, steadiness of movement, and perfection of accommodations,
she can have no superior. Her wheels never missed a revolution from the
time she discharged her New-York pilot till the time she stopped them to
take on board his Liverpool counterpart, off Holyhead: and her sailing
qualities, tested under the most unfavorable auspices, are also
admirable. She needs but good weather to make the run in ten days from
dock to dock; she would have done it this time had the winds been the
reverse of what they were or as the Asia had them before her. The luck
cannot always be against her.

Praise of commanders and officers of steamships has become so common
that it has lost all emphasis, all force. I presume this is for the most
part deserved; for it is not likely that the great responsibility of
sailing these ships would be entrusted to any other than the very
fittest hands; and this is a matter wherein mistakes may by care be
avoided. The qualities of a seaman, a commander, do not lie dormant; the
ocean tries and proves its men; while in this service the whole
traveling public are the observers and judges. But such a voyage as we
have just made tries the temper as well as the capacity, it calls into
exercise every faculty, and lays bare defects if such there be. To sweep
gaily on before a fresh, fair breeze, is comparatively easy, but few
landsmen can realize the patient assiduity and nautical skill required
to extract propelling power from winds determined to be dead ahead. How
nicely the sails must be set at the sharpest angle with the course of
the vessel, and sometimes that course itself varied a point or two to
make them draw at all; how often they must be shifted, or reefed, or
furled; how much labor and skill must be put in requisition to secure a
very slight addition to the speed of the ship–all this I am not seaman
enough to describe, though I can admire. And during the entire voyage,
with its many vicissitudes, I did not hear one harsh or profane word
from an officer, one sulky or uncivil response from a subordinate. And
the perfection of Capt. Comstock’s commandership in my eyes was that,
though always on the alert and giving direction to every movement, he
did not need to command half so much nor to make himself anything like
so conspicuous as an ordinary man would. I willingly believe that some
share of the merit of this is due to the admirable qualities of his
assistants, especially Lieuts. Duncan and Hunter, of the U. S. Navy.

In the way of food and attendance, nothing desirable was wanting but
Health and Appetite. Four meals per day were regularly provided–at 8,
12, 4 and 7 o’clock respectively–which would favorably compare with
those proffered at any but the very best Hotels; and some of the
dinners–that of the last Sunday especially–would have done credit to
the Astor or Irving. Of course I state this with the reservation that
the best water and the best milk that can be had at sea are to me
unpalatable, and that, even when I can eat under a deck, it is a penance
to do so. But these drawbacks are Ocean’s fault, or mine; not the
Baltic’s. Many of the passengers ate their four meals regularly, after
the first day out, with abundant relish; and one young New-Yorker added
a _fifth_, by taking a supper at ten each night with a capital appetite,
after doing full justice to the four regular meals. If he could only
patent his digestion and warrant it, he might turn his back on
merchandise evermore.

The attendance on the sick was the best feature of all. Aside from the
constant and kind assiduities of Dr. Crary, the ship’s physician, the
patience and watchfulness with which the sick were nursed and tended,
their wants sought out, their wishes anticipated, were remarkable. Many
had three meals per day served to them separately in their berths or on
deck, and even at unseasonable hours, and often had special delicacies
provided for them, without a demur or sulky look. As there was no extra
charge for this, it certainly surpassed any preconception on my part of
steamship amenity. I trust the ever-moving attendants received something
more than their wages for their arduous labors: they certainly deserved

The notable incidents of our passage were very few. An iceberg was seen
to the northward one morning about sunrise, by those who were on deck at
that hour; but it kept at a respectful distance, and we thought the
example worthy of our imitation. I understand that the rising sun’s rays
on its surface produced a fine effect. A single school of whales
exhibited their flukes for our edification–so I heard. Several vessels
were seen the first morning out, while we were in the Gulf Stream: one
or two from day to day, and of course a number as we neared the entrance
of the Channel on this side; but there were days wherein we saw no sail
but our own; and I think we traversed nearly a thousand miles at one
time on this great highway of nations, without seeing one. Such facts
give some idea of the ocean’s immensity, but I think few can realize,
save by experiment, the weary length of way from New-York to Liverpool,
nor the quantity of blue water which separates the two points. Friends
who went to California by Cape-Horn and were sea-sick, I proffer you my
heart felt sympathies!–It was some consolation to me, even when most
ill and impatient, to reflect that the gales, so adverse to us, were
most propitious to the many emigrant-freighted packets which at this
season are conveying thousands to our country’s shores, and whose clouds
of canvas occasionally loomed upon us in the distance. What were our
“light afflictions” compared with those of the multitudes crowded into
_their_ stifling steerages, so devoid of conveniences and comforts!
Speed on, O favored coursers of the deep, bearing swiftly those
suffering exiles to the land of Hope and Freedom!

We had a law trial by way of variety last Saturday–Capt. Comstock
having been duly indicted and arraigned for _Humbug_, in permitting us
to be so long beset by all manner of easterly winds with never a puff
from the westward. Hon. Ashbel Smith, from Texas, officiated as Chief
Justice; a Jury of six ladies and six gentlemen were empaneled; James T.
Brady conducted the prosecution with much wit and spirit; while Æolus,
Neptune, Capt. Cuttle, Jack Bunsby, &c. testified for the prosecution,
and Fairweather, Westwind, Brother Jonathan and Mr. Steady gave evidence
for the defence. The fun was rather heavy, but the audience was very
good natured, and whatever the witnesses lacked in wit, they made up
in extravagance of costume, so that two hours were whiled away quite
endurably. The Jury not only acquitted the Captain without leaving their
seats, but subjected the prosecutors to heavy damages (in wine) as
malicious defamers. The verdict was received with unanimous and hearty

But I must stop and begin again. Suffice it, that, though we ought to
have landed here inside of twelve days from New York, the difference in
time (Liverpool using that of Greenwich for Railroad convenience) being
all but five hours–yet the long prevalence of Easterly winds had so
lowered the waters of the Mersey by driving those of the Channel
westerly into the Atlantic, that the pilot declined the responsibility
of taking our ship over the Bar till high water, which was nearly seven
o’clock. We then ran up opposite the City, but there was no dock-room
for the Baltic, and passengers and light baggage were ferried ashore in
a “steam-tug” which we in New York should deem unworthy to convey market
garbage. At last, after infinite delay and vexation, caused in good part
by the necessity of a custom-house scrutiny even of carpet-bags, because
men _will_ smuggle cigars ashore here, even in their pockets, we were
landed about 9 o’clock, and to-morrow I set my watch by an English sun.
There is promise of brighter skies. I shall hasten up to London to
witness the opening of the World’s Fair; and so, “My Native Land, Good


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