HENRY FERGUSON’S DIARY TO DATE, GIVEN IN FULL:
May 4, 5, 6, doldrums. May 7, 8, 9, doldrums. May 10, 11, 12, doldrums. Tells it all. Never saw, never felt, never heard, never experienced such heat, such darkness, such lightning and thunder, and wind and rain, in my life before.
That boy’s diary is of the economical sort that a person might properly be expected to keep in such circumstances—and be forgiven for the economy, too. His brother, perishing of consumption, hunger, thirst, blazing heat, drowning rains, loss of sleep, lack of exercise, was persistently faithful and circumstantial with his diary from the first day to the last—an instance of noteworthy fidelity and resolution. In spite of the tossing and plunging boat he wrote it close and fine, in a hand as easy to read as print. They can’t seem to get north of 7 degrees N.; they are still there the next day:
[Diary entry] May 12. A good rain last night, and we caught a good deal, though not enough to fill up our tank, pails, &c. Our object is to get out of these doldrums, but it seems as if we cannot do it. To-day we have had it very variable, and hope we are on the northern edge, thought we are not much above 7 degrees. This morning we all thought we had made out a sail; but it was one of those deceiving clouds. Rained a good deal to-day, making all hands wet and uncomfortable; we filled up pretty nearly all our water-pots, however. I hope we may have a fine night, for the captain certainly wants rest, and while there is any danger of squalls, or danger of any kind, he is always on hand. I never would have believed that open boats such as ours, with their loads, could live in some of the seas we have had.
During the night, 12th-13th, ‘the cry of A ship! brought us to our feet.’ It seemed to be the glimmer of a vessel’s signal-lantern rising out of the curve of the sea. There was a season of breathless hope while they stood watching, with their hands shading their eyes, and their hearts in their throats; then the promise failed: the light was a rising star. It is a long time ago—thirty-two years—and it doesn’t matter now, yet one is sorry for their disappointment. ’Thought often of those at home to-day, and of the disappointment they will feel next Sunday at not hearing from us by telegraph from San Francisco.’ It will be many weeks yet before the telegram is received, and it will come as a thunderclap of joy then, and with the seeming of a miracle, for it will raise from the grave men mourned as dead. ’To-day our rations were reduced to a quarter of a biscuit a meal, with about half a pint of water.’ This is on May 13, with more than a month of voyaging in front of them yet! However, as they do not know that, ‘we are all feeling pretty cheerful.’
In the afternoon of the 14th there was a thunderstorm, ’which toward night seemed to close in around us on every side, making it very dark and squally.’ ‘Our situation is becoming more and more desperate,’ for they were making very little northing ’and every day diminishes our small stock of provisions.’ They realise that the boats must soon separate, and each fight for its own life. Towing the quarter-boats is a hindering business.