The following is taken from the log book of the first voyage of the Charles W. Morgan as recorded by second mate, James Coffin Osborn of Edgartown. Mr. Osborn was 26 years old at the time but this was not his first trip on a whaleship. He had first shipped out as a teenager on the Emerald under Capt. Clement Norton of Edgartown. The first captain of the Charles W. Morgan, Thomas Adams Norton, was Clement’s nephew.
James Osborn took with him on the first voyage of the Morgan 91 books, and he claimed to read every one of them. A good choice then to tell the tale of the journey. In his preface to the log books, Mr. Osborn wrote: “Journal of Voyage to the Pacific Ocean in the Ship Charles W. Morgan, Thomas A. Norton, Master, Sept. 6th, 1841. May kind Neptune protects us with pleasant Gales, and may we be successful in catching Sperm Whales.”
Sept. 27, 1841
Dismal. Cold and rainy. Land in Sight, hove her too under storm sails. A plenty of Snow and Hail. Employed in Sawing Wood to keep from Freezing — cold as you wish to have it.
Saw something in the shape of a fish. Called him Devil fish.
Saw a Breach, kept off for it, saw nothing. Middle, saw Finbacks. Last part raised a Sulphur Bottom [great Blue Whale]. So ends another long day.
Raised a Breach about 1/2 past 8 oclock. Lowered 4 Boats, two Pods of Whales in sight 4 miles off. Struck a Bull Whale, to the Starboard [boat]. But the Larboard Boat struck the same Whale, and got stove. Took the Whale to the Ship about one oclock. Cut him in, a running off before the Wind, in hopes of getting another Whale, saw nothing.
Lowered Boats and struck to the Bow Boat & the W[aist] Boat. Larboard Boat & Starboard B. Lowered and struck. Each Boat killed their Fish. Took 3 to the Ship. The Waist Boat waifed their Whale about sunset 6 miles from the ship. Came onboard.
First part of the Evening spent in telling long yarns. Latter, thinking about Home & Glory of Being away from there.
About 8 oclock raised Whales. Lowered 4 Boats, struck to S. Boat & Bow & Waist Boat Drawed. The Starboard Boat got 2 Whales, the Bow Boat one. Took them in tow astern of the ship and kept the Ship agoing after the School about one oclock saw the Whales. Lowered and struck to the W Boat. Took him to the Ship. So ends this Day with 4 whales alongside.
At Daylight commenced Cutting. Finished about 11 oclock & set the Try Works a blazing — Caught a Cow Fish & a Porpoise. So Ends, Boiling.
Come’d with fin weather. At 4 oclock in the Morning left the Ship with 2 boats, on a cruise after Turpin [tortoises], the Ship at anchor in the Bay. Went up to the Head of the Bay, Dist. 20 miles. Landed whare no Human Being ever did before I believe. Their had been a Volcano their, and everything was turned up in heaps and it was a dismal place, I assure you. Arrived at Ship about 12 oclock. Painted Ship and go the ship underway about 3 oclock PM. So Ends this Day. Buffed out.
Lowered the W Boat after a Sword Fish. Sailed on to him and darted one iron against his Back then found out it was a Boone [bone] Shark. Thought ourselves lucky that we did not Fasten on to him.
Fine weather. The Starboard Watch on Liberty. About 10 oclock the Ships Sarah & Catawba arrived. At 7 oclock PM, a round gang of us left Paita Wharf to have a spree on board the Nantucket and a merry time we had. A whare did you come from?
About 11 oclock raised a School of Sperm Whales, got Dinner, and then Lowered the Larboard & Waist Boats. Struck two Whales, got them along side. At 3 ocl. the Starboard Boat struck a Large Whale, got Stove Bad. The Bow Boat struck the same Whale and got stove. About 8 oclock the old man came on board, left the Bow Boat with the Whale, sent the Waist Boat to the Whale, he being wide awake for Boat Board. Layed by the Bow Boat until the old man came back, then hauled in the Line . . . boathe Irons Brook and the Whale gone off.
Lowered 4 Boats in pursuit of Turpin. We brought Down 70 and lashed them to a roap untill morning. Hauled up our Boats to sleep under. So Ends, killing Seal, etc.
Saw the ship Mary of Edgartown, 22 months out, 300 bbls. So Ends this Day. Home sick and sick of Whaling.
Porpoises and a Poverty Bird — thinking about gowing to the Poor House.
Cleared away the Heads and made a Smoak under the Tryworks, so Ends, Boiling, Up to our Eyes in Grease and I want to see more of it, as the Dutch man says.
Saw on Finback [whale] and he was crying for something to eat. Last Part, the bedbugs were apicking out tender places on our Ribs. So Ends.
Feb. 9, 1842
A thinking about Home and very low in spirits but there is something that keeps the sinking spirits up and says separation shall not allways be. Sharkspear [Shakespeare].
Saw Sperm Whales, Lowered our Boat in pursuit, Struck to the L Boat & S Boat. Took the Whales along side about 1 oclock. Eat a hearty Dinner off a Roast Pig . . . at Dark the last Head came over the Planksheer, about midnight commc’d [commenced] Boiling.
It was Carnaval Days with the Spanyards and the Eggs & Paint were flying in all directions. about 8 oclock in the Evening I went on Shore to see the Spanish Ladys Walse [waltz] And they wee so much like Home I Screamed.
Employed getting off water . . . Last part nothing remarkable only Two Females Visited me, they were bound for Guyakill.
Dreary and Gloomy. Sorrowful and Home Sick, Sea Sick, and Sick of the Sea, Amen, and it is 26 Days since we have seen a Whale.
A Man fell overboard, the Ship was lufed to the Wind and a Boat Lowered in about two Shakes, on of the Boatstearers fastened to him solid, and we starned all out of the Suds, he was about one 1/4 mile from the Ship when we got him. His name is Norton.
Saw a Brig at Anchore off Tombez River. The old man went onto Her to enquire about the Feaver that we herd was a rageing up & down the Coast. The Capt. of the Brig told him that about one half of the Population wer Dead.
Two of our deserted. Middle, avisiting the Ladys on board the Ship George of Fare Haven. A good Spree and no Mistake.
Saw a Large Sperm Whale, Lowered our Boats did not Strike Him, shortened Sail and kept the Ship a gowing in Persuit of Him . . . This Whale was a Buster.
The journals continue for the rest of the voyage, cataloguing slow days at seas, mounting homesickness, the thrill of the chase when whales were spotted and the hard work boiling and stripping them down. All in all, the voyage was a very successful one. And then in early 1845, as the Charles W. Morgan neared home, there were these two entries:
Jan. 2, 1845
Steering in for Montog Point. About 4 oclock A.M. saw the Land & End of Long Island. Middle Part a Steering for the Vineyard Sound. Got a Pilot about 5 oclock P.M. Shaped our Coarse for New Bedford. Studing Sails, Below and a Loft. Thus Ends. Very nervous Latter Part. Droped Anchor.
I feel thankfull to the over ruling Power for so prosperous a Passage, 130 days from Monterey, run 41 Days on one tack. The good ship Chas. W. Morgan sailed Sept. 6th, 1841. Arrived in New Bedford Jan. 2nd, 1845.