On his second voyage to China in 1843, my ancestor Henry Morse Olmsted recorded much in his log besides the distance sailed and weather observed. I have shared with you before several of his entries from the hand-written ledger in which he kept the record of his journey. He was not a mariner, but a merchant and representative of the owner's of the Barque "Childe Harold" out of Philadelphia, and many of the entries record his thoughts at sea and a record of much that to him was still strange and new. He was literate and well read, sprinkling Coleridge and Bryon into his narrative as the ship passed over the Equator:
34 days out (4736 miles) - Lat 1.40" S Long 29.50 W June 5th
We are enjoying the lovely climate of the S.E. Trades. The atmosphere is perfectly fine and the air cool and bracing. The sky is of a most lovely blue and at Sunset the clouds assumed colors which I have never seen but in these latitudes. "Parting day / Dies like the Dolphin, whom each pang imbues / With a new color as it gasps away / The last still loveliest till - 'tis gone - and all is grey."
Birds are becoming more plenty, Gannets and Shearwaters are seen in flocks, swimming and hovering over the waves. Last evening near dusk a Booby came near the ship, flying around and over us as if seeking for a resting place. He would hover for many seconds immediately above our heads as we sat on the upper deck, turning his head from side to side as if making a survey to know whether or not he was safe in Coming aboard. The Capt got out his pistol and although I reminded him that it was Sunday - that if he shot we would certainly have a head wind - & quoted to him - "'God save thee ancient mariner / From the fiends who plague thee thus / Why lookest thou so?" - "With my crossbow / I shot the Albatross"' - he still persisted and as the bird came within ten yards of our quarter he fired. The booby backed & for a moment we all tho't he was hit, but he soon recovered from his fright & flew away. We waited for his return but he came not. A beautiful White Boatswain visited us in the afternoon, it was a perfect specimen, his tail extending about 15 - 18 inches looking like one single feather. He came very close and remained near us for 10 - 15 minutes. Flying fish are very abundant. As yet we have caught none of the inhabitants of the deep.
From the course we were steering yesterday afternoon, we expected to see the Island of Fernando Noronha but thru' the night the wind favored us so that we were enabled to lay up to South by W. this wise carry us so far to Windward of it, as to put it out of sight.
The Captain inclines to the belief that the Barque does not sail as fast as she did before the stone was discharged, owing to her being so much more by the stern. Mr. T___ and myself have been completely spoiled by having made such a famous run in the "Lehigh". Every few days we compare the times of this vessel with her & growl a good deal because we cannot make as much distance as she did. Still the Barque is fast & I hope will reach Canton in 105-110 days. For the last two or three days I have been working Lunars, another step in navigation."
The fast run to Canton was not to be, as the "Childe Harold" was plagued by storms and arrived in Macao Roads after a voyage of 118 days. Henry Olmsted was going to be several years in China, and brought with him a number of books, among them eight volumes of Shakespeare, the Waverly novels, and works of Byron and Coleridge: the better to quote you with, my dear. Besides, who better than Byron on a Barque named "Childe Harold"?