WCP349

Lettersheet (WCP349.349)

[1]

Brig Jordeson, Lat. N. 49o.30' Long. W. 20o

Sunday, Septr. 19th. 1852.

My dear Friend1

Having now some prospect of being home in a week or ten days I will commence giving you an account of the peculiar circumstances which have already kept me at sea seventy days on a voyage which took us only 29 on our passage out. I hope you have received the letter I sent you from Pará2 dated July 9 or 10 — in which I informed you that I had taken a passage in a vessel bound for London3 & was to sail in a few days — On Monday the 12th. of July I went on board with all my cargo & some articles purchased or collected on my way down with the remnant (about 20) of my live stock. After being at sea about a week I had a slight attack of fever & almost thought I had got the yellow fever after all. However a little calomel4 set me right in a few days, but I continued weak some time and spent most of my time reading in the cabin which was very comfortable — On Friday the 6th of August we were in N. Lat. 30o.30' W. Long. 52o when about 9 o'clock in the morning just after breakfast the Captain (who was the owner of the vessel) came into the cabin & said "I am afraid the ship's on fire. Come & see what you think of it". Going on deck I found a thick smoke coming out of the forecastle, which we both thought seemed more like the steam from heating vegetable matter than the smoke of a fire — The fore hatchway was immediately opened to try and ascertain the origin of the smoke & a quantity of cargo was thrown out but the smoke coming out steadily without any perceptible increase we went to the after hatchway & after throwing out a quantity of Piassaba5 with which the upper part of the ship was loaded the smoke became so dense that the men could not stay down to throw out any more — most of them were then set throwing in water & the rest proceeded to the cabin & opened the "lazaretto" or store place beneath its floor & found smoke issuing from the bulkhead which separated it from the hold which extended half way under the fore part of the cabin. Attempts were then made to break down this bulkhead, but it resisted all efforts the smoke being so suffocating as to prevent any one stopping in it more than a minute at a time. [2] A hole was then cut in the cabin floor, & while the carpenter was doing this, the rest of the crew were employed getting out the boats & the captain looked after his chronometer, sextant, books[,] charts[,] boat compasses &c. I got up a small tin box with a few shirts in it & put in my fish drawings & palms which where luckily at hand also my watch and a few sovereigns — The greater part of my clothes were scattered about the cabin & in the dense suffocating smoke it was impossible to look about after them — There were two boats, a long boat & the Captain's gig & took a good deal of them time to get the merest necessaries into them & to lower them into the water. Two casks of biscuit and a cask of water were got in[,] a lot of raw pork & some ham & some cases of preserved meats with some wine — Then there were corks to stop up the holes, oars, masts[,] sails & rudders to be looked up, spare spars[,] cordage[,] twine, canvas needles, carpenter's tools, nails &c the crew all looked after their bags of clothes & all were bundled in indiscriminately — The boats having been so long in the sun were very leaky & every thing in them was soaked they being half full of water & keeping two hands constantly baling in each with buckets. Blankets[,] rugs[,] pillows & clothes were all soaked and the boats appeared overloaded when there was in reality very little in them. All being now prepared, the crew were again employed pouring in water into the cabin and fore hatchway.

The cargo of the Ship consisted of Rubber, Cocoa, Anatto6[Annatto], Balsam of Capivi7 & Piassaba — The Balsam was in casks 20 stowed in sand & 20 more small kegs in rice chaff immediately beneath the cabin where the fire seemed to be — For some time we had heard this bubbling & hissing as if boiling furiously, the heat in the cabin was very great & the flame soon broke out into the berths & into the cabin & in a few minutes more out through the skylight on deck — All hands were now ordered into the boats which were astern of the ship — It was about 12 o'clock, only three hours from the time the smoke was first discovered — I had to let myself down into the boat by a rope & being rather weak it slipped through my hands and took the skin off the sides [3] of all my fingers, & finding the boats dreadfully full of water I set to, baling which made the wounds smart to a considerable amount — We lay near the ship all the afternoon watching the progress of the flames, which soon covered the hinder part of the vessel & extended up the shrouds & sails in a most magnificent conflagration — Soon after the masts, by the rolling of the ship broke & fell overboard, the decks all burnt away the iron work at the sides being red hot, & last the bowsprit being burnt at the base fell also — No one had thought of being hungry till night came on when we made a meal of some biscuit & raw ham, & then disposed ourselves as well as we could for the night which you may be sure was by no means a pleasant one — Our boats continued to make water & we could not cease an instant from baling, there was a considerable swell though the day had been remarkably fine, and constantly there came about pieces of the burnt wreck, masts, &c which would probably have stove in our boats, had we not always been on the look out to keep clear of them — We kept near the ship all night in order that we might have the benefit of its flames attracting any other vessel that might pass within sight of us — It now presented a magnificent and awful sight as it rolled over [1 word struck through, illeg.] looking like a huge caldron of fire, the whole cargo forming a fuming mass at the bottom. In the morning our little mast and sails were got up, & we bid adieu to the Helen now burnt down to the water's edge, and proceeded with a light E. wind towards the "Bermudas" the nearest land but which were still more than 700 miles from us. As we were nearly in the track of the W. India vessels, we calculated on falling in with some ship in a few days. I cannot attempt to describe my feelings & sensations during these events. I was surprised to find myself very cool and collected. I hardly thought it possible we should escape & remember almost thinking it foolish to save my watch and the little money I had at hand. After being in the boats however some days I began to have more hope & regretted not having saved some new shoes, cloth coat & trousers, hat &c which I might have done with a little [4] trouble. My collections however were in the hold & were irrevocably lost. And now I began to think, that almost all the reward of my four years of privation & danger was lost. What I had hitherto sent home had little more than paid my expenses, & what I had with me in the "Helen" I calculated would realize near £500 — But even all this might have gone with little regret had not for the richest part of my own private collection gone also. All my private collection of Insects & birds since I left Pará was with me, & contained hundreds of new and beautiful species which would have rendered (I had fondly hoped) my cabinet, as far as regards American species, one of the finest in Europe. Fancy your own regrets had you lost all your Pyrenean Mosses on your voyage8 hope home or should now lose all your S. American ones9 & you will have some idea of what I suffer. But besides this I have lost a number of sketches[,] drawings, notes & observations on Natural History besides the three most interesting years of my journal, the whole of which unlike any mere pecuniary loss, can never be replaced; — so you will see that I have some need of philosophic resignation to bear my fate with patience and equanimity. Day after day we continued in the boats. The winds changed blowing dead from the point we wanted to go to — We were scorched by the sun, my hands nose & ears being completely skinned, and drenched every day by the seas & spray. We were constantly wet & had no comfort at night — We had raw pork & biscuit for our fare, with some preserved meat or carrots once a day which was a great luxury, & short allowance of water, which left us constantly thirsty the moment after we had drunk our allowance. Ten days & ten nights we spent in this manner, we were still two hundred miles from Bermuda, when one afternoon a vessel was seen and by eight at night we were on board her, much rejoiced to have escaped a death on the wide ocean whence none would ever have come to tell the tale. This was the "Jordeson"10 bound for London & proves to be one of the slowest old ships going — With a favorable wind and all sail set she seldom does more than 5 knots, her general average being two & three so that we have had a most tedious time of it and even now can not calculate with any certainty as to when we shall arrive. Besides this she was rather short of provisions, & as we [5] immediately doubled her crew, all were obliged to be put on allowance of bread[,] meat & water. A little ham and butter the Captain had was soon used & we have been now some time on the poorest of fare. We have no suet, butter, or raisins with which to make duff11 or even molasses & barely sugar enough to last for our tea & coffee, which we take with coarse biscuits & for dinner beef or pork of the very worst quality I have ever eaten or even imagined to exist. This repeated day after day without any variation beats even Rio Negro fixings rough though they be. About a week after we came on board here, we spoke & boarded an outward bound ship and got from her some biscuit & a few potatoes & salt cod which were a great luxury but did not last long. We have also occasionally caught some dolphin and some fish like the Acarras of the Rio Negro but for some time now have seen none, so that I am looking forward to the "flesh pots of Egypt"12 with as much pleasure as when luxuriating on farinha13 [Portuguese: flour] & "fiel amigo"14 [Portuguese: faithful friend]. While we were in the boats we had generally fine weather though with one or two days & nights squally and with a heavy sea which made me often tremble for our safety as we heeled over till the water poured in over the side — We had almost despaired of seeing any vessel, our circle of vision being so limited, but had great hopes of reaching Bermuda though it is very doubtful if we should have done so, as the neighbourhood of those islands is noted for sudden squalls, tempests, & hurricanes, & it was the time of year when hurricanes most frequently occur. Having never seen a storm or heavy gale at sea I had some desire to witness the phenomenon and have now been completely gratified — The first we had about a fortnight ago. In the morning there was a strong breeze and the Barometer had fallen near half an inch during the night and continued sinking so the Capt[ai]n commenced taking in sail & while getting in the Royals & studding sails the wind increased so as to split the main sail, fore top sail, fore trysail & jib & it was some hours before they could be got off her & the main top sail & fore sail double reefed. We then went flying along, the whole ocean being a mass of boiling foam the crests of the waves carried in spray over the decks — The sea did not get up immediately but by night it was very rough, the ship plunging & rolling most fearfully, the sea pouring in a deluge over the top of her bulwarks & sometimes up over the cabin skylight. The next morning the wind abated but the ship which is a very old one took a deal of water & the pumps were kept going nearly the whole day to keep her dry. During this gale the wind went gradually completely round the compass & after settled from the E. where it pertinaciously continued for twelve days keeping [6] us tacking about and making about 40 miles a day. Three days ago we had another gale, more severe than the former, a regular equinoctial which lasted two entire days and nights & split one of the newest and strongest sails in the ship. The rolling & plunging were fearful the bowsprit going completely under water & the ship being very heavily laden with mahogany, fustic, & other heavy woods from Cuba strained and creaked tremendously & leaked to that extent that the pumps were obliged to be kept constantly going & their continued click-clack, click-clack, all through the night was a most disagreeable and nervous sound. One day, no fire could be made from the sea breaking continually into the galley & so we had to eat a biscuit for our dinner and not a moment's rest was to be had, as we were obliged constantly to be holding on, whether standing[,] sitting or lying, to prevent being pitched about by the violent plunges & lurches of the vessel. It has now however happily passed, and we have a fine breeze from the N.W. which is taking us along 6 & 7 knots; — quicker than we have ever gone yet. Among our other disagreeables here we have no fresh water to spare for washing and as I only saved a couple of shirts, they are in a state of most uncomfortable dirtiness, but I console myself with the thought of a glorious warm bath when I get on shore.

Octr. 1st.

Oh! glorious day! here we are on shore at Deal15 where the ship is at anchor. Such a dinner! Oh! beef steaks & damson tart, a paradise for hungry sinners.

Octr. 5th. London.

Here I am laid up with swelled ancles [sic] my legs not being able to stand work after so much rest in the ship. I cannot write now at any length — I have too much to think about — We had a narrow escape in the channel, many vessels were lost in a storm on the night of the 29th. of Oct Septr. but we escaped — The old Iron Duke16 is dead — The Crystal Palace17 is pulling down and reerecting on a larger & improved plan by a company — Loddige's18 collection of [7] Plants has been brought entire to put in it & they think by heating it in the centre to get a gradation of climates so as to be able to have the plants of different climates in one individual building — This is Paxton's19 plan. How I begin to envy you, in that glorious country where "the sun shines for ever unchangeably bright" where farinha is abundant & of pacovas20 there is no lack.

Fifty times since I left Pará have I vowed if I once reached England never to trust myself more on the ocean. But good resolutions soon fade & I am already only doubtful whether the Andes or the Phillipines [sic] are to be the scene of my next wanderings. However for six months I anm a fixture here in London as I am determined to make up for lost time by enjoying myself as much as possible while I can — I am fortunate in having about £200 insured by Mr Stevens'21 foresight so I must be contented though it is very hard to have nothing to show of what I took so much pains to procure.

I trust you are well and successful, you have my best wishes & I shall expect a long letter from you with an account of all your doings. Kind remembrances to everybody everywhere & particularly to the respectable Sen[ho]r. Joaõ de Lima of Saõ Joaquim.22

Your very sincere friend | Alfred R. Wallace [signature]

[to] R. Spruce Esq.

[8]23

Ill[ustrissi]mo [Portuguese: Illustrious] Sen[ho]r. Ricardo Spruce

Parà Rio Negro24

Brazil

Cuidado [Portuguese: care of] Henrique Antony25

To be forwarded without delay

Spruce, Richard (1817-1893). British botanist, explorer and collector in the Amazon; lifelong friend of ARW.
Probably Pará (Belém), the largest city in the Amazon Basin at that time.
The 235-ton brig Helen.
Mercurous chloride, used in medicine.
Fiber from the Amazonian palm Leopoldinia piassaba, used for brooms, ropes, hats, baskets etc. (Wallace, A. R. 1853. Narrative of Travels on the Amazon and Rio Negro, With an Account of the Native Tribes, and Observations on the Climate, Geology, and Natural History of the Amazon Valley. London: Reeve & Co. [p. 242]).
An orange-red dye, produced from the waxy pulp surrounding the seeds of Bixa orellana. Referred to as "arnotto" in Wallace, A. R. 1853. Narrative of Travels on the Amazon and Rio Negro, With an Account of the Native Tribes, and Observations on the Climate, Geology, and Natural History of the Amazon Valley. London: Reeve & Co. [p. 242].
A natural oil and resin obtained from the tree genus Copaifera, used in medicines and varnishes (Wallace, A. R. 1853. Narrative of Travels on the Amazon and Rio Negro, With an Account of the Native Tribes, and Observations on the Climate, Geology, and Natural History of the Amazon Valley. London: Reeve & Co. [p. 440]).
During an 1845-6 expedition, Spruce collected in the Pyrenees, the mountain range between Spain and France. See Spruce, R. 1849. The Musci and Hepaticae of the Pyrenees. Annals and Magazine of Natural History, Series 2, 3(14): 81-106; and Spruce, R. 1849. The Musci and Hepaticae of the Pyrenees. Annals and Magazine of Natural History, Series 2, 3(16): 269-292.
Spruce collected mosses and other plants during his 1849-1864 expedition to South America. The mosses were described in Mitten, W. 1869. Musci Austro-Americani, sive enumeratio muscorum omnium Austro-Americanorum mihi hucusque cognitorum, eorum praecipue in terris Amazonicis Andinisque Ricardo Spruceo lectorum. Journal of the Linnean Society. Botany, 12: 1-659.
A merchant brig, captained by Mr Venables, then travelling from Cuba to London heavily laden with a cargo of wood (Wallace, A. R. 1853. Narrative of Travels on the Amazon and Rio Negro, With an Account of the Native Tribes, and Observations on the Climate, Geology, and Natural History of the Amazon Valley. London: Reeve & Co. [p. 400]).
A sweet pudding.
An allusion to Exodus 16. 3: "the flesh-pots of Egypt", referring to luxuries or advantages regarded with regret or envy.
Cassava meal (Wallace, A. R. 1853. Narrative of Travels on the Amazon and Rio Negro, With an Account of the Native Tribes, and Observations on the Climate, Geology, and Natural History of the Amazon Valley. London: Reeve & Co. [p. 17]).
"fiel amigo" has been underlined by ARW and the following annotation written vertically up the left margin of the page: "(— 'faithful friend' the dried fish pirarucú, so called by the Brazilians)".
A port town in Kent, England.
Wellesley, Arthur, 1st Duke of Wellington (1769-1852). British statesman and Royal Navy soldier; served twice as Prime Minister. He had died on 14 September.
A large iron and glass building erected in Hyde Park, London for the Great Exhibition of 1851; dismantled and rebuilt in south London starting in August 1852, and reopened June 1854.
Loddiges, Conrad (1821-1865). British-born German horticulturalist. Member of the Loddiges family that operated a plant nursery and introduced exotic plants into European gardens during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Organized ferns and terrariums for the Great Exhibition and sold plants to Joseph Paxton for the rebuilt Crystal Palace.
Paxton, Joseph (1803-1865). British gardener, architect and Member of Parliament; designer of the Crystal Palace.
Plantains.
Stevens, Samuel (1817-1899). Entomologist and dealer in natural history specimens.
de Lima, João Antonio ( — ). Portuguese trader resident on the upper Rio Negro and referred to in Wallace, A. R. 1853. Narrative of Travels on the Amazon and Rio Negro, With an Account of the Native Tribes, and Observations on the Climate, Geology, and Natural History of the Amazon Valley. London: Reeve & Co. as "Senhor L.".
This page is the address side of the lettersheet.
The words "Rio Negro" and "Cuidado Henrique Antony" were added later by a different hand, presumably by the person who forwarded the letter.
Antony/Antonij, Henrique ( — ). Italian merchant based in Barra do Rio Negro (Manaus), Brazil. Known for his hospitality to travellers, including Spruce and ARW.

Transcription (WCP349.5294)

[1]

Extract from a letter from Alfred Russel Wallace to Dr. Spruce1.

Brig Jordesson, N.Lat.49o 30 /, W.Long.20o.

Sept. 19, 1852.

…………..A hole was then out in the cabin floor, and while the carpenter was doing this the rest of the crew were employed getting out the boats, the captain looked after his chronometer, box containing a few shirts, and put in it my drawings of fishes and palms, which wrere luckily at hand; also my watch and a purse with a few sovereigns. Most of my clothes were scattered about the cabin, and in the dense suffocating smoke it was impossible to look about after them…………………………

"I cannot attempt to describe my feelings and thoughts during these events. I was surprised to find myself very cool and collected. I hardly thought it possible we should escape and I remember thinking it almost foolish to save my wa[t]ch and the little money I had in hand. However after being in the boats some days I began to have more hope, and regreted not having saved some new shoes, cloth coat and trousers, hat &c, which I might have done with a little trouble. My collections, however, were in the hold and were [i]n the hold and were irrettrievably lost. And now I begin to think that almost all the reward of my four years of privation and danger was lost.What I had hiterto sent home had little more than paid my expenses, and what I had with me in the Helen2 I estimated would have realized about £500. But even all this might|have gone with little regret had not by far th[e] richest part of my own private collection gone aslso. All my private collection of insects and birds since I left Para was with me, and comprised hundreds of new and beautiful species, which would have rendered (I had fondly hopaed) my cabinet, as far as regards American species, one of the finest in Europe, Fancy your regrets had you lost all your Pyrenean mosses|on your voyage home, or should you now lose all your South American collection, and you will have some idea of what I suffer. But besides this I have lost a number of sketches, drawings, notes, and observations on natural history, besides the three most interesting years of my journal, the whole of which, unlike any pecuniary loss, cnan never be replaced; so you will see that I have some need of philosophic resignation to bear my fate with patience and equanimity."

Spruce, Richard (1817-1893). British botanist, explorer and collector in the Amazon; lifelong friend of ARW.
Helen was the ship in which ARW was making his return journey from South America. It caught fire and sank in the North Atlantic.

Published letter (WCP349.6912)

[1]

"Brig Jorgeson, N. Lat. 49° 30', W. Long. 20°.

"Sunday, September 19, 1852.

"MY DEAR FRIEND,

"Having now some prospect of being home in a week or ten days, I will commence giving you an account of the peculiar circumstances which have already kept me at sea seventy days on a voyage which took us only twenty-nine days on our passage

[2] [p. 152]

out. I hope you have received the letter sent you from Para, dated July 9 or 10, in which I informed you that I had taken my passage in a vessel bound for London, which was to sail in a few days. On Monday, July 12, I went on board with all my cargo, and some articles purchased or collected on my way down, with the remnant (about twenty) of my live stock.* After being at sea about a week I had a slight attack of fever, and at first thought I had got the yellow fever after all. However, a little calomel set me right in a few days, but I remained rather weak, and spent most of my time reading in the cabin, which was very comfortable. On Friday, August 6, we were in N. Lat. 30° 30', W. Long. 52°, when, about nine in the morning, just after breakfast, Captain Turner, who was half-owner of the vessel, came into the cabin, and said, 'I'm afraid the ship's on fire. Come and see what you think of it.' Going on deck I found a thick smoke coming out of the forecastle, which we both thought more like the steam from heating vegetable matter than the smoke from a fire. The fore hatchway was immediately opened to try and ascertain the origin of the smoke, and a quantity of cargo was thrown out, but the smoke continuing without any perceptible increase, we went to the after hatchway, and after throwing out a quantity of piassaba, with which the upper part of the hold was filled, the smoke became so dense that the men could not stay in it. Most of them were then set to work throwing in buckets of water, and the rest proceeded to the cabin and opened the lazaretto or store-place beneath its floor, and found smoke issuing from the bulkhead separating it from

* [Footnote 1] These consisted of numerous parrots and parrakeets, and several uncommon monkeys, a forest wild-dog, etc.

[3] [p. 153]

the hold, which extended halfway under the fore part of the cabin. Attempts were then made to break down this bulkhead, but it resisted all efforts, the smoke being so suffocating as to prevent any one stopping in it more than a minute at a time. A hole was then cut in the cabin floor, and while the carpenter was doing this, the rest of the crew were employed getting out the boats, the captain looked after his chronometer, sextant, books, charts and compasses, and I got up a small tin box containing a few shirts, and put in it my drawings of fishes and palms, which were luckily at hand; also my watch and a purse with a few sovereigns. Most of my clothes were scattered about the cabin, and in the dense suffocating smoke it was impossible to look about after them. There were two boats, the long-boat and the captain's gig, and it took a good deal of time to get the merest necessaries collected and put into them, and to lower them into the water. Two casks of biscuit and a cask of water were got in, a lot of raw pork and some ham, a few tins of preserved meats and vegetables, and some wine. Then there were corks to stop the holes in the boats, oars, masts, sails, and rudders to be looked up, spare spars, cordage, twine, canvas, needles, carpenter's tools, nails, etc. The crew brought up their bags of clothes, and all were bundled indiscriminately into the boats, which, having been so long in the sun, were very leaky, and soon became half full of water, so that two men in each of them had to be constantly baling out the water with buckets. Blankets, rugs, pillows, and clothes were all soaked, and the boats seemed overloaded, though there was really very little weight in them. All being now prepared, the crew were again employed pouring water in the cabin and hatchway.

[4] [p. 154]

"The cargo of the ship consisted of rubber, cocoa, anatto, balsam-capivi, and piassaba. The balsam was in small casks, twenty stowed in sand, and twenty small kegs in rice-chaff, immediately beneath the cabin floor, where the fire seemed to be. For some time we had heard this bubbling and hissing as if boiling furiously, the heat in the cabin was very great, flame soon broke into the berths and through the cabin floor, and in a few minutes more blazed up through the skylight on deck. All hands were at once ordered into the boats, which were astern of the ship. It was now about twelve o'clock, only three hours from the time the smoke was first discovered. I had to let myself down into the boat by a rope, and being rather weak it slipped through my hands and took the skin off all my fingers, and finding the boat still half full of water I set to baling, which made my hands smart very painfully. We lay near the ship all the afternoon, watching the progress of the flames, which soon covered the hinder part of the vessel, and rushed up the shrouds and sails in a most magnificent conflagration. Soon afterwards, by the rolling of the ship, the masts broke off and fell overboard, the decks soon burnt away, the ironwork at the sides became red-hot, and last of all the bowsprit, being burnt at the base, fell also. No one had thought of being hungry till darkness came on, when we had a meal of biscuit and raw ham, and then disposed ourselves as well as we could for the night, which, you may be sure, was by no means a pleasant one. Our boats continued very leaky, and we could not cease an instant from baling; there was a considerable swell, though the day had been remarkably fine, and there were constantly floating around us pieces of the burnt wreck, masts, etc., which might have stove in

[5] [p. 155]

our boats had we not kept a constant look-out to keep clear of them. We remained near the ship all night, in order that we might have the benefit of its flames attracting any vessel that might pass within sight of it.

"It now presented a magnificent and awful sight as it rolled over, looking like a huge cauldron of fire, the whole cargo of rubber, etc., forming a liquid burning mass at the bottom. In the morning our little masts and sails were got up, and we bade adieu to the Helen, now burnt down to the water's edge, and proceeded with a light east wind towards the Bermudas, the nearest land, but which were more than seven hundred miles from us. As we were nearly in the track of West Indian vessels, we expected to fall in with some ship in a few days.

"I cannot attempt to describe my feelings and thoughts during these events. I was surprised to find myself very cool and collected. I hardly thought it possible we should escape, and I remember thinking it almost foolish to save my watch and the little money I had at hand. However, after being in the boats some days I began to have more hope, and regretted not having saved some new shoes, cloth coat and trousers, hat, etc., which I might have done with a little trouble. My collections, however, were in the hold, and were irretrievably lost. And now I began to think that almost all the reward of my four years of privation and danger was lost. What I had hitherto sent home had little more than paid my expenses, and what I had with me in the Helen I estimated would have realized about £500. But even all this might have gone with little regret had not by far the richest part of my own private collection gone also. All my private collection of insects and birds since I left

[6] [p. 156]

Para was with me, and comprised hundreds of new and beautiful species, which would have rendered (I had fondly hoped) my cabinet, as far as regards American species, one of the finest in Europe. Fancy your regrets had you lost all your Pyrenean mosses on your voyage home, or should you now lose all your South American collection, and you will have some idea of what I suffer. But besides this, I have lost a number of sketches, drawings, notes, and observations on natural history, besides the three most interesting years of my journal, the whole of which, unlike any pecuniary loss, can never be replaced; so you will see that I have some need of philosophic resignation to bear my fate with patience and equanimity.

"Day after day we continued in the boats. The winds changed, blowing dead from the point to which we wanted to go. We were scorched by the sun, my hands, nose, and ears being completely skinned, and were drenched continually by the seas or spray. We were therefore almost constantly wet, and had no comfort and little sleep at night. Our meals consisted of raw pork and biscuit, with a little preserved meat or carrots once a day, which was a great luxury, and a short allowance of water, which left us as thirsty as before directly after we had drunk it. Ten days and ten nights we spent in this manner. We were still two hundred miles from Bermuda, when in the afternoon a vessel was seen, and by eight in the evening we were on board her, much rejoiced to have escaped a death on the wide ocean, whence none would have come to tell the tale. The ship was the Jordeson, bound for London, and proves to be one of the slowest old ships going. With a favourable wind and all sail set, she seldom does more than five knots,

[7] [p. 157]

her average being two or three, so that we have had a most tedious time of it, and even now cannot calculate with any certainty as to when we shall arrive. Besides this, she was rather short of provisions, and as our arrival exactly doubled her crew, we were all obliged to be put on strict allowance of bread, meat, and water. A little ham and butter of the captain’s were soon used up, and we have been now for some time on the poorest of fare. We have no suet, butter, or raisins with which to make 'duff,' or even molasses, and barely enough sugar to sweeten our tea or coffee, which we take with dry, coarse biscuit, and for dinner, beef or pork of the very worst quality I have ever eaten or even imagined to exist. This, repeated day after day without any variation, beats even Rio Negro fare, rough though it often was. About a week after we were picked up we spoke and boarded an outward-bound ship, and got from her some biscuits, a few potatoes, and some salt cod, which were a great improvement, but did not last long. We have also occasionally caught some dolphin and a few fish resembling the acarrás of the Rio Negro; but for some time now we had seen none, so that I am looking forward to the 'flesh-pots of Egypt' with as much pleasure as when we were luxuriating daily on farinha and 'fiel amigo.'* While we were in the boats we had generally fine weather, though with a few days and nights squally and with a heavy sea, which made me often tremble for our safety, as we heeled over till the water poured in over the boat's side. We had almost despaired of seeing any vessel, our circle of vision being so limited; but we had great

* [Footnote 1] This was the name given by our kind host, Señor Henrique, at Barra to dried pirarucú, meaning "faithful friend," always at hand when other food failed.

[8] [p. 158]

hopes of reaching Bermuda, though it is doubtful if we should have done so, the neighbourhood of those islands being noted for sudden squalls and hurricanes, and it was the time of year when the hurricanes most frequently occur. Having never seen a great gale or storm at sea, I had some desire to witness the phenomenon, and have now been completely gratified. The first we had about a fortnight ago. In the morning there was a strong breeze and the barometer had fallen nearly half an inch during the night and continued sinking, so the captain commenced taking in sail, and while getting in the royals and studding-sails, the wind increased so as to split the mainsail, fore-topsail, fore-trysail, and jib, and it was some hours before they could be got off her, and the main-topsail and fore-sail double reefed. We then went flying along, the whole ocean a mass of boiling foam, the crests of the waves being carried in spray over our decks. The sea did not get up immediately, but by night it was very rough, the ship plunging and rolling most fearfully, the sea pouring in a deluge over the top of her bulwarks, and sometimes up over the cabin skylight. The next morning the wind abated, but the ship, which is a very old one, took in a deal of water, and the pumps were kept going nearly the whole day to keep her dry. During this gale the wind went completely round the compass, and then settled nearly due east, where it pertinaciously continued for twelve days, keeping us tacking about, and making less than forty miles a day against it. Three days ago we had another gale, more severe than the former one — a regular equinoctial, which lasted two entire days and nights, and split one of the newest and strongest sails on the ship. The rolling and plunging were fearful, the bowsprit

[9] [p. 159]

going completely under water, and the ship being very heavily laden with mahogany, fustic, and other heavy woods from Cuba, strained and creaked tremendously, and leaked to that extent that the pumps were obliged to be kept constantly going, and their continued click-clack, click-clack all through the night was a most disagreeable and nervous sound. One day no fire could be made owing to the sea breaking continually into the galley, so we had to eat a biscuit for our dinner; and not a moment’s rest was to be had, as we were obliged to be constantly holding on, whether standing, sitting, or lying, to prevent being pitched about by the violent plunges and lurches of the vessel. The gale, however, has now happily passed, and we have a fine breeze from the north-west, which is taking us along six or seven knots — quicker than we have ever gone yet. Among our other disagreeables here we have no fresh water to spare for washing, and as I only saved a couple of shirts, they are in a state of most uncomfortable dirtiness, but I console myself with the thoughts of a glorious warm bath when I get on shore.

* * * * *

"October 1. Oh, glorious day! Here we are on shore at Deal, where the ship is at anchor. Such a dinner, with our two captains! Oh, beef-steaks and damson tart, a paradise for hungry sinners.

* * * * *

"October 5, London. Here I am laid up with swelled ankles, my legs not being able to stand work after such a long rest in the ship. I cannot write now at any length — I have too much to think about, We had a narrow escape in the Channel. Many vessels were lost in a storm on the night of September 29, but we escaped. The old 'Iron Duke' is

[10] [p. 160]

dead. The Crystal Palace is being pulled down, and is being rebuilt on a larger and improved plan by a company. Loddige’s collection of plants has been bought entire to stock it, and they think by heating it in the centre to get a gradation of climates, so as to be able to have the plants of different countries, tropical or temperate, in one undivided building. This is Paxton's plan.

"How I begin to envy you in that glorious country where 'the sun shines for ever unchangeably bright,' where farinha abounds, and of bananas and plantains there is no lack! Fifty times since I left Para have I vowed, if I once reached England, never to trust myself more on the ocean. But good resolutions soon fade, and I am already only doubtful whether the Andes or the Philippines are to be the scene of my next wanderings. However, for six months I am a fixture here in London, as I am determined to make up for lost time by enjoying myself as much as possible for awhile. I am fortunate in having about £200 insured by Mr. Stevens' foresight, so I must be contented, though it is very hard to have nothing to show of what I took much pains to procure.

"I trust you are well and successful. Kind remembrances to everybody, everywhere, and particularly to the respectable Senhor Joaõ de Lima of São Joachim.

"Your very sincere friend, | "ALFRED R. WALLACE."

Please cite as “WCP349,” in Beccaloni, G. W. (ed.), Ɛpsilon: The Alfred Russel Wallace Collection accessed on 9 December 2022, https://epsilon.ac.uk/view/wallace/letters/WCP349