This is his account of over a quarter-century spent on the high seas.
Orphaned at five, nothing held Whidden back from embarking on sea life seven years later. Serving as an apprentice, he quickly proved his worth, and earned himself a mate’s position by his early twenties. Graduating to third, second and first office, he ended his career in command of, and having part-ownership of his own vessel.
This memoir, Ocean Life in the Old Sailing Ship Days, records a series of real events, from his childhood impressions of rough and ready seamen, to his thrilling and brutal experiences of war.
His travels saw him spanning the world, with stops at major ports such as Honolulu, Buenos Aires, Calcutta, and Liverpool.
His life spans the changes in the shipping industry over the 19th and into the 20th century.
During the Civil War, Whidden was heavily involved in profitable island trading in the Bahamas to elude Confederate sailors. However, shortly after the close of the war, in 1870, Whidden left sailing as he found it being overtaken by foreign interests.
John D. Whidden (1832-1911) wrote Ocean Life in the Old Sailing Days in 1908, partly as a memoir, but also to offer a snippet of the “old sailing ship days” before major changes occurred to its business environment, fundamentally changing its nature. It is a classic account of a different way of life, which will appeal to both sailing enthusiasts and historians alike.
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CHAPTER VIII 1847 - 1849 WHALING IN '48. AGAIN TAHITI. ESCAPE TO THE HILLS. DINNER IN THE FRENCH RESTAURANT Ten or twelve days out we sighted our first whales. "There she blows!" came from the lookout stationed at the royal masthead, while to the demand: " Where away? " came the response: " Four points off the lee bow, sir! " Instantly all was excitement. Captain Turner, seizing a powerful marine glass, sprang into the rigging, and quickly ascended to the lookout, from whence in a few moments came the order: " Keep her off four points! " This was speedily done, and the yards checked in. There were many hands to do the work, the ship having a crew of thirty-six, exclusive of officers. Shortly we could see from the deck a large school of sperm-whales, heading eastward, swimming slowly along, little anticipating the reception being made ready for them. Meantime the officers, with their respective crews, were seeing that the whaling gear in each boat was in readiness for lowering. In fact, the gear of a whale-boat when on whaling ground is looked after daily. Harpoons and lances are as bright and sharp as razors. Line-tubs are overhauled, and every kink and turn taken out of the linebefore being coiled down in the tub, when it is as supple as silk. Water " breakers " are kept filled, and a lantern keg, with a small supply of biscuit, etc., always ready. When we were but a short distance from them, the school sounded. The main topsail was now thrown aback, and all made ready for lowering. Though intensely exciting, everything was done very quietly, so as not to alarm the whales. Presently the school broke water about an eighth of a mile astern, and in less than three minutesevery boat was in the water, and headed for the whales, while every pound of s...