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LIFE AT SEA.
VOYAGE FROM BOSTON TO GIBRALTAR.
First Impressions of a Man-of-War. - Vastness of the Ocean. – A Storm.
A Hurricane. - Power of the Ocean. – Sail from Boston.- Feelings thus excited. — Poetry. - Sea Sickness. — A Wet Ship. - Greenhorns. – Marines. — A Commander of a Ship. — Peril at Sea. – The Ship strikes. — Scene below. - Scene on Deck. – Narrow Escape. - Public Worship. Golden Mist. - Speak a Ship.-" Land ho!” – Arrive at Gibraltar.
A MAN-OF-WAR .of the larger class, with its crowded host, and armed and equipped for a distant voyage, is an object of new and peculiar interest to one who has been familiar only with the peaceful abodes of science, and the quiet seclusion of domestic life. How like a floating Babel, does such an inmate view this little world, with all its strife of tongues, its noisy jargon, its roaring cannon, and the loud, and longdrawn cheers, which greet the coming of some favorite chief. At first, he gazed, with wonder, on this mighty fabric, as, in the quiet harbour, with its gigantic hull, its towering masts, and wide-extended yards, it rested on the bosom of the deep. Then, as he moved along her decks, lined with long, dark rows of massive guns, and peopled with a thousand men, with means for their support at hand, and each with his allotted place and sphere of duty, “What a vast and splendid exhibition this,” he exclaims, " of human ingenuity and toil.” Perchance, too, he thinks of that Almighty Architect, who gave to man the skill to invent, and the power to construct, so vast a fabric ; - or, to go still further back,
Who nerved with strength the firm and giant oak,
In this same ship he goes forth upon the ocean, and how swiftly doth she move along, when her wide expanse of canvass is opened to the breeze. The shores recede and are lost to the view. Day after day, and week after week, there is nothing but the sky above, and the wide-rolling ocean around him. The ship, which before he had thought so large, seems to diminish in size, when compared with the vastness and grandeur of the works of God, in the midst of which he is moving. She is wasted along like a feather, on the long-swelling waves of the sea, and he begins to feel that the ocean is, indeed, boundless as eternity. How as less than nothing, and vanity, do the proudest efforts of man now appear, when compared with the works of Him, who measureth the waters in the hollow of his hand, who saith to the sea, “Hitherto shalt thou come, and no further, and here shall thy proud waves be stayed.” Had he, before this, any adequate idea of the vastness of the ocean, of those “ wonders of God, in the mighty deep," which awaken feelings such as no language can excite, or description equal ?
He may have pored over the pages of history and geography, and dwelt with glowing rapture on the brilliant descriptions of the poet. He may have computed how many cubic inches of water there are on the surface of the globe, and how many thousand years it would take, for all the rivers of the world to fill the empty space, which would be made by removing, at once, all the waters of the mighty deep. Still, what were all these, in their effects upon the mind, when compared with sailing across an almost boundless ocean.
But the lesson which one may thus learn, has but just commenced. Turn, now, and behold that little cloud in the horizon, which seems no bigger than a man's hand. Soon it expands, and spreads wildly over the heavens. All the sails are taken in, and fear, or deep anxiety, rests on every countenance. The water in the distance seems one wide expanse of foam, and now the waves begin to heave around, lashed to madness by the raging winds. Then comes the wild and angry rush of the tempest, and the warring elements seem eager to devour their prey. That proud and lofty ship, which so lately seemed to dare the tempest's utmost rage, now reels and bows before the fury of the storm. It flees like a chased roe upon the mountains. It is tossed on high as a thing of nought, and then goes down again to the depths, as if the yeasty waves would swallow it up. When thus in the grasp of the tempest, it seems no more than the fragile reed in the hands of a giant. At such an hour the boldest and sternest spirits are subdued, and a cry is heard, like that which sounded in the ears of the prophet, when fleeing to Tarshish, from the presence of the Lord, “ Arise, call upon thy God, if so be that God will think upon us, that we perish not."
And here, might I anticipate so far, I would say, What is a storm, like that described above, to the wild sweep of a hurricane, or tornado, such as is sometimes met with near the equator. Suddenly the horizon is bounded, in every direction, with dark and threatening clouds. With the utmost haste the sails and boats are strongly secured. Whichever way you turn, all is one sheet of tossing, raging foam, rolling on towards you. It is a moment of awful suspense. Soon the clouds, rushing on in dark and angry masses, unite over your head. The rain descends as if a mighty cataract or a vast waterspout, was pouring down upon you. The windows of heaven seem indeed to have been opened, and the fountains of the great deep broken up. The howling of the winds is terrific. The vivid lightning shoots forth its flames, till the whole heavens glow with raging fire. Then is a voice heard from on high, “ as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of great thunder.” What, now, are those mighty ships, those “oak leviathans," with which man had vainly thought to lord it over the elements? How aptly do the words of the sacred poet describe such a scene as this, where, in speaking of the Most High, he says, “ He bowed the heavens, and came down; and darkness was under his feet. And he rode upon a cherub, and did fly: yea, he did fly upon the wings of the wind. He made darkness his secret place; his pavilion round about him was dark waters, and thick clouds of the skies. At the brightness that was before him, the thick clouds passed, hailstones, and coals of fire. Yea, he sent out his arrows and scattered them; and he shot out his lightnings and discomfited them. Then the channels of waters were seen, and the foundations of the world were discovered, at thy rebuke, O Lord, at the blast of the breath of thy nostrils.”
“ His robe was the whirlwind, his voice was the thunder,
The sea, at his footstep, was riven asunder;.
One who has passed through scenes like this, ceases to wonder at the mighty effects produced by the deluge, - that sea fish and shells should be found on lofty mountains, that vast masses of rocks are met with far from their native beds, that the solid strata of the earth were rent asunder, and the gulfs and rivers of a continent received their direction from the course taken by the retiring waters of that mighty inundation.
It was a cold, rough morning, near the close of October, when we set sail from Boston, for Gibraltar. The wind bore us rapidly onwards over the rolling ocean, and though the heavens frowned angrily upon us, yet such was the excitement of the scene, and the emotions to which parting from our native land had given rise, that we little heeded the face of the sky, or aught else, save the deep and conflicting feelings which were struggling within. At times, indeed, we did look, for a moment, at the fleet of fishing vessels which whitened the horizon on our left, but then we soon turned again to view the fading shores of the land of our birth.
There are, at such times, emotions too strong for poetry even to describe, and “thoughts which lie too deep for tears," rush upon the mind. A thousand tender ties are then sundered, and the scenes of past life come up with strange distinctness and power. Some were leaving wives, children, and other friends, whom they loved as their own souls, while others were flying from scenes which recalled to their minds ruined hopes and blighted affections, hoping, that when the wide ocean should roll between them and their native land, and new objects of interest should engross their attention, their past sorrows would be forgotten. But even the stern sadness of such souls was subdued to the tenderness of grief, when, as the shades of evening came on, they saw their native shores fading over the blue waters, and heard the waves dashing wildly, and the night winds roaring around them. I shall not soon forget the feelings with which many of us, amid the thick darkness of night, looked back upon the distant light of Cape Ann, as it quickly rose and sunk again behind the rolling waves, until, at last, it sunk to rise no more. It seemed, for the time, like the severing of those tender ties, which, with strange elasticity and power, had drawn back our hearts the more strongly, the further we removed from our native land. The feelings which, at such times, rush upon us, teach us that we have that within,