Voyage of the Adamant

Voyage of the Adamant
From the Diary of Benjamin Ward (1848 - 1928) who was a passenger on this voyage.

Our sincere thanks to Bill Ward in Australia for supplying this transcription.

Account of voyage of "Ship Adamant" From England to New Zealand" 1875A short sketch of the voyage with an account of the ship going aground. Diary kept by Benjamin Ward. The original is held by his grandson, Alan Ward. This text is from a Xerox copy.

July 10th. We left Blackwall at about 2. P.M. and arrived on board the "Adamant", lying off Gravesend about 4.P.M.

July 11th. More Emigrants arrive on board.

July 12th. The Government Inspector arrives on board and passed all correct. We had a splendid view of the Gravesend Regatta.

July 14th At 1. P.M. the Tugboat came alongside and we were tugged as far as Beachey Head.

July 16th The Pilot leaves the ship. We had a splendid run down the Channel.

July 23rd A child died belonging to Mr Hill, was buried with usual board-ship ceremony.

July 28th. A Mrs Phelps was confined of a son.

August 15th. One of the crew caught a shark which was cooked and some of us had the pleasure of tasting it

August 21st Crossed the line seven of crew undergo the curious old custom of being shaved.

August 28th. Concerts have been going on greatly to the amusement of the passengers for sometime past and they were enjoying themselves in this way this evening. Singing had not long commenced when the look-out, on the forecastle shouted "Light ahead". Some of us went forward to look at it. The Captain, 1st Mate, Boatswain with others of the crew, soon joined us, and using their glasses came to the conclusion that it was a ships light. However it did not appear to make way for us, for we were making right on it. After a short time the Captain gave orders to bear off to the right. We were not sailing for more than 15 minutes, if as long, when suddenly a light much larger than the first, burst upon us. "Why" said some, "that's another ship just put out her lights" To the experienced it was only too evident that a light-house, which had hitherto had the dark part of the lantern towards us, now glared in all its brightness upon us. Then came the scene. "Clear the deck. All married women below. All hands about-ship." were the orders given from the Captain in rapid succession; that, with the knowledge that the lights were land-lights, and not ships caused some to think we were running aground. Indeed one woman ran below wringing her hands, called for her children, shouting "What shall we do we are on the rocks." The ship was soon about and all was quiet, except among the women below, where there was some excitement and one or two fainted. The lights were watched for more than half-an-hour after the ship went about. The Captain certainly did not know where we were for he said the name of the place was Pernanbuco (our note - Pernambuco, east coast of Brazil). Next day we learned that we were between 3 & 4 South Latitude. Pernanbuco is about 9. South, so much for the Captain's care. This was the last concert held on board.

1st Sept. Sighted an island named Fernando Noronha (our note - off east coast of Brazil which proves they were further north than the Captain had said), after tacking about. In fact it has been all tacking about on the coast for we have had the south-east trades against us. We sight land again on the 4th, 5th & 8th Sept. Still in sight of land and we passed two black men in a boat fishing.

9th Sept. Saw lights from shore at 8 P.M.

10th Sept. At 8 P.M. The Captain ordered married women below, they refused to obey, as it was too soon, and a beautiful night; at 8.15 he again ordered them below and again he was disobeyed. At 8.40 the Boatswain was ordered by him to play the hose upon them. The Boatswain acted as though he did not hear. At 9 o'clock he ordered them below again. At 9.15 they went below. As they were descending the hatchway, the captain threatened them in the following language, viz. "The first time it blows half a gale of wind I will pay you for your trouble," he made use of words to the same effect when going his rounds with the Doctor at 10. P.M.

Sept. 11th The following notice was affixed on the door of the stores. Viz -

All married females are expected to go to their beds not later than 9.30. P.M, if ordered below earlier it will be for the working of the ship, or on account of bad weather.

By order,  Thomas Burch, Master.
                                          11th Sept. 75, G.F. Stewart, Surgeon.

13th Sept. Once or twice it seemed as if we were trying how near we could get to land without meeting danger; more than once the rumour went around that we were very near running aground.

16th Sept. The novelty of seeing land was now worn off. It was in sight all that day and we were slowly making on it; about 4. P.M. as the ship was put about there was so little water that she actually stirred mud from the bottom. In spite of this the Captain again ordered her about at 7. P.M. At 8 P.M. Rockets were fired from shore. One of the women on seeing them said to the Captain, "Look at the lights" on which he ordered the married women below, and the mainsail up, ready to go about, and there, unfortunately he stopped. At 8.30 P.M. I was speaking to the Engineer. He told me he had stopped the engine, for we should not require any more water, and that he had packed up his box of tools in readiness to go ashore, as he said we should soon go aground, if the Captain continued on the same tack as we were then going, and that he should not go to bed before he had seen the ship put about. Being in such shallow water before on this tack, and so soon turning on it again, caused us to think we were getting in shallow water again. So they began sounding about 9.20. P.M. We were in 9 1/2 fathoms of water, at 9.50 the ship was put about. At 10.5 the ship struck on a coral reef, but as the wind was very light, we did not go on with much force. I got up from bed and dressed myself, and when ascending the hatchway, I saw the Doctor, and he asked me what I wanted. Before I could reply to him, he told me to go below to pacify the women. I went below to please him. There was some little excitement among them. It was no easy matter to pacify them. I then went on deck again, looked over the side, and found, as I had anticipated, that we were stuck fast. We must be thankful that it was a beautiful moonlight night and very little wind. All the sails were set including the Royals. Orders were given to square the yards to back her off. This was done several times, but finding they could not back her off in this way, word was given for all men to muster on the poop. They were desired to run from side to side. This had the effect of lifting the forepart of the keel, where she was caught, and the wind filling the sails from fore'ard, they being square, drove her back and we so got free, but only to get aground once more. The same means were again applied, and she was got off the second time. So we sailed away quite safe about 12. P.M. The whole time the Doctor, 1st mate, and 3rd mate acted manfully, the former in pacifying the women, the two latter in doing their utmost in getting the ship off. The Captain, through whose intemperate habits, we got aground, was holding himself on to the rails insensible through drink. The passengers did not care to go to their beds again, but gathered in groups expressing their indignation at the Captain's conduct, and they determined to send in a requisition for the Captain to resign his post to the 1st mate, owing to the formers' intemperate habits, also to put in at the nearest port to have the ship examined. The passengers accordingly went on the poop to the 1st mate, and asked him "If they were to send in a paper, requesting the Captain to resign his post, would he take charge of the ship in his own hands." He gave them no definite answer, but requested them to go below, and assured them that he would answer for the safety of the ship for the future. Going aground by no means came to us by surprise for every thoughtful mind could see by the way in which we were hugging so dangerous a coast, that it was next to impossible to escape some danger, more particularly when we consider that it was rumoured on good authority that the chart for the West [East?] Coast of South America was lost, and they were obliged to work on one that had become obsolete, and it was not for some time after we left the coast, before the right chart was found.

Sept 17th. A requisition signed by 106 male passengers, as per copy was sent in to the Doctor. There was only a few who did not sign the requisition, most of them were employed on the ship, and so, more or less, under a compliment to the Captain. The requistion was given to the Doctor who was somewhat against it. But seeing the passengers were firm, he handed it to the Captain who threatened to log him for enticing the passengers to mutiny, which the Doctor rightly and stoutly denied. The Captain tore the paper up. This happened between 5 & 6 p.m. The deputation waited for a reply to the requisition. The Captain replied he would send them an answer. After waiting some time the following notice was affixed near the cabin door.

To Passengers in General
"Please to mind your own business and leave navigation to myself. 
Signed Thomas Burch, Master.
Charles Tupman, 1st Mate. 
O'Neill, 3rd Mate".

We very much felt the need of some provisions in the law. Here was the Captain in command of a ship with about 250 souls on board. His intemperance unfitted him for his post. He would not allow the 1st Mate to exercise his judgment, but insisted on commanding himself. We saw our danger but to act determinedly would be mutiny. We ask him to put in at the nearest port, he coolly refuses. Would it be any use suggesting to the authorities that there be no strong drink except that used for medical comforts, on board an Emigrant ship.

18th Sept. We get a breeze from land which takes us out to sea.

21st Sept. Sight land at daylight.

26th Sept. The Wheel was lashed.

28 Sept. A Mrs Hart was confined of twins.

10 Oct Very rough ship a heavy sea, which came between decks.

12 Oct  A Mrs Phillips confined of a son.

13th Oct. Passed the Cape of Good Hope.

17th Oct. Mrs Ayling confined of a daughter.

21st Oct Sight Prince Edwards Island, the top of which is covered with snow.

24th Oct.  At 4 a.m. Mrs Ayling died, was buried at 1. P.M. Saw an iceberg.

27th Oct  Saw 2 more Icebergs.

3rd Nov. A cask containing some rum was thrown overboard by the Chief Officers' directions.

4th Nov. Money left in care of the Captain, by passengers, was returned to passengers by Chief Officer.

6th Nov. At 5.40. P.M. The Captain died.

7th Nov. The Captain was buried at 12 o'clock Noon. Unfortunate gentleman, was never seen on deck, but twice since the ship ran aground.

Nov 17th Mrs Hill confined of a daughter, which lived only a short time.

22nd Nov. Had cable up anchors.- served out with the last of preserved meat, only had sufficient for the children.

23rd Nov. The last of the pork is served out.

24th Nov. Have porridge made for breakfast, and served out with boiled rice for dinner in place of preserved meat.

25th Nov. Store-day. Each mess are served out with about 1 lb of butter, no raisins. The single men receive no butter or tea.

27th Nov. Pearl Barley is issued in place of Arrowroot or Sago for children, and sugar in place of Treacle.

28th Nov. Sight a vessel Homeward bound from Melbourne. By Orders of the Chief Officer the life-boat on the weather side is lowered and the 2nd and 3rd mates, accompanied by 4 of the crew rowed across to her, and returned with a small cask of flour, which fell overboard while hauling the boat up. After a short time, the boat on the lee-side is lowered, and they succeeded in getting the cask again, which they manage to get on board this time.We had a very pleasant voyage. The food was very good with the exceptions of the potatoes and bread. The potatoes at the beginning of the voyage were so bad that at the rate of only one or two issued for a mess, could be eaten. The bread was very bad for nearly all the way out, owing to having such bad flour for consumption. It was so bad at times, that several batches were obliged at times to be thrown overboard. The oatmeal and rice were issued in a cooked state for about a week before arrival only. We were 51 days in the tropics, & saw several kinds of fishes, amongst them may be mentioned whales.

The "Adamant" arrived off Bluff on 3rd December and was met by the Health Officer in the stream on the 4th.