Passing Grand Banks

In her travel journal entry for April 19, Eliza Baylies Wheaton wrote first of her seasickness. “More weak,” she noted, “but made desperate effort to get on deck—where I spent most of the day.” Her husband was suffering from seasickness as well, and he joined her on the invalid diet. “David,” she remarked, “not sick at all.”

In the afternoon, the ship passed an iceberg, and Wheaton noted that since they were just passing Grand Banks off Labrador, it was early to see icebergs. More common was the danger of field ice from the St. Lawrence River, and some passengers slept only fitfully. Wheaton remarked that one of their fellow passengers, a Mr. Spaulding from Jamaica Plain, later told her that he did not sleep at all that night.

The ship, however, passed the fishing grounds safely. “Fortunately,” Wheaton wrote, “the fog was not thick on the Banks.” They were traveling north of the Gulf Stream.

Wheaton’s remarks on the natural features they encountered on the voyage pointed to an interest in scientific knowledge that would appear in later entries in the travel journal. Wheaton was very much a woman of her century, living at a moment when human knowledge was more advanced than it had ever been before. She shared with such contemporaries as Charles Darwin an insatiable desire to learn about her world.

Eliza Baylies Wheaton, Travel Journal, Wheaton Family Collection (MC089), Marion B. Gebbie Archives & Special Collections, Madeleine Clark Wallace Library, Wheaton College, Norton, MA.

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