James Kennedy's Diary - Trip to Australia

November 5, 1852, New York to Port Phillip, Australia on April 4, 1853 aboard the USA sailing vessel Sacsusa.
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            I had heard so much about the great fortunes that were being made at the gold diggings in Australia that I secured passage with many others.

          On Friday morning, November 5, 1852, the ship Sacsusa was hauled out into the East River, New York, with 160 passengers aboard, bound for Port Phillips, Australia.  About 9 o’clock Saturday morning a tug came alongside to tow us outside, but it was not till one hour later that we made sail, owing to unfavorable winds.  About 2 o’clock we were clear of Sandy Hook, and stood out to see.  Once more I was on the trail of fame and fortune.  Who could tell, but this adventure would lead to my future homeland?

          The state of a passenger ship at such a time is really a sight of human confusion.  When we got fairly well out to sea we had a stiff breeze on our quarter, which caused the ship to roll heavily.  Most of the passengers cast up their food after eating of a hearty dinner, and seasickness was the rule of the day.  I was one of the first to be sick, and for four weeks I was unable to take down notes of what passed.  I found it a great source of uneasiness the way in which matters were conducted.  Some lay in their bunks for days without any attention whatsoever.  The staterooms were small and crowded to excess.  It was like lying on a cupboard shelf.

          MY  DIARY  FOLLOWS –

          Sunday, December 5, 1852 - - in 20 N. Lat.  Have had a succession of squalls, head winds, and calms.  The ship lost its main top brace in a bad squall.  I have been miserably sick all the time.  I have refrained from eating anything, and feel as tho I would give anything to be on land again.  Under no consideration would I again undertake such a voyage.  The weather is beginning to get hot, especially in the calms.

          Sunday, December 19 - - crossed the Equator last nite in longitude 32.  The thermometer is 81 ½ in the shade.  We have been six weeks at sea, and tho the weather is very hot at times, it  is not as bad as if we were on land in the same latitude.

          Saturday, December 25 - - Christmas Day.  We had fresh pork for diner.  I can eat a little now, but must be careful at all times not to overdo it.  We have been beating against headwinds for the last week, trying to weather Cape St. Rogue, on the Brazillian coast.  I dreamt last night of being ship-wrecked and cast upon an island.  Sunday night, 26th - - we recrossed the Equator in longitude 29.50.  Thursday, 30th - - we were passed by a small schooner in longitude 30.50, bound for San Francisco.  She passé us like a thing of life.

          Sunday morning, January 2, 1853.  We came into sight of a convict island belonging to Portugal - - latitude 3.52 and longitude 32.25 west. It is called Fernando Noronto, and lies about 200 miles north east of Cape St. Rogue.  It is 7 miles long by about 3 miles wide.  The interior is fertile, while around the shores nothing but rock abounds.  There are two remarkable rocks on the south side.  One, about the center of the north shore, stands like a huge spire, rising 600 feet high.  The other, to the east of the island, stands like a mighty pyramid to the height of 400 feet, and when the sun shines upon it, looks like brass.  On an elevated table rock, stands the fort, and it looks to be inaccessible from three sides.  On approaching the island from the south-east a most enchanting appearance is presented.  At first the rocks are seen on the horizon like small clouds.  By degrees we could discriminate the base, till at length, the main outline was visible.  

          The passengers became wild with delight to see their “mother south” again.  It is a common saying that, when Fortune smiles, she smiles profusely.  It was so at this instance.  While we were admiring the island, birds in numerous numbers, flew around our ship as though to welcome us to their homeland.  The monsters of the deep, as though conscious of a jubilee, played around along-side the Sacsusa.  The sun was shining with all its tropical splendour.  Surely we must have presented a wonderful sight to the inhabitants of the small island.  The rigging of our ship was crowded with humanity, from the end of the bowsprit to the top of the mizzen mast.

          When we came within two miles of it, I went up into the top foreyard and what a sight I saw!  The towering rocks with their peaks glistening in the sun, gave fantastic shapes from such a distance, while their sides cast gloom into the valleys far below.  With a spy glass, the Governor’s house and gardens could be distinctly seen.  The huts of the convicts and the scattering shrubs and trees that grew on the uncultivated land, showed clearly.  As we passed the west end, the island presented a new face, each as full of novelty as the last.  The extreme west end is a perpendicular rock about 300 feet high.  It has the appearance of a mighty fortress.

          It was one of those incidents in life that is calculated to inspire us with fresh hope, and to create in every mind the proper awe and reverence toward the Great Being.  As I looked at the countenances around me, I could not help reflecting to myself, and saying, “If such a sight of such an insignificant spot on the ocean gives such delight what must be the rapture of the redeemed soul in sight of the Celestial Canaan?”

          After leaving the island far behind, the passengers began to feel melancholy, and of faint heart.  All was anxiety, looking forward to when we should see the land of convicts and GOLD!

          Sunday, January 9 - - lat. 17.28 - - long. 29 west.  We are in a calm, 90 in the shade.  If a small breeze was not blowing, the heat would be unbearable.  It is very pleasant in the Tropics, and only for the length of the voyage, and the inconveniences one meets with on ship, I would enjoy it very much.  The monotony of the sea destroys the effects of its beauty.  The Sabbath is spent in a disgraceful manner.  No signs of Christianity at all.  The majority are lamenting that they ever left their homes.  Indeed, nothing is calculated to cool off GOLD FEVER better than a sea voyage such as this.

          Tuesday, 11 - - lat .20 - - long. 28.  Calm.  85 in the shade.  I made a good job of doing my washing, despite the salt water.  My strength is returning as I grow accustomed to things in general.  I eat as little as possible and drink no tea or coffee.  I eat no animal flesh, my food mainly consisting of potatoes, rice, butter and molasses.  Occasionally I eat some apple sauce and fresh rols.  Those that cannot retrain their appetites, are getting fat and stupid.  Some have boils, which indicates poor blood from overeating.  Preserves and dried fruit go well on board ship.  I wear nothing but pants and a shirt; a thing I could not do on land!

          Wednesday, 12 - - calm-rather hot.  Last night was very chill.  I had two dreams, one that I was in Whitby, and one wherein I was in my home, in Ireland.  Friday - - calms and little squalls.  Passengers are beginning to feel they are in for a long and tedious voyage.  The captain took the water decanters to the galley and made the passengers go there for it.  He refused to let the steward give me a drink of water.  Saturday - - sailing into a smart breeze - - the first within a week.  We have hard times because the captain is so brutal.  On Wednesday he shut up the water closet for the second time, and refused to let an ailing woman the right to occupy it.  Today he refuses the cabin passengers any water.  He does these disturbing things just to show his contempt for us.  His conduct, so far, proves him to be an imprincipled wretch.

          The passengers in the cabin are a low-lived set, for not one of them dare remonstrate to the captain’s face.  The passengers from Canada, (Bytown) are the most vulgar and uncultivated I have ever sailed with.  They are of a class calling themselves Loyalists, and sons of the Old Soldiers.  They are distinguishable only by their ignorance and impudence.  Judging by the passengers on this ship, Australia is getting a miserable addition to their convict population; from a moral and intellectual point of view.

          Sunday, January 16 - - good breeze this afternoon.  Had a white squall today.  They are very treacherous because you don’t see them.  No water allowed in the cabins; only one drink of coffee.  Unpleasant times ahead with such a captain.  He takes every means he can find to annoy us.  Today, while I was leaning on it, the captain let loose the main brace and nearly threw me into the sea.  He gave me no warning at all.

          The Tropics - - this is a miserable existence.  I would surely die in despair if I did not know we would strike land sometime.  The captain has no regards for religion, and Sunday is disgracefully spent.  Only those well established keep to their customs.  I read my Bible as much as possible.  Sometimes I take up my singing book, but am obliged to put it down with something the feeling of the Jewish captives when in bondage, “O, How the Lord’s song can I sing, when in a foreign land? ”  I hope I am never placed in such circumstances again.  I trust I shall be able to get some good teachings from my experiences.  I now have the feeling that I care nothing for digging for GOLD.  Gold hunting is the Devil’s harvest time.  I trust God will protect me from the evil influence of GOLD.

          We are now within 2800 miles of Cape Town, South Africa.

          Wednesday, January 19 - - 86 in the shade.  Splendid weather.  Fair wind for the Cape.  Yesterday we had a new arrival to join our expedition.  About the time of “its” arrival we were taking tea as though nothing was occurring.  The female adventuress was born in one of the cupboard-like staterooms; about 6 by 4, they are.  The husband officiated.  This same woman suffered more on this voyage than would have killed ten men.  She was never able to sit down, nor eat at the table once.  And what was worse, the brute of a captain discharged the stewardess who should have attended her.  He did it just for spite, because he and the woman’s husband had quarreled.  No one thought anything of such a state of affairs.  What a savage animal man is!

          Thursday, January 20 - - a gentle wind is on our quarter.  The weather is sunny, hotter than usual; every one seems dull and stupid.  In the evening it is lovely; at sunset, the clear, blue sky, and all the various tints that the clouds on the horizon show, makes one forget his misery and feel happy.  I have never seen anything to equal it.  But these things cease to charm when there is nothing but grumblings morning and night.  Today we sat down to dinner with nothing but sea biscuit and salt junk before us.  We were not allowed any water.  Friday, 21 - - same wind as yesterday.  Rather cool.  Sunday, 22 - - wind changed to westerly by south, last night.  Heavy squalls and much rain today.  The doctor and the captain had a stormy quarrel at breakfast time.  At dinner the captain began a tirade against those who dare to violate his laws, and, much to my astonishment, the ensuing quarrels ended much better then I had hoped for.

          I seem to care naught whether I ever reach our destination.  The continual grumbling gets on my nerves.  I have come to the conclusion that this world is all a fleeting show given for man’s illusion, and he will never profit by pursuing the things of Time.

          Monday, 24 - - head wind today from the east.  Getting very cool and rather boisterous; a great many of the passengers have colds.  Today, we had water at breakfast.  At dinner each man was supplied with a tumblerful.  We were told by the captain not to squander it.  Tuesday - - sailing east by east, gentle breeze.  Yesterday afternoon a young sailor, who was painting on the side, was thrown off his seat and drowned.  It was not a pleasant scene to witness as he disappeared beneath the surface, never to rise again.  I imagined him standing in the presence of the great, “I am”, surrounded by innumerable angels and justified spirits, welcoming him home.  And he, in transports of unspeakable joy, joining in the general song of “Hallelujah” to the lamb who rescued his soul from a more fearful abyss that which received his body.  O!  How uncertain life is!  Just one misstep, and our earthly existence is cut off.

About half an hour after the accident the clouds began to brood around the horizon, and within a few minutes all was gloom.  It seemed as if the elements were rejoicing in their triumph over man.  The hollow wind seemed to chant the Requiem of the dead, and to invite my chorus.

Saturday, 29 - - fair wind, very hazy; signs of land.  Sea birds, albatrosses, were to be seen.  Sunday, 30 - - more signs of land.  Monday, 31 - - fine and clear.  We are within 700 miles of Cape Town.  Preparations are being made for our there.  The weather is getting cool, and this calls for heavy clothing.

Tuesday, February 1 - - best day’s sailing yet.  A strong breeze.  Air is bracing and pleasant.  A great many birds are to be seen. The albatross,

2 Pages LOST - -

Monday, February 21 - - pleasant day - - light breeze from the south.  We are off our course.  Sailing south south-west, instead of south-east by east.  Tuesday, 22 - - cold piercing wind, backward for sailing.  Wind ahead. Wind is very changeable.  Thursday, 24 - - yesterday was a calm.  Today fairer wind, pleasant. Friday, 25 - - same as the 24th.  Saturday, 26 - - strong west wind today.  Very cold.  Lat. 42 south, long. 44 east.  Monday, 28 - - fair wind today and yesterday.  Very cold; 10 knots.

Tuesday, march 1 - - wind north-west by west; on the starboard quarter.  Not so cold.  Are about halfway from the Cape to Port Phillips.  We are beginning to feel as though we would get to our journey’s end.  Wednesday, 2 - - wind is west; regular gale.  Today is sunny and peasant.  Thursday, 3 - - wind is north north-west.  Heavy seas.  Favorable winds.  At night it is awful to hear the wind and the sea contending, and to see in the wake, phosphorous, like balls of fire, dancing about.  It is really beautiful, though at the same time dreadful.

Friday, March 4 - - wind south-west; light breeze.  Pleasant, sunshine.  Cold day.  Saturday, 5 - - wind north north-west; light breeze.  Rather hazy.  Sunday, 6 - - Sabbath spent as usual.  In about two weeks time we expect to reach Australia.  I shall not regret leaving this ship, whatever be my fate in the New World.  Tuesday, 8 - - wind from north-west to south-west.  Hazy weather.  Yesterday was calm and very pleasant.  Thursday, 10 - - light wind from west.  Cold and rather hazy.  We are beginning to prepare for landing; ladders for the ships side are being got ready.  Hope is beginning to peep out of the mist that has so long enveloped it.

It seems a short life time since we started from New York.  The seasickness and the long confinement, and monotony of the scene from day to day, gradually wear away the senses, until at length all ambition has fled, and you get into a state of perfect indifference.

Friday, March 11 - - hazy weather.  Saturday, 12 - - today is a perfect gale.  The cold is very piercing.  Sunday, 13 - - as we are approaching Australia, time seems to hurry; from the increasing anxiety, I suppose.  This voyage has been a state of existence contrary to my nature, therefore it hasn’t been very pleasant for me.  It may, however, temporize me, as I believe I require it.  For my own good and the enjoyment of those who may come into contact with me.  Such expeditions as this are liable to harden the thoughtless and profane and may impress on others the uncertainty of all earthly hopes and prospects.

Monday, March 14 - - strong west wind.  Rather cold and rough.  Tuesday, 15 - - rain in the forenoon.  Clear afternoon.  Wednesday, 16 - - gentle south-west wind.  Pleasant sunny day.  Thursday, 17 - - north wind; sunny day.  Friday, 18 - - sunny day.  Saturday, 19 - - wind changeable from north-west to south-west.  Rainy.  Sunday, 20 - - wind south; light and pleasant breeze.  We are now within three days sailing of Port Phillips, and all is anxiety.  To get on land!  That is life. If I am unsuccessful in this adventure to find my fortune in the gold fields of the New World, I know not what will be the result.  If I am successful, I have my plans as far as intentions go.  In either case, God only knows what will be the issue.

Monday, 22 - - wind south-east; 3 knot breeze.  Tuesday, 22 - - wind east, ahead.  Cold, chilly weather.  Wednesday, 23 - - wind east.  Ship beating about making making no headway.  If this continues, no knowing when we will get in.  Today is rather pleasant, not so chilly.  Thursday, 24 - - east wind, dead ahead.  Tacking about, but making no heading.  Pleasant day, though rather cold.  It is really discouraging to be within two days of our destination and still unable to get in.

Friday, March 25 - - same wind and weather as yesterday.  Saturday, 26 - - boisterous head wind.  Sunday, 27 - - east wind as usual.  Dead ahead.  Boisterous and chilly.  This is the 21st Sabbath we have spent at sea.  It seems as though we will never get in.  Here we are at our destination, and still we are not.  The wind is just playing with us.  Our patience is worn out, and nothing but despair remains.

Monday, March 28 - - This morning made as though the wind was coming north about, but before noon it was around again to the east.  This evening it looks more favorable, and clouds are rising in the north-west and darkening the horizon in that direction.  If we don’t soon get a fair wind we will all go crazy.  Tuesday, 29 - - today at 10 o’clock the wind was around to north-west.  Things look favorable; every face looks cheerful.  Wednesday, 30 – today looks fair; wind stands north-west.  Weather more genial.  Looks like land atmosphere.  Afternoon most delightful; the day quite warm, towards evening, calm.  We are within 120 miles of Port Phillips.

Thursday, 31 - - wind hauled around to east south-east.  This makes it kind of difficult for us to get into Port Phillips.

Friday, April 1 - - last night, at sunset, we approached within sight of land, and about 9 o’clock we were within sound of the breakers on the beach.  Then we tacked about and stood south; we were then about 40 miles west of Cape Otway.  This morning at 4 o’clock the wind hauled to the north, and by sunrise we were standing east, and fully in sight of land again.  The sun was most resplendent on Bass Straits, and fragrant smell from the land was most invigorating.  It reminded me of the smell of a healthy moor in Ireland in the month of June.

In a few hours we were opposite Cape Otway on the north, and within 40 miles of land.  The smell that come off the land is very refreshing.  As we approach we begin to feel the effects of the hot winds from the interior.

Saturday, 2 - - rainy today.  Head wind; foggy.  We are afraid of standing in for Port Phillips.  Sunday, 3 - - this morning at 4 o’clock we were within sight of the heads of Port Phillips.  We were within the Bay at 7 o’clock and picked up the pilot.  At 2 o’clock we anchored.  We had reached our journey’s end.

From the anchorage in Hobson’s Bay to Melbourne is 8 miles.  All vessels that are too big to go up the river must anchor in the Bay because the shores are shoally.

Monday, April 4 - - At daybreak we learnt that the sailors had taken a ship’s boat and had deserted the Sacsusa.  The captain was furious, and we were forbidden to leave so we could go ashore.  Simpson and I, with a few others, hired a boat, and were the first passengers to leave the ship. 

The above information was supplied by
Jenny Fuller, Perth, Western Australia, granddaughter of Jack (second marriage)

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