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Travel Through Five Continents:
Out Of The Western Door
The Hawaiian Islands
The Island World
Scenery Of New Zealand
Natural And Social Peculiarities
Sydney In Particular
The Southern Metropolis
Sights And Scenes In Australia
A Brief History
A General View
Sights In Colombo And Madras
From Madras To The Himalayas
Among The Mountains
Glancing Over India
In And About Calcutta
Up The Ganges Valley
Delhi To Bombay
India To Egypt
Alexander To Jerusalem
Round About Jerusalem
Jerusalem And Bethlehem
Homeward And Backward
( Originally Published Late 1904 )
Americans are likely to feel that the Pacific Coast line is the very "jumping-off place" of creation. But it is not, we still go on. Turning backward at this point, the traveler sees behind him the glory of modern civilization and all those associations that familiarity has made dear to him. The Golden Gate is the exit of the New World, and the gateway of the regions of the primitive ages, where life and history had their beginning. At that point the head and tail of human progress come nearest together, with only the Pacific waters between them.
Of late years a tide has seemed to set in, flowing from the Old World eastward, and signs of reviving life are seen in the Orient. If the west-bound traveler looks across the ocean, he will perceive the beautiful evening star of Australasia rising, contrary to nature, in the southwestern shy, clear and bright above the horizon. For while the star of empire takes its westward way, and nearly all the world has joined the procession, this new realm receives its chief impulse and strength from the west.
When entering upon a voyage, the first thing a passenger does is to see his stateroom and determine how it is going to fit him. It is always a tight fit, and it seems at first to be altogether too small in each dimension. It is, perhaps, about seven feet high, four feet wide, and just long enough so that an ordinary man in lying down will not bump his head and heels at the same time.
If it be an outside room, there is a little circular, brassrimmed window with glass three fourths of an inch thick hung on strong hinges which allow it to swing inward. It closes in a water-tight joint, and is held in its place by two strong screw clamps. If it is not too near the water line, this window, or "port," may be opened, but if it be shut by the steward, it is considered quite a breach of rules to open it without permission. Orders to close the ports frequently come from the officer on the bridge, and the order must be obeyed no matter how much the passenger may grumble.
There are two narrow bunks, one above the other, made up neatly, and in modern vessels furnished with comfortable springs. The new passenger is sure to think he can never sleep in such a straight jacket arrangement. But when he is out on the rolling sea, the ship going up one side and down at the other, shifting the angle of the boat nearly ninety degrees, and he is rolling back and forth like a spool in a cradle, he is thankful that his bed is no wider than it is. Or if the boat be hitching, he is equally glad that with a pillow at the top of his head he can touch solid footing at both ends.
On some slats overhead or perhaps under his mattress are life preservers. It may be that a settee under the window fills up about all the space that is left. There are in many cases some strange looking tin receptacles of which land people have not learned the use, but with the use of which they generally become acquainted after a few hours tossing.
Having said our adieus, we sailed out of the Golden Gate on a pleasant day in May, and for the first time found ourselves upon a body of water that has no bounds. Stories of sea-sickness had driven us into a desperate resolution to " take it as it came." However I was determined not to surrender without a struggle, but, if possible, to keep my stomach under, and compel it to do its duty. For some days there was a strife between labor and capital. My digestive works went on a strike, and declared a lockout against the bill of fare. I could not blame them, but it was no time to yield, and I gave them no excuse for lack of business. The grumbling stomach and treacherous nerves were held in so close surveillance that they soon resumed duty with the understanding that they certainly deserved more consideration than they generally receive either on sea or on land:
The high seas is a good place to make dietetic reforms. One is almost ready to promise not to eat anything any more, but, once on land, most people shield themselves behind the plea of not being morally accountable when making the promise, and then proceed to make up for lost time. Besides, in the application of good principles of eating and drinking, there are many who make an exception in favor of sea life, and proceed to gratify any fancy of appetite no matter how unreasonable. But there is not the slightest reason why any one who knows what is right and best to eat when ashore should throw away that knowledge on shipboard. Good principles are good the world over. And the violation of them carries its consequences on the ocean as well as on land.
The usual monotony of an ocean trip becomes an unusual one on the Pacific. Very rarely are vessels met, except in the vicinity of ports. And nothing breaks the monotony of the sea as meeting or passing other vessels does. But days and weeks pass on the Pacific without the sight of a passing sail.
In the tropical waters, multitudes of flying fish skim over the water, and occasionally one of extra strength or ambition drops on the deck only quickly to become the prey of some curiosity seeker. They have slim, shining bodies, from six to ten inches in length, though on one occasion on the Indian Ocean, we captured one that measured fifteen inches. Their wings are extended fins, the meshes of which are a gelatinous substance. Their flights are from five to twenty yards, and are frequently the means by which they escape from their deadly enemy, the porpoise.
The porpoise is the swine among fishes, and usually runs in schools. They have long, peaked noses, or snouts, are from three to six feet in length, and often gambol about the vessel, throwing themselves partially or entirely out of the water by the force of the velocity with which they swim. They have been known to attack men. Such an instance occurred lately in the harbor of Auckland, New Zealand, where a boatman was thrown into the water, and only saved himself from death by these marauders by a vigorous fight with an oar.
Another familiar object in those waters is the albatross, which patiently follows a vessel for many leagues. It is a gaunt, stately bird with wings that stretch eight to ten feet from tip to tip. The wings are slender for their length, and in flying are moved so slightly that the movement is imperceptible except when the bird is rising from a momentary perch on the rigging of a vessel, which it seldom takes, or from lighting on some floating object. They are so common around
Cape of Good Hope that the sailors there call them "cape sheep." Their plumage is white beneath, and generally a soft gray on their backs. They possess powerful beaks with which on one occasion they nearly saved the life of a suicide. On a voyage between Auckland and Sydney we had on board a man whose conscience and fears of justice made life a burden. While conversing with a fellow-passenger, he suddenly sprang overboard. The alarm was given at once, the engines were reversed, and boats were sent back to pick the man up. The only sign of his whereabouts was the huddle of albatrosses about him. Like the sea gulls, whose big cousins they are, they consider everything that goes over the ship's side their legal plunder, and live men are evidently no exceptions. At least, they plied their bills so vigorously that the man was kept from sinking, and sometimes was lifted almost bodily out of the water. His coat was stripped off, and his other garments were torn to shreds. His face and body were fearfully lacerated. He was half an hour in the water, but was not drowned when the boats reached him. The sailors brought him to the deck, but through exhaustion and loss of blood the work was completed, and according to his wish, he found rest in that broad grave that ever yawns for its willing or unwilling victims - that grave whose tombstone's of eternal rocks bear no inscriptions, and reveal no secrets of who lies here or there.
Another attraction seen in all waters at night, but which is much more noticeable in warmer climes, is the sparkling, glowing phosphorescence in the ship's wake or along its sides. It affords hours of amusement to watch this beautiful phenomenon. The agitation of the water at the ship's prow, along its sides, and especially at the propeller, causes waves and balls of phosphorescent light to flash in the darkness. Many pleasant evening hours are spent leaning over the ship's rail, musing on distant scenes, and watching the display of watery fireworks.
About thirty miles from the Golden Gate lie some rocky dots in the ocean called the Farallone Islands, though the dictionaries give them a name about twice as long as that. They are the home of myriads of sea fowls, and the eggs are often supplied to the San Francisco markets. On the southern island is located a light-house, telegraph station, and a group of houses. In their vicinity our ship was surrounded with great numbers of whales. Their spouting could be seen in all directions, and as they rose to the surface, their huge bodies would often be quite fully exposed. Some member of the school would take a playful mood, and then the display of enormous heads, fins, and tails was fine to behold.