Irving, John to Catherine Irving (née Caddell) (1845/05/16)
Greenhithe, May 16,1845.
My dear Katie,—I have sat down to bid you farewell, for we sail to-morrow on our voyage. We came down from Woolwich to this place, which is near Gravesend, two days ago. We have been detained by some preserved meat not being ready. We take two years’ provisions, and a transport accompanies us with a third year for each ship; so if you do not hear of us for three years, you need not think we are starved. We tried our screws, and went four miles an hour. Our engine once ran somewhat faster on the Birmingham line. It is placed athwart ships in our afterhold, and merely has its axle extended aft, so as to become the shaft of the screw. It has a funnel the same size and height as it had on the railway, and makes the same dreadful puffings and screamings, and will astonish the Esquimaux not a little. We can carry twelve days’ coal for it; but it will never be used when we can make any progress at all by other means. We have the same spars and sails as before; but Parry found that during the few days the sea was a little clear of ice he had no wind; and we hope then to feel the power of our screws.
It is thought probable that we shall pass the winter near Melville Island, and next summer try to get westward to Behring’s Straits. See the Map. I think we shall be all bons compagnons de voyage. I like my skipper very well, and nothing seems to be left undone in the way of providing for our wants and comforts. We have a large hand-organ in each ship. One plays fifty tunes, ten of which are psalms and hymns. We bought it by subscription. “Music has charms,” you see. We are laden as deep as we can swim; and I hope we may have good weather crossing the Atlantic in this state. We must, like mice in a haystack, eat away and make a little room for ourselves.
Our decks are crowded with casks, and even the cabins are nearly filled up. However, as our Captain says, we have not shipped for comfort. We are all most sanguine of success. I am afraid, however the voyage may terminate, that I shall have little chance of promotion, as I am the junior lieutenant, and there are three in each ship, and it is hardly to be expected that they will promote them all. I daresay that long before I return you will be quite snug in your new house. Excuse this, but I have much to occupy me for the rest of our stay, which is only a few hours. We shall pass the Orkneys, and perhaps, should it be foul winds, may anchor at Stromness. Now, my dear Katie, I shall bid you farewell. I shall let you know our position and prospects in August when the transport leaves us.—My kindest love to Lewie, and believe me ever, my dear Katie, your most affectionately,