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St George’s News - Waterlooville’s Parish Magazine

The Website for St George’s Church, Waterlooville and its Parish Magazine St George’s News

Summer 2017 issue

Alfred Thomas Osmond’s Diary and Letters

Continuing the series of diaries and letters of Alfred Thomas Osmond, relating to his sea voyage from Southampton to Calcutta and his early months in Calcutta, 1852-1853. Alfred Osmond was the son of Rosemary Monk’s Great great great Grandfather William, who was a stonemason at Salisbury Cathedral.

Wednesday December 1st

Beautiful morning – sky quite cloudless. Would be very warm were it not for the wind which is blowing from the NE and makes it very pleasant. Average degree of heat 72 (22C). This afternoon one of the Quarter Masters caught a beautiful specimen of the flying fish about 13 inches long. It entered one of the ports on the main deck. The doctor is going to stuff it.

In the evening a large hawk or buzzard was captured by one of the boys. It was discovered asleep on one of the yard arms. It must have travelled a long distance as we are not less than 300 miles from the coast. It was not injured and the men will try to tame him. Played Backgammon with Dr. in evening. Went on deck at 10.30 and was much delighted with the brilliancy of the stars. Orion was immediately over our heads – the three stars forming his belt were particularly brilliant.

Thursday Dec.2nd

Still a cloudless sky – I suppose I have bid adieu to clouds and rain for some time. Very perceptible change in temperature this morning. Still we have a good breeze which tempers the heat of the sun. The quarter deck is covered with an awning, so that we do not experience much inconvenience from the heat. We may expect to lose the breeze in a few days and then we shall feel it more. This evening thermometer stood at 77(25C). After dinner we adjourned to the bowsprit and got up an amateur concert. A very cool and pleasant position. Myself, Dr, 3rd and 4th officers and Chief Engineer were the performers. Sailors had dancing on the forecastle to a tambourine and pipe. Played whist this evening with the officers.

Friday December 3rd.

Very warm today. Thermometer at 79 (26C). Doctor was taken ill today, which is very unfortunate as there are several sick on board. Played chess with Captain this evening.

Saturday December 4th.

Thermometer at 83(28C) this morning in the shade! Doctor is better but unable to get up. I visited 2 of his patients for him this morning – think I should make a very indifferent ship’s doctor. Poor fellows slung in their hammocks near the ceiling and very close together with little ventilation – very sultry night.

Sunday December 5th.

One day is very much like another that I have scarcely anything to speak of except the state of the weather. We rarely see a vessel and I suppose shall see no land until we reach the Cape. It is getting HOT now. Thermometer stands at 90! (32C).  I cannot imagine it is December! Doctor is up today and able to attend his patients again. Church service performed on deck today. Formal muster of men takes place on quarter deck, before commencing service. All in blue jackets and white trousers. Some of the Officers are sporting white turbans today. They are heavy, but very cool. Mr Brown (2nd Officer) understands the art of arranging or manufacturing a turban capitally. It requires several yards of the material (white muslin) to make one. A felt wide-awake forms the foundation, the muslin is wrapped round it scientifically and a fall of about a foot in length is left to hang down the back. Beautiful sunset this evening.  A tropical sunset is a glorious sight, but its glories are very fleeting. A few minutes after the sun disappears, all is darkness.

Monday December 6th.

Heat is becoming intense. Still I do not suffer so much as I anticipated. I am becoming seasoned. Now I can fully appreciate the luxury of a bath. I have often heard the sea in the Tropics likened to “molten glass”. This expression most aptly describes its appearance this morning. There is a slight swell on, as the sailors say, but the waves are nothing. Numbers of flying fish are scudding about. We are now a short distance south of Sierra Leone. Played Backgammon with Dr. this evening. Much lightning this evening and during the night.

Tuesday December 7th.

Rather cooler this morning in consequence of a little rain. Very sultry again at noon. Had a “Punkah” rigged over the dinner table today – an Indian luxury. It is a slight wooden frame, the length of the table and about 18 or so inches wide, covered with canvas and fringed. It is suspended by cords over the table and kept in motion by a boy pulling a string. We shall have it worked for the future during each meal. Some beautiful lightning this evening.

To be continued.