Found! Whaling wife’s journal entries.
In a letter written to his family, John Scott DeBlois said of whaling, “It is a wretched life [of] privations and hardship deprived of friends and society.” Born in Newport in 1816, DeBlois began sailing as a young boy. He served as the 3rd Mate aboard the whaling bark Isabella from 1841 to 1845 and as the 1st Mate of the Ann Alexander from 1845 to 1849. Between the two voyages, he married Henrietta Tew of Newport. In 1850, DeBlois was promoted to the position of captain aboard the Ann Alexander. Though his first voyage as commander ended in catastrophe, the experience made him one of the most famous whaling captains of the nineteenth century.
While cruising in the Pacific Ocean on August 20th, 1851, the crew of the Ann Alexander spotted a pod of whales. Attempts to capture the whales ended in disaster, as one of the whales became enraged and destroyed two of the small whale boats. DeBlois rescued all of his men, and continued the pursuit from the safety of the Ann Alexander itself. After several hours of chase, the creature turned toward the vessel and rammed its hull. With the hull compromised, DeBlois ordered his crew to repair to the remaining whale boats. Luckily, the men were saved on August 22nd when they were spotted by the crew of the Nantucket.
Newspaper accounts of the Ann Alexander incident portrayed Captain DeBlois as a hero. His celebrity grew after the publication of Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, as the American public compared John DeBlois to Melville’s fictitious Captain Ahab.
Undaunted, DeBlois continued his career at sea, regularly corresponding with his wife Henrietta. She, a school teacher, was an exceptional writer. From 1856 to 1859, Henrietta joined her husband on a whaling voyage aboard the Merlin. She chronicled daily life aboard the vessel in a private journal, offering an exceptional window into life onboard a whaling vessel.
John and Henrietta’s letters, log books and journals are in the collections at the Newport Historical society. Reading Henrietta’s journal reveals much about her and her life at sea.
Blois is improving the shower by washing. I am obliged to keep below as the house on deck leaks badly. I go to the head of the stairs occasionally and fetch a hem just to make Blois look up and grin then I go below carefully holding up my skirts as the stairs are flooded.
Delightful weather calm through the night & greater part of the day. A little breeze has sprung up but we do not sail much. A sail in sight. Blois on the house spying. Mr. Adams working lunars in my room. Mr. Enos’ little Snowball lying at my feet. The Doctor is just in front of my window frying Dolphin for supper. His stove was moved out to paint the Galley so he cooks outdoors and it has quite a “Picturesque effect,” reminds one of the Pic Nics. No one seems very impatient to get home except the Capt he would like to get the care off his shoulders. I hardly can define my feelings. I wish to see my friends but dread the change from this quiet life. May God keep us as he has hitherto is my prayer.
Lat 33..07 N
Long 60..10 W
518 miles from home
…I cannot speak my feelings as they are so complicated as I near home. I thought the feelings would be all joy but I find there are many fond associations with the Old Merlin, and I feel shy about encountering the land… Oh! May we be assisted to live a Christian life on shore, may we not be ashamed to acknowledge our indebtedness to God who has sustained us.”
They came to anchor off New Bedford on the 18th.