On February 15, Challenger departed for St.
Thomas, more than three-thousand miles west across the Atlantic. Joseph
Matkin took advantage of the time to write more to his family about
the scientific operations undertaken and the results thereof. (More
may be read about this in the science section):
The scientific operations, I believe,
have been very favorable, the lowest bottom has been 1900 fathoms,
and the greatest depth 3,650 or rather more than 4 miles. Several
thousand fathoms of line, and a few dredges have been lost, but
of course that counts as nothing. In some places the dredge brought
up black coral and beautiful sponges, in others, shell fish, mud,
gravel, & c. Various experiments have also been made by the Scientifics,
such as telegraphing down to the bottom of the sea, and finding
out the strength of the electric fluid at such great depths.
Although not generally given to complaining about the relative
slowness of the voyage brought on by the endless sounding and dredging,
apparently an endless source of frustration to the sailing crew who found
it difficult to accept the endless delay on a voyage which to them should
have had as its primary goal speed, Matkin does gently bring up the topic
from time to time:
|...we got under weigh for S. Thomas, distant
3,100 miles and to-day we are 1300 miles from Tenerife and have 1800
more to go. We have had the Trade winds all the way, and might have
been there by this time, if it were not for the sounding and dredging
etc. which occupies 8 & 9 hours each day besides the labour of furling,
and making sail after it is all over.)
The provisions for a long stint at sea are not as pleasant
as Matkin assures for his issuing room during periods of time spent near
ports, and he describes the monotonous diet of salted and dried provision
viable for 30 days at sea in the tropics. And the food thief strikes again.
|We entered the Tropics on Sunday last
and it is hotter now than in the middle of summer in England. The
time slips away though much quicker than with you, and the health
of the ship's company is excellent at present, though our living is
far from flattering, and I should enjoy some fresh Butter, as from
one week's end to another it is Biscuits, Salt Horse, Pork, and Australian
Meat, which is very far from gay living. The Officers had their meat
safe broken open last night, and everything it contained was eaten
before 4 o'clock this morning, so they had a short allowance for breakfast.
I expect it was taken and ate up aloft, like the Turkey at X.mas.
In March, nearing the end of their first Atlantic crossing,
the superstitious Challenger sailors are excited by an unexpected sight
and alarmed by another bad omen, events rather oddly juxtaposed in the
|We passed a Spanish Schooner called the
"Virgin Mary" while we were in Church on Sunday, she was bound to
Cuba, and had one Lady on board; great excitement on board the "Challenger"
to have a look at her, not having seen one of the fair sex for a month.
We have had an enormous Shark following us for the last 1,100 miles,
and the men say he won't leave until some one dies, and is thrown