April 8, 1866

Journal Entry 8: April 1866

Highlights from the Journal of Edwin Mitchell, Vol. 1:

Apr. 8: "This A.M. about nine Oclock we made Cape HornCape Horn

The southern tip of South America, the main obstacle to sailing west to the Pacific. The wind blows hard from the west, and vessels could take weeks to get around the Cape, into the Pacific Ocean.
and at half past ten we past (sic) it....it is a small island rising up to a high bluff at the waters edge and a small white rock in the shape of a hay cock just out side of it. It is a rough looking place all around here....we run up to it with topmost studding sailStudding sail Stuns'l

A sail used to increase the sail area of a square-rigged vessel in light winds. Pronounced "stuns'l."
and RoyalsRoyal sail Royals

A small sail flown immediately above the topgallant on square-rigged vessels. Originally called "topgallant royal." Used in light winds on masts tall enough to accommodate extra canvas.
set....we had not past more than a half an (hour?) before we had her under reefedReef

The amount of sail taken in by securing one set of reef-points. It is the means of shortening sail to the amount appropriate to an increase in the strength of the wind. As a verb, it means to shorten sail in a vessel by reducing the area exposed to the wind.
topsails, although we have had very fine weather for the latitudes. Our BoatswainBoatswain bos'n, bosun

Pronounced "bos'n," the leading petty officer of the deck crew of a merchant ship, in charge of equipment and the crew.
says that this is the twelth time he has doubledDouble

To go around. Doubling the Horn means to sail around Cape Horn. Some say it refers to the tendency of ships to be blown back and have to try to get around the Horn again.
Cape StiffCape Stiff

Sailors' nickname for Cape Horn.
and it is the best weather that he has seen here. We passed within about four miles of it; well we are around the first corner and half the distance passed over but it took a long time to do it, seventy two days."

Apr. 9: "We had a very narrow escape from going ashore on Diego Ramires IslandsDiego Ramires Islands

A small group of lesser islands in the Drake Passage, about 60 miles southwest of Cape Horn. These islands contain the southernmost point of the South American continent.
, at dark we could just see them to LeewardLeeward

Downwind from the point of reference. The leeward side of a vessel is called the lee side.
, they being very low land and it was very dark and the sea running high we could not see them; as luck would have it about three Oclock the moon came out and there was Mr. Islands just under our Lee; we got the ship on the other tackTack

The side of the sail against which the wind is blowing. The vessel might be described as being on a port tack or a starboard tack.
as quick as we could and set the fore lower topsail, we just cleared them and that was all you could say about it for there was no room to spare; if we had struck there would not have been one of left to tell the tale....The mate caught an albatrossAlbatross "Albertross"

A large, web-footed sea bird with long, slender wings for gliding. The albatross is among the largest sea birds.
today that measured eleven feet from the tip of one wing to the tip of the other."