Marie "Alida" Taber, wife of whaling Captain George Taber, kept daily records of wind direction, speed, weather conditions, geographic location, and crew activities during two whaling voyages: the Brig Magdalene
's 174-day voyage from Honolulu to Connecticut, January-July 1853, and the Barque William Wilson
's 1,192-day voyage from Rhode Island to the island of Rodrigues in the Indian Ocean, May 1860-January 1861. The volume also contains personal journal entries kept by Marie Taber during her time in Acushnet, Massachusetts, while her husband served aboard the Barque William Wilson
from October 1857 to 1859.
This logbook and journal contains 150 pages, 51 of which are blank and 99 of which contain writing by Marie "Alida" Taber, wife of whaling Captain George Taber. The opening flyleaf features a carte-de-visite photograph of Marie with the inscription "Alida Taber, Long Plain, Massachusetts, U.S.A." During conservation the carte-de-visite was temporarily removed, and the inscription "Elida Taber" was visible on the verso of the card. While most of the printed photographer's advertisement on the card was obscured, its location in New Bedford, Massachusetts, was present. The volume consists of three sections: two whaling expedition logs and a personal journal.
The first section is a daily record of the Brig Magdalene's return voyage from Honolulu to Connecticut carrying whale oil and bone from January 12 to July 4, 1853. During this voyage, the Magdalene went south from Honolulu, through the Pacific Cook Islands, around the southern tip and east coast of South America before making final port in New London, Connecticut, on Independence Day, 1853. Mentioned ports of resupply include Pernambuco, Brazil. All entries begin with "remarks on board" followed by the date, weather conditions, the ships geographic location, steering adjustments, and any crew or ship activities of note. She described riggings, repairs, spotting of other ships or land, and acquisition or removal of cargo and supplies. Most of her entries are structured into 'first' (12pm to 8pm), 'middle' (8pm to 4am) and 'latter' (4am to 12pm) parts of the day. Some entries include remarks on porpoises caught and harvested for oil, supplies thrown overboard, and processing of whalebone.
Her logbook entries largely conform to the following format:
Upper left margin: Number of days out
"Remarks on board" [Day of Week, Month, Date, Year]
[Part of the day]: wind strength and direction, weather conditions, sail and/or steering adjustments and sightings/activities of note
Bottom right corner: Latitude and Longitude coordinates
While most of the navigational and weather condition data recorded stayed largely consistent, she specifically mentioned ocean currents on April 13 and 14, 1853 (95 and 96 days out).
Since this voyage was a return trip from a whaling expedition, Taber did not mention whale pursuits or captures; the ship was already full of oil and bone. Although, during the latter entries the crew brought whalebone and oil to the deck to clean, bundle, and prepare the products for market. On May 17, 1853 (117 days out), for example, she wrote that they "Took on deck 22 bundles of bone, some in a damaged state."
The crew captured and processed porpoises on this leg of the voyage to provide lamp oil. Mentions of these porpoise captures can be found in the following entries.
- "Caught 4 porpoises" April 9, 1853 (89 days out)
- Boiling porpoise blubber. April 16 and 17, 1853 (95 and 96 days out)
As the Magdalene sailed closer to the eastern coast of South America and the United States, ship sightings became more frequent. These entries include:
- Bark sighting. January 25, 1853 (14 days out)
- "At 10am saw a merchant Bark steering to S.West" April 19, 1853 (99 days out)
- Unidentified ship, April 21-22 , 1853 (101-102 days out)
- "Saw a manawar steam brig" Saturday, April 30, 1853 (110 days out)
Other entries of interest include:
- Taking supplies on board, wood, pumpkins, coconuts, bananas, turkeys, ducks, fowls, and pigs, February 10 -12, 1853 (31-33 days out)
- "Note: during the night one half Barrel of Beef was thrown overboard by some of the crew," March 14, 1853 (63 days out)
- Leaking oil, March 25, 1853 (74 days out)
- "Found six bags of bread wet and rotten," April 1, 1853 (81 days out)
- "Rats almost got possession of the Brig," April 20, 1853 (100 days out)
- "Saw a comet, westward," May 7, 1853 (111 days out)
- Waiting for Portuguese holy days to pass, as business is prohibited during this period. Saturday, May 14-18, 1853 (124-128 days out)
- "Mr. Bolton ashore without permission from master," May 16, 1853 (126 days out)
- "Mr. Bolton still onshore," May 17, 1853 (127 days out)
The second section of the logbook contains Marie Taber's journal entries from January 1 to August 15, 1859. While Captain Taber was away on the Barque William Wilson, which left Warren, Rhode Island, in October 1857, Marie described her daily activities in Acushnet, Massachusetts, as well as detailed listings of her social activities. The largest portions of these entries list the names of whom she spoke with in person and through letters that day. The most common activities mentioned in these entries include sewing, cooking, baking, shopping, writing letters, and reading. Frequently she spent her days mending, cutting, quilting, and sewing garments for herself, family, and friends. Holding true to her logkeeping skills, she commented daily on the weather and wind, often noting specific wind direction and general conditions throughout the day. Marie noted births, deaths, weddings, and activities such as the circus, church events, and holidays. Marie often wrote of feeling weak or ill and complained of headaches, backaches, and stomach pains. In the latter portions of the journal, Marie's entries took on a more personal tone as she described her loneliness and sadness about town gossip about her--even among her husband's family. In these entries, she expressed her reliance on Christian faith to help her cope with illness and the emotional toll of being far away from home and from her own friends and family. The journal section provides insight into the events and residents of the community of Acushnet, Massachusetts, and the broader community of Bristol County.
The third section of the volume contains a daily record of the whaling voyage of Barque William Wilson, traveling off Rodrigues Island, from May 27, 1860, to January 5, 1861. Marie began the log about 2 years and 6 months into the whaling voyage (the complete voyage spanned October 1857 to January 1861). The log is of a similar format as that of the Brig Magdalene, but fewer entries contain specific latitude and longitude coordinates and it lacks a running count of the days passed since the voyage began. As in Mrs. Taber's earlier log, entries include weather conditions, wind direction, sail and steering adjustments, ships spotted, and specific activities. Days on which whale captures were attempted and successful are marked with black ink whale body stamps, the number of stamps equaling the number of whales killed. Instances where whales evaded capture are indicated with black ink tail stamps. Processing of the whales into product is described with phrases "employed boiling", "employed cutting", and "commenced cutting." These entries frequently made note of the vessel's specific distance from land or other ships and listed many of the ships spotted and communicated with by name.
Vessels mentioned include:
- Bark America (August 16, 1860)
- Bark John A. Robb (September 17, 1860)
- Barque Millwood (July 7, 1860 [incorrectly written in log as June]; August 2, 1860; August 22, 1860)
- Bark Ocean Pierson (August 23, 1860)
- Bark Pamelia (September 4, 1860; September 22, 1860)
- Bark Tyne (August 3, 1860)
- Bark San Francisco (August 17, 1860; August 22, 1860; August 30, 1860; September 24, 1860)
- Ship Alimire (August 23, 1860)
- Ship Elmiro (August 30, 1860)
- Ship Mercury (September 1, 1860; September 19, 1860)
At the beginning of this log, Marie wrote with a slightly more personal tone, including information about her general feelings of wellbeing, or feeling unwell (entries dated May 27 and 28, 1860). Generally, the entries in the first portion of this log (July-early October, 1860) emphasize the frantic chase and hunting of whales. Many entries refer to sightings of whales by species and note that when nothing was seen, they were actively "looking for whales." The latter half of the log (mid October 1860 to early January 1861) focuses on the goal of returning with the whale products. Most of these entries emphasize wind and sail orientation, navigation, and reading important geographic landmarks. On the return voyage ship maintenance was a priority and the crew painted and repaired parts of the ship.
Stamps indicating whale captures and escapes can be found in the following entries:
- June 6,1860
- July 9, 1860
- August 2, 1860
- August 15, 1860
- August 19,1860
- September 26, 1860
- 1 sperm whale killed, September 28, 1860
- 4 sperm whales killed, 1 escaped October 4, 1860
- 3 sperm whales killed, October 5, 1860
This volume also contains the following:
- 2 blank logbook pages with running header "Bark Sea Bird towards Cape of Good Hope"
- Inscription on inside back pastedown, handwritten in pencil, "Sadie Taber lived on Long Plain Rd Sunds Corner outside of New Bedford Mass"
- A list of New Bedford ships (pencil handwriting, differing from Marie Taber's script) on page 144. The names include:
- Bark Millwood
- Ocean River
- San Francisco
- Thomas Pope
- St. Peter
- John A. Roff
- Bark America
- Laid into the volume, between pages 92 and 93 is a handwritten slip of paper reading, [in ink]"See if you can find any vessel bound to the Cape of Good Hope or the island of Mauritius if any the price of passage and time of sailing" [in pencil] "first of week $150 or 125; 1 Brig 1st next week $150 Edmund Boynton, 1 vessel about a month $150 Isaac Taylor 16 Kirby Sr."
- A clipping of a poem "For the New York Mercury My Nelly's Eyes: Inscribed to Miss Ellen M.M, by: John F. Gilwee (September 7, 1858)," laid in between pages 132 and 133
- At various points in the blank section of the volume, pages have been ripped out.
In addition to this finding aid, the Clements Library has created a partial name index for the journal portion of the Taber journal: Partial Name Index .