1845 ORIGINAL, RIVETING DEPOSITIONS OF CAPTAIN AND CREW MEMBERS OF THE WHALING BARK ALTO OF NEW BEDFORD MASSACHUSETTS BESET BY LAWLESSNESS, DESERTION AND MUTINY

By: COURT CLERK to GEORGE WILLIAM GORDON, AMERICAN CONSUL AT RIO DE JANEIRO

Price: $12,555.99

Quantity: 1 available

Book Condition: Good


On offer is a sensational, remarkable group of 1845 manuscript depositions detailing the mutinous activity and desertions during a voyage of the whaling Bark Alto between 1844 - 1845. The eyewitness testimonies are comprised of 37 pages or so of handwritten fair copies; five [5] complete and one [1] incomplete deposition all by various crew members, the five complete copies each personally attested and signed at the conclusion by George William Gordon, American Consul at Rio de Janeiro, May 20, 1845. Blunt facts display the ferocity of emotions and simmering violence provide snippets like 'Palmer said to deponent that . . . he would put one of those dirk knives into him' abound throughout the testimonies. The depositions paint a picture of unbridled upset on the ship: lawlessless, violence, suspicions of poisoning, desertion, and a final critical comment from nature itself: a calamitous lightning strike makes for a final exclamation point to the awful whaling voyage. The vessel at the center of the events described herein, the Alto, was built in Tiverton, Rhode Island [we note that research indicates the Alto was in fact the only such vessel ever built at Tiverton] in 1826 and was lost near the Falkland Islands in 1870. The National Maritime Digital Library date the events related in the documents occurred during the Alto's fourth voyage, under the direction of Captain Nehemiah West (whose deposition is included), and which lasted from September 1844 to April 1847. [A successful voyage commercially as the records further note that the Alto collected 339 barrels of sperm oil, 304 barrels of baleen oil, and 2,700 lbs. of whale bone.] As a group, the depositions--from the Captain, First, Second, and Third Mates, and two boat helmsmen paint a vivid, often harrowing picture of a voyage fraught with tension and danger. Researchers and historians will note that at least two of the depositions document an ominous shipboard discussion of the earlier, well-documented mutiny aboard the vessel Globe, out of Nantucket, which took place in 1827. While the general outline of the events remains consistent throughout, each of the deponents provides a unique personal perspective on what transpired, often with the addition of unexpected or surprising details omitted by the others. Virtually all of the crew involved are identified by name multiple times throughout the documents (two, however, are repeatedly described only as "Portuguese"). In broad overview, complaints from crew members that the vessel is leaky and unseaworthy leads to refusal to perform duties; the captain administers punishment, including placing crew members in irons and striking them with a piece of "rattling" (ratline); a small group of crew desert with one of the boats but are caught and jailed at St. Jago, Cape Verde, and shipped back to the U.S. on the U.S. Sloop of War Decatur; after a few months of relative calm unrest breaks out again, this time with threats of violence to fellow crew members with clubs and "dirk knives"; in the most dramatic event, eleven crew members desert with the remaining two boats, taking with them a large store of the whaling equipment. The Alto, its crew and equipment drastically reduced, suffers the final indignity of a lightning strike, "breaking and splitting" the mainmast, but is able to hobble into Rio de Janeiro, where these eyewitness accounts were given to the American Consul and preserved in the present documents. Here is a snippet from the deposition of helmsman William Williams (approx. 8 pages on two pairs of conjugate leaves): "William Williams . . . deposed as follows. . . . That he was born in the County of Essex in England, is 29 years of age and a naturalized citizen of the United States, was naturalized at Boston, Mass. in July 1842. That he shipped on board the Barque 'Alto'--[Nehemiah] West Master at New Bedford, in August 1844 as Boat steerer to proceed on a Whaling Voyage. That the Vessel sailed on the 3rd September following. That 14 or 15 days after the Vessel went out to sea all the foremost hands refused duty--alleging that the Vessel was leaky. On their refusing duty, Captain West interrogated each of them separately, and three of them returned to duty and eleven still refused, and were sent below where they were kept about 48 hours. While the eleven men were below as aforesaid, they experienced two very heavy squalls but none of said men offered to return to duty--but on the other hand, made sport of them that were at work. After they had been below deck 24 hours the Master went forward, and requested four of the men to come on deck. They refused to come unless all were allowed to some on deck at a time--and after a good many threats on the part of the men the Master told them, that if the men he had called did not come on deck, that he would have the forecastle smoked [to force them out]. Soon after, four came on deck as the Master had directed and still refusing to go to duty, on being called upon the deck and refusing duty, were put in Irons, and the others, one being called upon deck and refusing duty, were seized in the rigging, there being no Irons to put upon them. That at New Bedford, before sailing, one of the men named Spencer who had shipped deserted, and another man named Charles Shane came on board in his place--but Shane's name was not put on the Papers. That when the men were called up as aforesaid, said Shane took the ground that his name was not upon the Shipping Paper, and therefore he would not go to duty and obey the Master--upon which the Master gave him four blows with a piece of Rattling [i.e., part of the ratline]. George Ritter also who was supposed to be the instigator in the men's refusing duty, and who was insolent to the Master, also receive three strokes with the Rattling. Another man, the steward named James Wilson, also got three blows with the Rattling for insolence to the Captain. He said that he never was flogged on board of a Blubber Hunter, although he had been on board of a Man of War. No others were flogged or punished in any way, and they all returned to duty." Scattered light soiling, a bit of staining, and handling wear (creases; some tears, tiny holes, and small chips, mostly confined to edges; no substantial losses); otherwise very good to fine overall, the writing dark and distinct. Overall G.

Title: 1845 ORIGINAL, RIVETING DEPOSITIONS OF CAPTAIN AND CREW MEMBERS OF THE WHALING BARK ALTO OF NEW BEDFORD MASSACHUSETTS BESET BY LAWLESSNESS, DESERTION AND MUTINY

Author Name: COURT CLERK to GEORGE WILLIAM GORDON, AMERICAN CONSUL AT RIO DE JANEIRO

Categories: Books and Manuscripts General Overview, 19th Century Manuscript, 19th Century Ephemera,

Publisher: 1845

Book Condition: Good

Type: Manuscript

Size: 4to - over 9¾" - 12" tall

Seller ID: 0002564

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