A Journey Across the World

These are extracts from the diary of Sister Mary Philomena Dwyer. She travelled by ship from Carlow to Auckland, New Zealand in 1850. Sr Mary’s diary gives us a good idea of what life was like to travel by ship half way across the world to start a new life in a place called New Zealand……

Sept 4th 1849

The sea is so rough that the soup at dinner comes hoping down from our opposite neighbour’s plate by which we obtain a double portion …… The tumblers, bottles, bread baskets also take an occasional dance and make such a fine noise. ……..Today a tremendous wave came rolling over the vessel while we were at dinner. It gave many of the Sisters a fine bath and washed the table, meat, soup and all.

Sept 8th

We are all sick, and the sea is like a mountain on each side of the boat. There is no possibility of keeping our seats. The Captain has fastened us to the side of the vessel with a great rope, and frequently a huge wave dashes over our heads and gives us such a bath.

Sept 11th

At about 12 o’clock last night a tempest arose…..all were frightened but remained quiet…….I thought it not unlikely that I might soon be breakfast for shark, so I determined that he should eat my beads and cross if he eat myself…….but to my great surprise I found all the Sisters and myself alive at sunrise this morning.

Sept 14th

This day is very clam. We saw a shark and a tortoise….the sailors put out a line and hook to catch the shark. It was following the vessel. It must be very large as one of its fins is above the water…….

Sept 17th

The wind continues good. The Bishop has commenced giving us lessons in Maori. He teaches us all in a class…….I find it very difficult to write as I have no table. I write on my knee and on deck. The cabin is too small to accommodate a table or chair.

Sept 21st

A good wind. We are within the tropics and find the heat increasing.

Sept 23rd

Since we left Antwerp we have had Mass every Sunday, always two Masses – sometimes three. The first at 6 o’clock for the communicants is celebrated in the Bishop’s cabin: the second on deck for all.

October 1st

We are in a clam today and consequently feel the heat more, as there is no breeze……we remain on deck till 12 o’clock at night- the cabin being too warm…..

October 27th

The wind is against us today, and the sea boisterous. We are out of the Tropics. There was a sail torn in the night. We are now to be at the mercy of the terrible winds which may be often against us.

November 5th

Nearly a calm. The sea looks beautiful: the setting sun is magnificent…..

November 7th

This day there is a clam. The sailors caught two large birds called Albatross. The body is larger that of of a goose and the wings measure seven feet long…….

Nov 10th

We saw a whale this morning, but at a very great distance. We knew it to be a whale only by seeing it spouting water to a great height – as high as the mast of the ship. There is a vessel in sight. The Captain will get near it if he can as he wants water. We ought to have been at the Cape a week ago, and the fresh meat is nearly gone, also the water.

November 11th

The Captain succeeded in getting water. The vessel is an English one. It is bringing emigrants to New Zealand. There were 300 hundred on board……

November 25th

We had a great storm last night. Those who were exalted in upper berths were obliged to sleep on the floor lest they should fall out on their heads……the waves dashed over the vessel in great style…..of course sleep was out of the question We were obliged to watch ourselves for fear of falling about. January 6th On Xmas Day we had one Mass at about 6.30 o’clock when our thanksgiving was made on deck……..

On New Year’s Day we had the happiness of Mass. We renewed our Vows and the Bishop left us the Blessed Sacrament as on Xmas Day……..

Sunday, February

We arrived at Sydney last bight. In the morning the rudder got caught on the rocks at the entrance to the Harbour, but we were not frightened. We thought that the Blessed Virgin would save us as she has done…….

In a letter to her friend Sister Mary de Sales in March 1850:

…We had a very quite voyage from Sydney to New Zealand without anything remarkable having occurred. On our arrival in New Zealand we went on shore and gathered in procession two by two after the Priests and Bishop.……

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