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    Whaling Journal of the Ship Good Return, 1839-1844. Tall folio, 8" x 12.5", 283 pages (201 pages for May 30, 1839-August 14, 1841 whaling voyage to New Zealand; 33 pages for October 21, 1841-May 3, 1844 whaling voyage to, possibly to New Zealand; 29 pages for November 30, 1845-April 18, 1846 whaling voyage from the Sandwich Islands to New Bedford, Massachusetts; 20 pages of poems, lists of vessels encountered by the Good Return during its 1839-1844 voyage, and amount of whale oil stowed on same ship and voyage; 34 blank pages; bound in quarter leather with marble boards. The journal contains 95 whale stamps and 227 whale tail stamps. The journal is accompanied by four documents related to the career of John S. Taber as ship captain.

    John Smith Taber (1811-1891), born in Fairhaven, Massachusetts, was a mariner and ship captain of the whaling ship Good Return, which was built at Rochester, Massachusetts and owned by Henry Taber, John Taber, and others. On February 14, 1839, he married Mary Ann Spooner (1818-1907), also of Fairhaven, Massachusetts. Together they had five children.

    The entries in the journal of the whaling voyage of the Good Return to New Zealand, which commenced on May 30, 1839, appear to be recorded by Mary Ann Taber, wife of Captain John S. Taber. Her name is signed in the margin by all the entries. Although men, usually by the vessel's chief or first mate, kept most logbooks and journals it was not uncommon for logbooks or journals to be kept by women, usually wives of the ship's captain. Since whaling voyages tended to be several years in duration, ship captains sometimes were accompanied by their spouses. Considering Captain John S. Taber and Mary Ann Taber were married less than three months before this voyage, one can understand why they would not have wanted to be separated for several years' duration.

    The entries for the New Zealand whaling voyage, recorded on a daily basis, were similar to those found in a logbook in that that they note the date, the position of the vessel, the sail she was under, the wind speed and direction, activities of the crew, vessels encountered, and whales seen and taken. Within a day out of New Bedford, the crew sighted schools of finback and blackfish whales, but did not attempt to chase. On June 10, 1839, the crew did lower boats "for blackfish" but gave up "without success." As the Good Return sailed southeast in the Atlantic, it passed by the westernmost islands of the Azores, stopping at the Island of Corvo. While near the Azores, the crew caught it first two whales on July 4, 1839. The next day, Mary Ann, added a short poem to that day's record:
    "A man's a fool who strives, by force or skill,
    To stem the torrent of a woman's will,
    For if she will, she will, you may depend on't
    And if she won't, she won't, so there's an and on't"

    The month of October was a productive one for the Good Return, as she caught four whales in the last two weeks of the month. November 1839 was even more productive, with seventeen whales caught. Despite this success, there were the usual occasional discipline problems on board. The December 5, 1839 entry of Mary Ann Taber shows what can happen to an unruly crewmember. "Grinnill gave me some insolence and I struck him a few times with my fist. He then denied duty. I called him myself a number of times to come up out of the forecastle - and he would not come. I then went down after him and...struck him with a [cat?], and drove him aft and put him in irons." In this passage, as other in the journal, Mrs. Taber is recording the actions of her husband the captain and not her own.

    Mary Ann Taber recorded that the Good Return sighted New Zealand on January 12, 1840. As the vessel cruised in the South Pacific Ocean, it encountered a violent storm on February 4, as recounted by Mrs. Taber in the journal. "At 6.30 PM [the day before] experienced a very heavy squall, took in all sail, at 7...the weather looking very 9.30 AM...a very heavy sea and stove the two quarter boats all to pieces, stove the [waste?] boat almost as bad, and bow boat, moderately, carried away all the davit barriers & skids, broke the [?] Rail aft in two pieces...[and]...carried away a good lot of the bulwarks, gangway board and rail." The crew spent much of the next few days repairing the damage.

    A bigger storm erupted in September 1840, when a near mutiny broke out on the Good Return. On September 13, Mrs. Taber records the events that took place on that day and how the captain responded. "At 5 PM the word was passed by Mr. Parker & Officers to sweep of [off?] the decks, one of the boys commenced sweeping....Jason Bracket...did not start. He then spoke to Mr. Hay the first Officer, and told him it was not his turn and that he should not. He then called him aft, and came down and told me. I likewise came up and asked him what he meant by telling my Officers that he would not do this...and he made the same reply. I then told him to go and get a broom and sweep...and continue so every night until I told him to quit. He likewise went forward and went down into the forecastle. I sent Mr. Mayhew forward to see if he was after a broom, and he said that he would not sweep aft, and likewise told me so. I then told Mr. Mayhew to seize him up in the Main Rigging. The crew then came aft and swore that he would not be seized up and no other man....I immediately came down below and loaded my Pistols and took my sword and went on deck....I then told them that, that man I was a going to put in to the rigging and flog and if they interfered...I would shoot the first one that attempted it. We had put him in the rigging, they then said that they would not do any more duty if I thrashed him....I had asked if they had any reason why they interfered with another one's business they had nothing to do with...they knew that he had done perfectly wrong, but did not want to see him flogged...asked them what they calculated on doing whither they would go to their dutys [sic] or not. They all said that if I would not whip any more that they would go to their duties. I then told them that I should make no such promise and red [read] them the shipping Articles and Laws, and told them what they might expect if they don't." The next day's entry made no mention of the intense standoff of the day before. Things appeared back to normal. The last entry for this voyage was dated August 15, 1841, with the words "So Ends This Voyage." The journal contained approximately 92 whale stamps, indicating the number of whales caught, along with 211 whale tales, indicating the number of whales pursued and lost.

    Mary Ann Taber also records the entries for the second whaling voyage of the ship Good Return covered by this journal. The entries appear to cover only part of a whaling voyage, since it covers only two days (October 21-22) in 1841 and an eight-month period, from January 1 to May 3, 1844. The entry for February 4, 1844, notes the vessel had entered Le Maire Strait, off the coast of Tierra del Fuego, heading northward in the Atlantic Ocean, which indicates that the Good Return was returning from the Pacific Ocean and may have been hunting for whales around New Zealand as it did during the previous voyage. Captain Taber, as related by the February 26, 1844 entry, encountered another discipline problem with one of his crew which resulted in a tense situation with other members of the crew. "Joseph McHorta was at the wheel. I had reason to speak to him about steering and he gave me some insolent answers. I told him to be very Careful in future how he conducted himself or I would thrash him. He said that I [would?] not and was quite saucy. I told Mr. Davis to put another man to the wheel and put him in the Rigging. He drew his knife at Mr. Davis and Capt [kept?] him at bay. I took hold of him and told him to give me his knife. He said he would not. I took it by force and put him in the Main Rigging. Whilst I was taking his Knife from him, a number of the crew came aft in the quarter deck and wanted to know what I was about. I told them none of their business and likewise to get themselves forward of the Main mast very quick. They...hesitated. E. Tobey & Chas. [?] each of them has a scrub [?] broom. I asked Tobey for his scrub broom and he refused it. I took it away from him and started him forward. I then called George Lanford [?] aft and told Mr. Davis to put him in the Main rigging for interfering." This part of the journal, covering the homeward bound portion of the voyage, contains 2 whale stamps and 12 whale tail stamps.

    The third portion of the journal contains a whaling voyage on board the ship Charles Frederick, under the command of James Allen (1817-1860), a mariner from New Bedford, Massachusetts, which covers a voyage from the Sandwich Islands to New Bedford from November 30, 1845 to April 18, 1846. This is obviously only part of a longer voyage, Allen's fourth as a captain, that began on June 20, 1842. The journal entries appear to be made by both Mary Ann Taber and her husband, who was mentioned in the first entry as one of the passengers on board, "John S. Taber Late Master of the Bark Drymo," which explains the connection with the first two voyages in this journal.

    By early February 1846, the Charles Frederick rounded Cape Horn, leaving the Pacific Ocean for the Atlantic and its northern voyage home. On February 10, the vessel encountered a violent storm, which caused "a heavy sea" that crashed over the deck and "washed the men away from the wheel & carried one of them over board." The lost seaman was described as "a seaworthy lad aged about 29 yrs." The voyage from the Sandwich Islands to New Bedford was not a successful one for catching whales, as the journal contains but one whale stamp and four whale tail stamps.

    The journal of the three voyages is accompanied by four documents concerning John S. Taber, including an Inward Foreign Manifest for the ship Good Return, Master John S. Taber, 1 page, 13.25" x 16.25", partially printed document; New Bedford, Massachusetts; May 27, 1839. This is an official cargo document required by U.S. Customs providing a detailed listing of cargo entering the country for determining tariff duty. Signed by John S. Taber; and three documents, 8" x 10", dated October 10, 1843, concerning payment of charges related to cargo.

    Condition: The cover of the journal is rubbed and worn, with some loss to leather and marbled boards. The journal is internally sound, overall good condition. Some spotting, toning, and soiling to internal pages. The Inward Foreign Manifest document has the usual folds as well as small stains at the top and bottom, with no effect on the text.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    April, 2018
    18th Wednesday
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