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Logbook kept aboard the schooner Arabia


Held at: University of Delaware Library Special Collections [Contact Us]181 South College Avenue, Newark, DE 19717-5267

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the University of Delaware Library Special Collections. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.

Overview and metadata sections

The creator of this manuscript is unknown, but he appears to have been doctor. He recorded several instances where the captain and crew referred to him as “doctor,” and in the entry for September 16, 1808, he noted that the crew members were healthier “than many who come to our hospital.” It is unclear if he fulfilled the role of ship’s surgeon, since he did not record treating any of the crew. Instead, he focused on describing the rhythms of life on board and the process of catching and processing fish in the North Atlantic. He noted in the entry from September 5 that when he offered to pay for his berth, the skipper declined any payment.

The creator noted at the front of the volume that the captain of the schooner

Arabia was William Doyle, and that the ship was owned by the firm of Sylvanus Smith & Company. The firm, headed by former ship captain Sylvanus Smith, was a successful fish producing, curing, and distributing house based in Gloucester, Massachusetts. Shipping records from 1919 note that the Arabia was built in Essex, Massachusetts, in 1903 and hailed from Gloucester. It was an iron-framed ship with oak and pine planking.

Cutter, William Richard. Genealogical and Personal Memoirs Relating to the Families of Boston and Eastern Massachusetts, Vol. II. New York: Lewis Historical Publishing Company, 1908.1919 Record of American and Foreign Shipping. New York: American Bureau of Shipping, 1919.Information derived from the collection.

This logbook chronicles the voyage of the fishing schooner

Arabia from Gloucester, Massachusetts, to the Western Banks of Newfoundland in September 1908.

The creator of this volume is unknown, but he noted that he traveled from Portsmouth, New Hampshire, to Gloucester, Massachusetts, aboard the

Uinta at the end of August 1908 before embarking aboard the Arabia. The Arabia set out for Newfoundland on September 1 and returned to Gloucester on September 28.

The creator provided detailed descriptions of the ship’s measurements and layout before turning his attention to life on board the ship. He recorded when meals were taken, what work was done aboard, and how profits were shared among the captain, crew, and ship owners. The writer was particularly interested in the work done aboard the dories, the small, shallow draft boats used to catch fish along the banks of Newfoundland. He described catching cod, haddock, and halibut, and how the fish were cleaned and processed aboard the ship. He also detailed several encounters with giant squid, which he found frightening.

In addition to the work of fishing, the creator described the crew’s daily habits and activities. He noted that they did not bathe regularly, only washing and shaving when they were nearing Gloucester at the end of their journey. He frequently recorded snippets of conversation between crew members while at work. He also described the food on board and the table manners of the crew. He observed that the ship cook had a limited knowledge of cooking and that there was no clear system for provisioning the ship, a matter that frustrated him greatly. At the end of the journey, the writer estimated that they had traveled over 3000 miles.

This manuscript logbook consists of 44 loose leaves of wove paper with a back board that has broken into several pieces. The paper features a watermark that reads “Eaton Highland Linen.” One leaf bears the two yacht flags of the

Uinta and the watermark “Hurd’s Suede Finish.” The volume contains handwritten text in pencil throughout. On a piece of grey wove paper at the back of the volume, there are several pencil sketches of human figures and fishing gear. The creator first used the rectos to record his entries, numbering them 1-44. When he reached the end of the volume, he used the versos, starting from the back of the volume, and numbering them I-XLIV.

Item 0164: Shelved in SPEC MSS 0097

Gift of the Moyerman family, 1972

Processed and encoded by Elizabeth Jones-Minsinger, January 2017.

University of Delaware Library Special Collections
Finding Aid Author
University of Delaware Library, Special Collections
Finding Aid Date
2017 January 11
Access Restrictions

The collection is open for research.

Use Restrictions

Use of materials from this collection beyond the exceptions provided for in the Fair Use and Educational Use clauses of the U.S. Copyright Law may violate federal law. Permission to publish or reproduce is required from the copyright holder. Please contact Special Collections, University of Delaware Library,

Collection Inventory

Logbook kept aboard the schooner Arabia, 1908.
Item 0164
Physical Description

1 volume

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