Journal of a voyage to the Mediterranean

Sailed Friday 9 Jan.ry – Returned Thurs.y 19th March 1829

On Friday 9th January 1829 – the Captain having come on board with the mail, the Duke of York Packet left Falmouth Harbour at ½ past 11 oClock A.M. with a favourable breeze from the E.N.E. The weather was rather cold, but bracing – and the Sun struggled feebly thro the clouds. The day was peacefully fair

Saturday 10th January – day cloudy winds variable in strength and changeable. At noon, which is considered the termination of the day at sea – Courses steered S 37 W – distance run 131 miles Latitude 48º 12’N. Longitude 7º 11 W. Chronometer

Sunday 11th Jan.ry – most beautiful day – cold much abated & the sun shone with considerable strength. During the whole day the winds were variable and light, and our course was SW by W Distance 102 – Latitude in 46º  39’N. Longitude 8º  16’W. We are now off the Bay of Biscay, where there is always a North Westerly swell from whatever quarter the wind blows, and it is a curious circumstance, that there are two contrary swells, the one into and the other out of the Bay, yet by the one passing over the other, no opposition is made to either.

Monday 12th January – beautiful day wind changeable, but chiefly from the N.E.

At 12 oClock noon Course S2º 3’W. Distance 123, Latitude 44º 55N. Longitude 9º 19’W. Chronometer 9º 22’W.

Tuesday 13th January – day fine and cool, with occasional slight showers. In the morning the Coast of Spain, and Cape Finisterre were seen but at a considerable distance. In our last voyage we were much nearer than now. The wind is strong and quite in our favour being NE.

Noon: Course S10º W. Distance 156, Longitude 42º 20N. Chronometer 9º 58’W. 9º 29’W.

Wednesday 14 January – a fine and cloudless morning ushered in a day which was equally so – the blue expanse of heaven was unstained by a single vapour. The temperature of the air too was not like that of winter with us – for it was mild and balmy. At 11 oClock A.M. we were near the Barlings a cluster of bare rocks, about 40 miles from Lisbon.

At Noon: Course S2º W. Distance 175, Longitude 39º 26N. Chronometer 9º 48’W.

During the whole afternoon we had the Coast of Portugal in pretty close view. Little however was seen, which we considered particular – such as the palace of the King called Mafra, a large square building, with towers at each corner, and having every advantage of situation to recommend it. At 4 oClock P.M. we were off Cape Rock (Capo de Roco) distance 21 miles from the City of Lisbon. The wind strong and N.E. – and also N.E. by N.

Cape St. Vincent – Nunnery & Coast of Portugal

Thursday 15th January – this morning a long line of the Portuguese Coast was in sight, the character of which was rocky and not very elevated. In it were many windings, and patches here and there of green land, which took off from the monotonous ruggedness of the coast. At half past 9 oClock A.M. we were abreast of Cape S.t Vincent, at the very extremity of which is built, a nunnery apparently of very considerable extent. It is now fast falling into ruins, and has been deserted ever since the invasion of Portugal by the French. It is said that the Captain of a British Man-of-War, carried off a Nun from this convent, and, indeed it is not difficult to conceive, that such an undertaking might easily have been accomplished from its close vicinity to the sea. I pity the fate of the poor nuns who were condemned to spend their miserable lives, in a situation so exposed to the winter storms, and where their tender hearts might occasionally have been shocked by the fearful shrieks of the drowning mariner. If I might venture to give an opinion, I suspect that the peculiar situation of the building has afforded facility of death both to those who sought it by their own hands, and also to the abbess or Superior who wished to remove out of the way any one of her community who might happen to be obnoxious to her. All that was required for them to do was to throw themselves or to be thrown from the dreadful precipice which overhangs the roaring ocean. At some yards from the nunnery, we saw a large opening like the entrance to a cave, which gave rise to some speculation, as to whether it might have any communication with the edifice above it. As soon as we had passed round the Cape, we were glad to find, that the wind so favourable to us, still continued so, altho’ our present course is almost at right angles to our former one.

The appearance of the coast now changed – and from its being very low, we saw more of the interior of the country. At a distance were undulating hills covered with verdure, called the Monchique, and close to the shore were several hamlets of white-washed houses, the situation of which was admirably chosen. As we still coasted along the number of houses increased, so that, for many miles, there seemed to be a continuous line of buildings. When night closed in upon the scene, I felt very sorry as for many hours we had gazed with delight upon the towns – villages – windmills (of which there were great numbers) – the fertile fields, and olive gardens, which beautified the Coast. And whilst employed in viewing those interesting objects, our rapid progress thro the deep was at once easy and pleasant – and tho’ the day was cloudy, the air was balmy and mild like the latter days of Autumn. Such were the feelings excited by the fertile land of Portugal, that I would have enjoyed nothing more than to have landed, and had a nearer inspection of the scenery which had enchanted us so much.

About 7 oClock P.M. we were near Cape S.t Maria, about 60 miles distant from Cadiz: Distance 176, Latitude 37º 6N. Longitude 8º 43’W.


Friday 16th Jan.ry – this morning was fine and warm – and the first object presented to us was the distant and numerous spires of Cadiz, which appeared, [from] where we were like the masts of ships. Our Captain had intended to have lain off and on in the Bay, until the mail should have been landed, but a pilot came on board, and he was obliged to anchor near the town. This enabled us to have a better view of the Bay, and of a city so ancient and at one time so flourishing.

As Captain Snell, in consequence of a recent attack of Gout could not go ashore with the mail himself, he gave it in charge to our Master M.r Geach, whom I was allowed to accompany. My visit being extremely limited, I shall not enter into any detailed description, but merely mention what things struck me on y imperfect glance. Even on ship board the appearance of the Town, lofty, substantial, and beautifully white attracted the admiration and attention of all of us. Nor were we, as often is the case, disappointed on a closer inspection, and this is as yet the only instance where the closest view did not detract from the anticipation formed by the distant one. We passed thro’ the midst of several boats, and landed on a pathway, broad, clean, and having 3 handsome marble columns with figures at the summit, which was formed outside of the city walls – I say the city walls because the Town is encircled by a lofty solid wall of hewn stone, surmounted with cannon, and kept in excellent repair.

Cadiz – Houses – Costume &c.

Thro’ a narrow gateway in this wall, where armed soldiers are constantly on guard, and strictly over haul every thing that passes, we entered the City, in which I was extremely well pleased with ever thing I saw. The nicely clean streets of considerable width – the lofty, substantial dwellings, with not a spot to stain their virgin whiteness, and having their windows adorned with balconies of every variety and shape filled me with astonishment, as I had always been accustomed to hear of Spanish filth, and aversion to cleanliness. The common people too seemed very tidy and respectable – hundreds of persons were dressed in those ample Cloaks which you may have often seen under the name of Spanish at home – They wore also the peculiar and handsome hat which people of this nation are represented on our Stage and in their hands they carry umbrellas, chiefly of a red colour. Nor was the dress of the women less picturesque. We saw no ladies as there was a heavy fall of rain at the time, but many females, as I think, of the lower orders. These had invariably their heads without bonnets or caps. The hair was shaded partially to either side, and half the head was concealed by a black mantilla or shawl, which descended over the shoulders, to the waist. This part of their dress must be very convenient to those engaged in any intrigue, as they can easily draw it over the whole face when they wish to be concealed from those by whom they are averse to be recognised. The lower part of the body was enveloped in a gown differing little from that worn by my own country women – but their legs were invariably covered with white cotton stockings.

Amidst all these objects, we reached the Consuls House in front was a long avenue of walk, having a white marble balustrade and seats running along the whole length. If his house resembles many of the rest the interior of Spanish abodes here must be very fine. After passing thro’ one of two anti-rooms we saw a large court, open above to the sky, and paved with pieces of different coloured marble, in the form of diamonds. Around this court were arranged the numerous lower and upper apartments, of which I cannot speak, having never had an opportunity of entering them.

After some time, we returned on board, and were on our voyage to Gibraltar, at 4 oClock P.M. I hope, however, to be better able to speak about Cadiz and its Bay – as on our return we shall likely make 24 hours stay. The first part of this day was rainy, but at afterwards partially cleared up.

Read on … Gibraltar