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Middle Islander a Whaler

Footnotes to Long Island History

Middle Islander a Whaler

by

Thomas R. Bayles


          Daniel H. Buckingham was born in Middle Island on December 27, 1823 in the old family homestead on the Bartlett road south of Bartlett's pond. This was later owned by Willard Bartlett, Supreme Court judge and is still in the Bartlett family.

            Daniel received his education in the local school and grew up in Middle Island until he was 17 years old, when he went to Port Jefferson and served as apprentice to John W. Mather, the ship builder for about two years.

           This was the period when the whaling business was booming, so he went to Sag Harbor and shipped on the ship Henry Esquire sailing from Sag Harbor on July 5, 1839. This voyage ended on May 9, 1845 and on October 10 of that year he shipped out of Greenport on the ship Nile, with Captain Isaac Case. This vessel carried 4 boats, 3 mates and 4 boat steerers.

                The following account of this voyage is given in Mr. Buckingham's own words as related in a short history of his life written by him in 1909.

                "After leaving Greenport on October 10, 1845 we soon rounded Montauk point and encountered a very severe gale which did much damage to our ship in the loss of one boat, two spars and the rudder was so badly damaged that it was difficult to steer with it. It was a question whether we should return home for repairs or continue to Rio de Janeiro and make repairs. It was decided to continue and we arrived there on Christmas day, and after making repairs we left there on January 1st, 1846

                "When five days out we lost our second mate Frank Ackerly overboard one morning while his watch were reefing the fore top sail. The wind was blowin fresh and the main tack of the main sail rove through the sail and belayed to a wooden pin which broke and the main sail slattd heavily and threw Mr. Ackerly across the deck and overboard. He never came up and must have been killed when he struck the davit head.. A fine man and officer, the son of Rev. Ackerly of Greenport, a Baptist minister.

        "We proceeded on to Cape Horn which we rounded after some forty days, fighting our way against heavy seas, and a head current of 2 knots out of the Pacific into the Atlantic. We got around and sailed north reaching the Island of Yahiti in the spring of 1846."

          "We left two men in the hospital there. There was one New Bedford whale ship there. The French had sentinels all around and forbade trading with the natives without a permit, but Captain Case bought a boat load of oranges of a native."

          "After staying there about a week we sailed north across the line for the Sandwich Islands. After recruiting at Lahaina we started for the whale ground up north near Siberia. When the season came to a close and we were not full of oil on account of the weather, we sailed down to the New Zealand whale grounds for a season then north again for another season before going home. While stopping at Lahaina one time we spoke and visited my old ship the Henry, with my brother Buel on board."

                I do not give any particulars about stopping at islands in the pacific, the small ones at least. We spent our last season whaling in the sea of Okotsk up north of China, adjoining Siberia. We had much fog and gales there and when season ended we headed for home stopping at Honolulu."          

           "Uncle Sam at home was fighting the Mexicans but we knew nothing of it until it was all over. There were no ocean cables then and no canned goods, so our living was coarse. I never received but one letter in my two voyages and that was at Honolulu and had been written about a year and a half before."

          "We sailed for home around Cape Horn again and up the coast of South America towards the equator. When off the coast of Brazil the men aloft raised a sperm whale and when near enough we lowered away the boats and I put a couple of irons into him and killed him. When his blubber was tried out it netted us 70 barrels of sperm oil . We headed for home as fast as the Nile could travel and she was a good sailing craft. I remember when we were bound out of Rio on New Year's day we were in the company with a number of vessels and the Nile was as good as the best of them. This was her first voyage as a whale ship and she was six years old."

                "When we arrived home on the 6th of June 1848 after 32 months Captain Cases wife had died while we were gone and I had lost some friends"

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