Starting Across the North Pacific

Today is grey; overcast with low clouds and mist hiding the horizon. The sea is a darker grey, on a moderate four metre swell with only a few white caps, which generally means that the wind is less than 20 knots. Currently, we are several hundreds of nautical miles out of Juneau and south of the Aleutian Islands, heading approximately south-west at 18.5 knots with about 3000 miles to go to Japan.

Goodbye to Alaska’s calmer waters

We are now into our seven day sea crossing from Alaska to Japan and this gives me more free time to blog. In between there is eating, reading, eating, resting and maybe more reading, the odd lecture or seminar, meeting up for happy hour in the Ocean Bar with our favourite jazz trio, evening dining with some nights requiring formal attire, and then maybe a movie or live show. Some of our number have been busy visiting the shops, masseurs and manicurists but so far we have all managed to avoid the casino and art show sales.

To compensate for the excess of food on board that is difficult to avoid, spending 40 minutes in the gym this morning eased my conscience somewhat. My treadmill looked directly out over the bow and I strode along with slight up and downhill trajectories as the ship eased through the swell. We passed through a pod of dolphins apparently heading for Alaska and noticed quite a few sea birds skimming over the waves a long way from any land.

Yesterday’s rougher weather has gone for the moment. In those higher seas what had come to my mind, through the fuzzy feeling in my head, was how James Cook, George Vancouver and other seafarers of past times would have coped with the foul weather conditions that they inevitably encountered.

In the short time that I have been sitting, blogging here on the Lido deck near the pool and spa the swell appears to be getting higher and the ride a little bumpier as a second low pressure system passes to the port side. We have been warned of a third, probably more intense low pressure system, to be expected tomorrow.

Arthur William Boultbee Torrance Briscoe (1892-1893)

On this day, October 2 in 1893, this young boy died at The Rock, New South Wales at the age of one year and 22 days.

If there is any significance in Arthur’s short life it is in the context of his family’s and Australia’s story. The hardships suffered by the pioneers in country and outback Australia during those years can be illustrated, in part, by such tragedies as this early death.

Arthur’s parents were Henry Harrison and Elizabeth (Warren) Briscoe and he was the fifth of their eight children. Henry was an Irish ex-British army officer who had arrived in Victoria some 27 years earlier. He had spent 17 of those years working on properties around the Darling River before marrying Elizabeth in 1883. Elizabeth who was 21 years younger than Henry was born in Huntly, Victoria of English and Scottish parents.

After their marriage, Henry settled down from his roving ways and became a caretaker of various Government water tanks around NSW including Cobar and Walgett. It seems certain that he owed his position to J. W. Boultbee, who had become Superintendent of Public Watering Places and Artesian Boring, and known from his early days in the colony. Henry named Arthur for Boultbee and also for another friend, Torrance.

Arthur’s Roadside Grave

Arthur was buried at The Rock in what was proposed to be the town cemetery. However that site was changed so that his grave, which has survived the years, lies adjacent to the Old Wagga (Collingullie) Road on the north bank of Burke’s Creek on the outskirts of the town.

A heritage study of the Wagga Wagga area referred to Arthur’s grave stating that:

This child’s grave is a poignant reminder of the hardship of life in the country during the 19th century.

It seems more than a coincidence, and probably a direct result of Arthur’s death, that his four siblings were christened (all together) later that year at St. John’s church at nearby Wagga Wagga.

However, to think that our pioneering ancestors had no social life is mistaken and can be shown by this newspaper article from the period the Wagga Wagga Advertised on Tuesday, March 20 1894.

Two aspects of family and Australian history.

The Inside Passage and Alaska

It is three days since we set sail from Vancouver to cruise the Inside Passage, that maze of straits, and channels along the Canadian and Alaskan coastlines through the myriad of offshore islands.

The towns in Alaska that we visited are all about their waterways, snow and ice, mountains and glaciers, wildlife, the native peoples and just a small population in this the largest state in the Union.

We made two stops in Alaska at Ketchikan and the capital, Juneau, as well as cruising Glacier Bay.

We continue to be astounded by our good fortune with the weather. This is the last cruise of this season before their winter break in this part of the world, and we have had good to perfect weather almost every day.

Ketchikan

A cute town that is supposedly the wettest place in Alaska with up the 300 days of rain a year resulting in several feet of rainfall.

Volendam at Ketchikan

Our excursion into the Misty Fjords showed us how steeply the mountains fall into the sea and here we had many waterfalls dropping down from the heights delivering the rain.

Juneau

Although the state capital it is isolated, without any roads in or out, and we have been told a few times that there are only three to get to Juneau:

  1. by water
  2. by float plane
  3. by the birth canal
Misty Fjord

Tourism is very important here, and it is possible that up to seven cruise ships will berth some days in peak season. As the last cruise of the season we had the place to ourselves and quite a few of the gift shops had already closed down.

Mendenhall Glacier

On our Juneau excursion we were guaranteed whale sightings (or money back) and we were not disappointed. Taken to the humpback whales regular summer feeding waters we saw at least half a dozen of them. Within the next few weeks they would be starting their annual migration to Hawaiian waters for calving and mating before returning in May. This excursion also took us to the Mendenhall glacier before returning to town where some opted for the cable car ride to the top of the mountain behind the town, and of course there was the mandatory visit to the famous Red Dog Saloon.

The Red Dog Saloon

We took in all the important sights…

Glacier Bay

The next morning after leaving Juneau, at about 9am we cruised into the spectacular Glacier Bay under cloudless blue skies. The weather gods are still with us and we have a perfect day. The ship’s crew suggested it was one of the best, if not the best, day of the season to view the wonders of the glaciers.

We spent several hours getting up close and personal to a couple of glaciers, most notably the John Hopkins glacier and the Margerie glacier and, in almost complete awed silence, listening to the noises produced as the ice moved and cracked under the pressure of the weight of miles of glacier from up the mountain. The Margerie glacier is said to move up to six feet a day.

Margerie Glacier

Our next stop was to be two days hence at Dutch Harbour, but the weather gods must have decided that we had had our share of good weather. Three low pressure systems were forecast in the area over the next couple of days, making the cruise both uncomfortable and the tender berthing at Dutch Harbour not possible. Instead of continuing northwards, we turned west on the sea journey Across the North Pacific.

Victoria BC

James Cook

The early ferry from Seattle landed us in Victoria on Vancouver Island, British Columbia at lunchtime. That gave us only a day and a half to get to know this delightful city, and this was nowhere near enough time to do it justice.

It enabled us time to walk around the eight block by eight blocks of the downtown area and take in the friendly relaxed atmosphere. We admired the architecture of its main buildings around the harbour front and smiled to see the statue of James Cook who claimed the island for England in 1778.

There were two main highlights of Victoria for me, a family reunion and the Butchart Gardens.

A Morrison Reunion

This was a reunion, if that is the right word, at least 400 years in the making. Using one of the latest tools to family historians, DNA testing, I had some time ago been able to make contact with a very, very distant cousin. Like me, my Morrison cousin also had his roots in the Isle of Man however the available written records going back to the 1700s were not enough to provide a family connection, but Y-DNA testing was. It showed that we are related but it seems our common ancestor must have lived in the 1600s or even the 1500s.

Isle of Man Flag

As part of our trip we arranged a lunch get together with Gary, his wife Vicki, Jenny and I and we got to know each other a little and will definitely stay in contact.

The Butchart Gardens

A short bus ride from Victoria is the Butchart Gardens, the most popular tourist attraction on the island.

Here I was intrigued to discover a civil engineering connection and, considering my own career in that area, it made our visit even more meaningful to me. We learned that Richard Butchart was a Canadian pioneer in the manufacture of Portland cement, the main component in the manufacture of concrete. He purchased hundreds of acres of land on the Saanich Peninsula because of its limestone deposits; limestone, in turn, being the principle ingredient in Portland cement. Once the limestone had been exhausted the site was left with ugly scars on the landscape and deep quarries. It was then that Richard Butchart’s wife Jennie started what was to became her prized gardens.

The Sunken Gardens

Over many years, and originally for her own benefit, she was able to transform the site (of 55 acres) into an amazing array of mass planting of flowers, the original Japanese garden, a large rose garden and the impressive sunken garden in the former quarry, complete with its display water spouts. As the gardens were progressively developed, more and more visitors were eager to look at them and eventually through popular demand a commercial enterprise came into being.

The gardens definitely lived up to all our expectation and even exceeded them. It was a most relaxing couple of hours. Our day was topped off with a boat ride into the adjoining waterways of Tod Inlet on the sunniest day we have had so far on tour.

 

 

 

 

Ellen Louisa Cole (1874-1943)

On this day September 28 in 1943, my great-grandmother Ellen Louisa was buried at Woronora Cemetery, New South Wales. Although born a Cole she had been married twice, firstly to my great-grandfather, Alfred Charles Bray, and sometime after his death to Walter Clark, but that is part of her story.

Ellen Louisa was born on January 22, 1874 on the large rural property, Gidleigh, near Bungendore NSW. Both of Ellen’s parents, Frederick William Cole and Ellen (nee) McFarlane were also born in NSW and were married at St. Phillip’s church in Bungendore. Ellen Louisa was the tenth of their nineteen children, although not all of them lived to adulthood.

Frederick was a sawyer and labourer who worked on several properties in the area near Bungendore including Foxlox and Carwoola as well as Gidleigh. We can only imagine that both his wife and children would have been engaged in work in those properties. As quite large rural stations these supported sizeable communities and facilities such as a school which Ellen Louisa would have no doubt attended.

Ellen Louisa Bray

By the age of twenty years Ellen Louisa was to be found at Balmain in Sydney when she married Alfred Charles Bray at St. Thomas’s church in Balmain South on February 15, 1894 with the permission of her father. At the time Alfred was a sorter at the General Post Office but later became a mail train guard and as a result the young couple moved several times while raising their family. Hurstville had become the Bray family home where they had settled with their eight children when tragedy struck.

Alfred Charles Bray – Funeral Notice

On the foggy night of March 16, 1914, the mail train on which Alfred was working collided with another train at Exeter in the Southern Highlands killing 14 people including Alfred. At the time it was the worst rail disaster experienced in the country. Ellen Louisa was left with several children still at home but was eventually granted some compensation for herself and the younger children. She continued to live at Hurstville and was remembered as a strong woman that is no doubt a result of her early years in the bush.

In 1923, at the age of 49 years, she married widower and tramway employee, Walter Clark at Redfern. It is believed that she outlived Walter because she was again living at Hurstville when as Ellen Louisa Clark died at the age of 69 years. She was buried next to Alfred Charles Bray at Woronora.