Experiencing Hokkaido

After seven days crossing the North Pacific from Glacier Bay we arrived at the island of Hokkaido and the city of Kushiro to start our visit to Japan and experience its culture.

Hokkaido is the second largest of the four main islands of Japan which is in fact an archipelago of many thousands of islands. Today Hokkaido’s main industries are agriculture and fishing. Historically it is the ancestral home of the Ainu people who inhabited the island for hundreds of years before being taken over by the Japanese. This is not dissimilar to the situation with other indigenous peoples around the world, with the Japanese recognising the importance and benefits of ensuring the survival of Ainu culture.

Hot springs

The excursion during our one day in Kushiro took us to the “blue” Musho Lake which, because of the all-to-common fog, was not blue and barely visible. Next at the hot springs demonstrated the volcanic nature of this part of the world. The sulphur plumes and odour from the hot springs were all pervading and is something we don’t experience in Oz. The real highlight of the day for me was just driving through the countryside with its forests of yellow and orange and red autumn leaves – quite spectacular. Every now and then we would come across the a few graceful Japanese cranes with the red crowns, grazing next to the road.

Early next morning we cruised into our second port in Hokkaido, which was the fifth largest city in Japan, Hakodate. It was our first real taste of rainy weather but it didn’t deter us from enjoying the sights of this pleasant city. We called at some of the main attractions in including the Goryokaku Fort with its exquisite Magistrate’s Office building and the nearby Gorokaku Tower, Hakodate Mountain and the Museum of Northern Peoples.

The fort was the first of its kind in Japan and modelled on a European citadel town. In the centre of the Fort was the Magistrate’s Office which was completed in 1864. This was in response to the opening up of isolationist Japan, and particularly the port of Hakodate, to the rest of the world after the American Commodore Perry’s visit and ultimatum in 1853. This building was dismantled in 1871 following war in the city and became a park. The building was reconstructed between 2006 and 2010 to the original design and using traditional construction techniques. The building provides an excellent example of Japanese precision in workmanship.

The Gorokaku Tower overlooking the Fort was also completed in 2006. The Tower enables us the truly appreciate the Fort area from the observatory level 90 metres above. It is now manicured parkland (still) surrounded by its moat with the Magistrate’s Office at its centre.

During our two days on Hokkaido we also sampled some of the delights of Japanese cuisine

Yum yum

with an emphasis on seafood, and were introduced to the friendly polite Japanese people. We look forward to expanding on these experiences with a couple of days in Tokyo.

Crossing the North Pacific – Friday October 6

A much better day dawned today with a lot of pale blue between fluffy white clouds. The Pacific Ocean is also blue, but a darker shade, and is living up to its name being quite peaceful on a moderate swell.

The feeling from my morning treadmill looking down over the ship’s bow as it glides smoothly across the great expanse is almost one of man’s control over nature, but I know this is not true, as it is still able to impart a sense of the power that those water can generate. Only days ago even those slight seas tossed us around as a warning that we were interlopers here. Today we can feel more at one with our environment – at least for the moment.

Our days at sea (when not visiting ports with their ‘mandatory’ sightseeing) are without fixed commitments and unhurried. Accordingly it is often quite difficult to keep track of both the day of the week and the time (zone) during our long Pacific crossing – although it is doubtful that it is necessary most of the time. We have turned our clocks back an hour almost every night since we left Alaska to progressively adjust to Asian time. Luckily we are assisted in remembering the day of the week by means of the mats in the lifts that are changed daily.

I guess it must be Friday

We have had a couple of birthdays celebrated on board at dinner time recently, including for Scott a couple of nights ago. Unfortunately if ones birthday occurs on October 7 then they will be disappointed this year as tomorrow for us in Sunday October 8. We actually crossed the International Date Line during the day but luckily it didn’t affect our scheduled Happy Hour, so all was well.

Elizabeth (Warren) Briscoe (1859-1917)

On this day, October 7 in 1917, Elizabeth Briscoe died at her home in Leonard Street, Bankstown, New South Wales.

She was born Elizabeth Warren on January 5, 1859 at Huntly, Victoria, to parents Richard Robins and Annie (Livingstone) Warren. Richard was a native of Bristol in England while Annie was born in Argyllshire, Scotland. Both the Warren and Livingstone families arrived in Australia during the Victorian gold rush days and were miners in the Sandhurst (Bendigo) area.

Elizabeth Briscoe (c1894)

At the age of 24, Elizabeth was working as a domestic servant at nearby Lake Leaghur where she presumably met the 45 years old Henry Harrison Briscoe. The couple were married in the registry office in Hoddle Street, Collingwood in February 1883 while both were living at Smith Street, Fitzroy. In August of that year Elizabeth gave birth to their first child, Elizabeth Caroline Thomasina Marion Briscoe at Elgin Street, Hawthorne. The family lived there for a couple of years during which time another daughter, Emily Alice Isabella Livingstone Briscoe was born. However by the time a third child arrived the family had moved to Cobar in New South Wales where Henry had taken up the position of caretaker of the Government’s 64 Mile Tank on South Road..

Over the next 16 years Henry took Elizabeth and the growing family to other Government water tanks at Mulya near Bourke, The Rock near Wagga Wagga and Tooloora Bore near Walgett. During this period Elizabeth had five more children, so that the Briscoe family was:

  • Elizabeth Caroline Thomasina Marion

  • Emily Alice Isabella Livingstone

  • Alfred Edward Henry Harrison

  • George Albert Ernest Sidney

  • Arthur William Boultbee Torrance

  • John Robins Warren Low

  • Livingstone Eugene James Alexander

  • Doris Daisy Mary Devereux

Of her children, only Alfred did not reach adulthood, dying as an infant at The Rock (see a previous post).

In 1901 at the age of 42, Elizabeth was also named (on the birth certificate) as the mother of Ethel Josephine Dorothy Agnes at Tooloora Bore, however it is understood the the baby’s mother was Elizabeth Caroline (mentioned as “present at the birth”). The baby was brought up as a little sister to Elizabeth’s other children and the truth remained a secret from many family members for many years. In 1905, Ethel (known as Sister) also had an illegitimate daughter and a similar secrecy arrangements prevailed.

Emily’s baby was born in Sydney and may have been part of the reason the family had moved to Sydney. Henry had retired and in late 1905 the family lived at Waverley and then Belmore, but by 1908 they had settled on a 13 acre property, Beaconsfield, at Tower Street East Hills, near the Georges River and Bankstown some 25 kilometres south-west of central Sydney.

Henry died at Tower Street in 1912 at the age of 74 years and shortly after Elizabeth sold the property and moved to Leonard Street, Bankstown and named the house Mulya. Elizabeth Caroline and George had already been married but the family remained very closely knit.

World War I saw several of the boys serving, and Elizabeth received the news that her eldest son, Alfred had died in Cairo in December 1915 after being evacuated from Gallipoli.

St. Saviour’s Church Cemetery, Canterbury Road Punchbowl

Elizabeth lived in Leonard Street until her death in 1917 at the age of 58 years. She had undoubtedly had a hard life moving often throughout country NSW while raising her large family. Her legacy was the close bond her children retained through the next generation. She was buried near to Henry, and a memorial stone to Alfred, in the small cemetery at St. Saviour’s Church of England in Canterbury Road, Punchbowl.

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.