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, Emily (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.

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.