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Date: 16 Aug 2010 03:19:00
Title: Fog and graves

We intended to explore some more of Isabella Bay today but there was a lot of fog in so it seemed best to wait until tomorrow. That gave us time for an extended lunch and a discussion about what we were going to do for the next weeks and also how long we want Magnus to stay. It looks as though he's going to stay with us until Halifax in Nova Scotia so that's great. It makes it so much easier for us all to have him around and he's great company.

After lunch, we went ashore to explore another of the beaches around our bay. We landed at one end and headed up a slight rise. There we saw four mounds of sand and stones with a low kerb around them - all very European looking. On closer inspection, they were graves and three of them had written markers on them. Two of them were wooden and the writing had been partially erased by the abrasive action of the wind. On one, we could make out the following:

Sacred in Memory of Peter Tall who died on board (ss) Mazentheln (?) September 1898 Aged 21 years

on the other wooden plaque, we read:

Memory of David Valiant aged 41 years, Harpooneer on board the (ss) Intrepid, Died 1871

The third grave had a cast brass plaque which I thought must have been brought to this spot on a subsequent voyage. It read:

Sacred to the Memory of Wm Yule who died on board the Esquimaux, July 31st 1875 aged 41 years

I'm not sure whether they were English or American whalers but they were clearly using the same harbour as we are for a similar reason: it's completely sheltered and close to the open sea. We've found a lot of graves on our travels and they're all evocative but it was particularly poignant to actually learn the names of who was buried there. I suppose it's easier to sympathise with them as they were a long way from home, as are we.

The graves made me think we were closer to finding where the whalers had their onshore base. We explored all along the shoreline of the bay on that side but only found a couple more circles of stones and some bits and pieces of rusting metal. There had obviously been some Inuit in this area but nothing that was clearly European. There were some whale bones on the beach including one eroded skull embedded in the sand but, again, no great quantities. This beach is one side of an isthmus connecting two rocky hills together into one island so it was only a short walk over to the other side. This beach was also sand and had lots of recent human footprints on it so perhaps it's one where people come to see the whales. Again, there were a few scattered whale bones, a couple of tent rings and a scattering of seal fragments. I'm beginning to think that the whalers did the rendering onboard their ships and didn't really set up a base onshore.

Andrea took Kali back to Saxon Blue to prepare dinner while Magnus and I did a quick practice with the shotgun and Andrea tried to do some rubbings of the grave plaques. By then we were all hungry so went back onboard for a lovely Risotto. After dinner, Andrea wanted to do some fishing (unsuccessful) while Magnus and I went for a walk ashore on the last unexplored sandy beach. It was completely wild with a small river coming down from the hills. We walked up to the ridge and looked down on another arm of Isabella Bay but didn't see any whales or anything else moving apart from some noisy gulls. It was great to just walk over such virgin, bleak countryside. From there, it was back onboard for a cup of tea and a read.


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