Captain Nathan Parker Simes Logbooks, 1853-1872 – MS142
Provenance: Gift of N. Parker Simes
Citation: Captain Nathan Parker Simes Logbooks (MS142), Manuscript Collections, Portsmouth Athenaeum
Size: 1 Hollinger Boxes (.5 linear ft.)
Access: No restrictions
Processed by: Susan Stowe Kindstedt, 2020
Scope and Content
The nine logbooks of Captain Nathan Parker Simes include records of voyages all over the world including destinations in Asia, Australia, South America, Europe and the Middle East, as well as various ports in the United States between 1853 and 1872. There are four logbooks representing multiple voyages in the Portsmouth built clipper ship Emily Farnum, launched July 1, 1854. There are also three logbooks for the ship Blackwall and one each for ships Gentoo and Sonora. Daily entries include details about weather, sea condition and coordinates. Simes also noted details about daily tasks such as tending the pumps, positioning the sails and performing maintenance on the ship, sewing sails and oiling the deck. Simes provided details about life onboard the ship such as catching rainwater for drinking and notes about the crew’s pet dogs and birds (canaries, parrots and geese). Simes made frequent note of other vessels coming into view and noted the names and country of origin when he was able. There are frequent notes about sea life including birds, whales, sharks, flying fish and dolphins (which the crew would fish for). The harshness of conditions at sea is apparent in Simes’s record of crew member deaths as well as notes about passing by the remains of wrecked vessels in the open ocean. In the midst of the harsh conditions Simes made regular notes about rainbows and meteor showers.
Nathan Parker Simes was born in Portsmouth, New Hampshire on 1 August 1833. He was the son of Ann Elizabeth (Yeaton) and Stephen Hardy Simes Capt. He married Mary Jane Turner with whom he had four children: Frank Turner Simes (1868-1925), Harold Lancaster Simes (1871-1872), Alice Parker Simes (1873-1934) and Thomas Hardy Simes (1876-1959). Simes died in Portsmouth on 23 October 1888. His grave can be found in Proprietors Burying Ground.
Folder 1: Ship Gentoo, 1853 – Boston to Hong Kong
Boston to Hong Kong on the Ship Gentoo under the command of Henry Devens beginning on February 7, 1853 and ending on July 29, 1853. Simes describes his daily activities, what sails are being used, weather and sea conditions and sightings of birds, dolphins and other ships. The Gentoo’s home port was Salem, Massachusetts. Notes are shorter than in subsequent volumes.
Folder 2: Ship Emily Farnum, 1857-1860 – New Brunswick to London, London to Australia, Australia to Peru, Peru to Virginia and New York to San Francisco
Inscription: “Journal of the ship ‘Emily Farnum’ from June 29th 1857 to February 10th 1860.” The logbook begins with a journey from Lepreau, New Brunswick to London with “A. Snow” serving as master. Simes described his daily activities, what sails are being used, weather and sea conditions and sightings of birds, dolphins and other ships. Many ships are noted at the start of the journey including barque Windward of Wiscasset, barque Grace of Yarmouth, ship Sarah Judkins of Bath and ship Evening Star of Portland. The tugboats Triumph and Dandy met the Emily Farnum and brought her into the West India Docks at London on July 25, 1857.
Next the logbook recorded the Emily Farnum leaving London on November 1, 1857 bound for Port Phillip, Australia. “N.P. Simes” is now listed as the commander. On December 13, 1857 the Emily Farnum passed the equator, on December 27th Simes noted that he saw an albatross and on January 1st he noted a group of striped porpoises. On January 14 Emily Farnum passed by the Crozet Islands in the Indian Ocean and by February 3 the voyage of 93 days ended in Australia.
Simes’s next journey starts on March 25, 1858 in Melbourne, Australia with a destination of Callao, Peru. “N.P. Simes” is again listed as the master of the Emily Farnum. Heading out to sea, they pass the ship Chancellor. On March 30th Simes stated, “the Aurora Australis made a very beautiful appearance.” During the 39 day journey he noted porpoises, whales and seabirds. On May 3, 1858 the voyage ended in Callao, Peru. On September 4 the Emily Farnum took a short voyage of only eight days to another port in Peru and arrived back in Callao on November 24.
Next Simes’s set sail on November 30, 1858 from Callao, Peru bound for Hampton Roads, Virginia. Simes made frequent note of flying fish, sperm whale and porpoises. On January 21st he sketched the tall mountain peak on the Brazilian island of Fernando de Noronha. On February 17, 1859 the Emily Farnum arrived in Virginia. On April 5, 1859 Simes sailed for New York, arriving on April 8.
Next the Emily Farnum left New York on August 11, 1859 bound for San Francisco. They endured hurricane winds and rain not long after departing on August 16th. On August 28th Simes stated that the Emily Farnum “passed large fields of seaweed” and “caught several dolphins.” As they made their way around South America Simes noted whales, penguins (November 16) and flying fish. On February 1st Simes penned a sad story: “Lost my dog “Jim” overboard. Ship going too fast to make any attempt to save him. Poor little fellow. I miss you very much. You were so affectionate & playful. The cabin seems like a tomb now.” On February 10, 1860 the Emily Farnum anchored in San Francisco. Simes described it as a “tedious passage of 182 days.”
Folder 3: Ship Emily Farnum, 1860-1862 – San Francisco to Peru, Peru to Ireland, London to Calcutta, Calcutta to London and London to New York
Inscription: “Journal of the Ship ‘Emily Farnum’ for the years 1860, 1861, 1862.” Journal begins with a voyage from San Francisco to Callao, Peru on March 10, 1860. Simes made observations of seabirds, porpoises and flying fish and arrived in Peru on May 3, 1860.
On May 14, 1860 the Emily Farnum left Callao for the Chincha Islands, a group of three islands off the coast of Peru, arriving on May 20 where they stayed until September 11th before heading back to Callao.
The Emily Farnum departed Callao on September 24, 1860 bound for Cork, Ireland. Simes’s writing becomes more routine, with the same discussion of position, sails used, whether or not birds or sea life was observed and with nearly every entry ending with “pumps carefully attended.” On October 25 Simes sketched an iceberg that he observed about two miles in the distance. On November 19th Simes recorded seeing a “brilliant meteor” and on November 27th he observed a Portuguese man of war. He recorded that a heavy rain allowed them to collect 3 casks of water on December 2nd. After a 108 day voyage the Emily Farnum arrived in Queenstown Harbor, Cork on January 11, 1861.
On April 29, 1861 the Emily Farnum departed from London bound for Calcutta, India. Simes frequently noted Portuguese man of war as well as dolphins and flying fish. At 4am on May 28 the Emily Farnum crossed the equator. On June 6th the Emily Farnum made a stop in Pernambuco, Brazil departing again on June 22nd when Simes observed the Young Hector of New Bedford and the Starr King of New York. On July 4, 1861 Simes wrote: “At noon fired a National Salute of 21 guns.” On July 24th Simes noted lunar rainbows and on July 29th the Norwegian brig Mangus. On September 6, 1861 the Emily Farnum arrived in Calcutta.
The log continued on February 11, 1862 when Simes left Calcutta bound for London. Simes noted the same sea life including porpoises, whales and flying fish as well as passing through some intense storms. On the night of March 26 he noted “stars shooting in all directions.” On April 4 Emily Farnum passed an English vessel and on April 11 she passed the Danish ship Rapid, on April 23 the ship Connecticut, on April 29 the English ship Comorin and the Natalia, on April 30 the ship Storm King from Greenock, Scotland and on May 1 the French ship Lucerne and the English bark Oceanica. On May 2 Simes reported being boarded by a member of the crew from the ship Philosopher who left a package of letters and some potatoes. On May 4th a similar exchange was made with the ship John Watts. Over the next few days Simes noted additional vessels from France, the Netherlands and England and on June 12, 1862 the Emily Farnum arrived in London.
The final voyage of the logbook detailed a fairly uneventful journey from London to New York beginning on July 19, 1862. Simes made note of the usual marine life, dolphins, flying fish and petrel, as well as occasional other ships at a distance. The Emily Farnum arrived in New York on August 27, 1862.
Folder 4: Ship Emily Farnum, 1862-1864 – New York to Liverpool, Liverpool to Calcutta and Calcutta to London
Inscription: “N. P. Simes” “Private Log of Ship “Emily Farnum” for the Years 1862, 1863, 1864.” The journal began with a voyage from New York to Liverpool on September 21, 1862. On October 3, 1860 Captain Simes recorded details of interaction between the Emily Farnum and the Confederate ship Alabama under the control of Captain Semmes:
1862 October 3rd Comes in with fresh breezes & gusty weather
at times quite moderate-sea regular, from the N.E.
During the afternoon & evening wind baffling & blow-
ing in gusts for a few moments and then quite moderate…
Ship lying on her side making very slow progress.
Morning watch the same. A large ship to leeward
bound the same way, and a vessel ahead standing
to the N.W. at 9 PM the vessel ahead set the “St. George”
Cross at her peak, immediately on seeing our colors,
she run up the “Rebel” flag & fired across our bow.
As there was no chance of escape, I have too, when
she sent an armed boat along side, the 2nd Lieut
(Mr. Armstrong) hauled down our colors, and informed me that the “Emily
Farnum” was a prize to the Confederate States Steamer “Alabama” Capt.
She proved to be a steam propeller, bark rigged, English build-
carried 6 broadside guns, and two pivot (one a 100 pound riffled, and
one 68 pounds ditto), vessel painted black outside & yellow in, has a
round stern, short poles & altogether, a rakish looking craft, and a fast
Sailer. A large portion of the crew appeared to be English… The 2nd
Lieut took charge of the “E.F.” and kept her off after the steamer, while
She chased the Ship to leeward about 11 am the other ship have to
we stood on a short time and have to near her, she proved to be the
“Brilliant” of New York. A second boat came alongside of us, and order-
ed me to go on board the steamer with my papers. Which I did, on rea-
ching her, I found a large number of Prisoners in irons on deck. I
was kept on deck for about an hour, and finally ordered down in the
cabin to see the Capt. He took my papers, examined them, and then
called his clerk, who asked me several questions, taking my replies
in black & white, viz. What is the name of your ship? What is your name?
By whom owned? Have you any certificate, or proof to show that your
cargo is owned in Liverpool? What is the value of your ship today in
New York? When he asked if I had anything to prove that my cargo was
owned in Liverpool, he told me to look over my papers for myself. I
found attached to one set of Bills lading, a certificate signed by the
British consul, stating that the goods were the property of John
B. Spence Esq. of Liverpool. On showing him this, he said it was
“Bogus,” and that the owners of the ship had done it for the purpose
of saving their vessel. After asking me a great number of ques-
tions about the Armies, their movements, how many new vessels
were being added to our Navy, their whereabouts, +c, he informed
me that he burned eleven whale ships off the Western Islands, had
landed 190 Seamen in that vicinity, and now had 54 on board in
Irons. He said, while in the “Sumpter” he allowed his prisoners their
freedom about deck, but owing to the harsh treatment his Purser received
on board a Federal vessel, He was going to retaliate, by ironing every-
one. They had a bag of irons ready for us, and were to put us in
double irons below. After considerable consultation with his clerk in
an undertone he asked me how long it would probably take me to get
to Liverpool, and if I was willing to take all his Prisoners forward. I
told him “yes.” He then said that as he had so many on board at pre-
Sent, and with the “Brilliant’s” crew (as he intended burning her) he would
let me proceed, though very much against his wishes, as he should like
to have destroyed her. His clerk then filled out several Paroles, and he
had the option of signing our names, or remaining on board his vessel
in irons. I signed it. He then informed me, if I was caught in arms
either in the Army, or Navy. I should be either “shot” or “hung.” I then
went on deck and remained his 1st Lieut. Went on board the “Brilliant”
and her boats, as well as two of the Steamers were busily employed,
removing stores, blocks, lanterns +c, everything of value on them
to the Steamer. At 11P.M. the “lookouts” on Fore top gallant yard reported
another sail in sight. I could not ascertain which way she was
standing as the steamer was moving about in all directions. At all
Events they were keeping an eye to her. During the forenoon, the officer
in charge of the “Emily Farnum” kept her moving with the Steamer
Sometime before the wind & at times have too. To end this day. Wind
during the later part very light from the Northward, and Eastward
fine weather for Pirates & Robbers.
4th October 1862 – Commences very light airs from the Northward, swell
from the N.E. the crew of the steamer busily employed robbing
& plundering the “Brilliant,” and putting Prisoners onboard the “E.F.”
at 5P.M. I was ordered into the boat & sent on board the ship with
about 20 Prisoners. When on board, the 2nd Lieut. & Clerk called the
“Brilliant” crew aft, and requested them to sign the Parole, they all
done it but three, who shipped in the steamer. One of our crew, and
one from the bark “Virginia,” also shipped in the Pirate. During their
stay on board the ship, they were very civil, not taking anything with-
out leave. About 5.30P.M. they left us taking two boats belonging
to the ship “Brilliant” and leaving behind 65 or 70 Prisoners, being the
Capt, officers & crews, of barque “Virginia,” Ship “Brilliant” & Bark
“Elisha Dunbar” captured by them. I then filled away with ships head
to the Northward, wind very light from the Eastward. At 6 P.M. they applied
the torch to ship “Brilliant,” and in one hour she was in flames fore &
aft, the Pirate laying a short distance to windward viewing his
hellish deed. During the eight we had very light airs from
Eastward & Northward, ship making little, if any headway. The blaze
of the ship distinct all the time, at 4 a.m. she appears to be burnt
nearly to the water, but still blazing. At daylight we saw the steamer
to S.E. from our viz Topmast crosstrees steering for the ship re-
ported yesterday, and quite near her. During the morning light
airs from NW ship going about 2 knots. No doubt — this (10 a.m.)
the other ship is being plundered, and her unfortunate Officers & Crew
in irons on board the Pirate “Alabama.” Capt Semmes had the ap-
pearance of being a villain. I do not think he would scruple about hanging
or shooting anyone.
Latter part light winds & beautiful weather. Crew employed hauling up
chains, to try, and get the ship upright. All sail set by the wind. A few
5th October 1862 …Saw the glare of a fire to the S.E. the Sky illuminated by it, no doubt the Pirate has fired the ship, he was chasing yesterday, or perhaps a second one. The fire was quite plain from aloft at 4 this morning…
From October 6th to 18th Captain Simes’s observations were uneventful as the Emily Farnum continued to Liverpool. He observed other ships from a distance, gulls and a seabird known as a petrel. On October 19th Captain Simes observed “several ships in sight bound outward, all under snug canvas.” The Emily Farnum passed Holyhead’s South Stack Lighthouse and then Point Lynas Light, coastal landmarks west of Liverpool. On the next day, October 20, 1862, Simes stated that it “commences with a Hurricane from N. W. accompanied with violent hail squalls.” The weather cleared and presumably Capt. Simes and the Emily Farnum arrived at Liverpool later that day as entries end for the journey.
On January 3, 1863 the Emily Farnum left Liverpool heading to Calcutta. The journey is like his others, noted ship sightings, fewer fish and birds than usual. On January 21st he begins noting sightings of Portuguese man of war after which time sightings of fish and birds become more frequent as well. On February 3 he noted the English ship Hurricane and on February 10 the Neptune. On March 9 Simes made a special note that he broke his thermometer and would no longer be able to record the temperature. On March 10 he described seeing a vessel with a mysterious flag, ”with two black stripes on borders stars in the corners and white center.” On April 12 a night hawk flew about the ship and on April 30 he saw a shark. On May 3, 1863 they arrived in port at Calcutta.
On September 7, 1863 the Emily Farnum left Calcutta heading back to London. On September 10 he noted seeing the British ship Sarah M. of St. Johns. On September 23 he noted that his dog “‘Hattie’ added 7 young pups to our cabin circle” and on September 26 there was a “very brilliant meteor show.” There were numerous fish including black fish and sharks as well as dolphins and whales. On November 9 he noted the bark Stad Assen from Amsterdam. On December 3 he noted that “‘Jerry’ & my canary ‘Dick’ died” and on December 19 that the “carpenter’s ‘parrot’ died.” Repairs were made to the ship during the voyage including painting the body of the ship and the carpenter sealed holes on the poop deck. On January 10 he noted the French bark Tamaulipas. On January 4, 1864 the Emily Farnum was boarded by a pilot who brought with him two newspapers which Simes described as “quite a treat.” After which he stated, “One thing we can congratulate ourselves on being clear of ‘Privateers.’”
Folder 5: Ship Emily Farnum, 1864-1865 – Newport, Wales to New York, New York to Panama, Panama to Peru, Peru to Cowes, England and England to Hamburg, Germany
Inscription: “Private Journal of Ship ‘Emily Farnum’ 1864 & 65 N. P. Simes.” Journal began with a voyage from Newport, Wales to New York on April 6, 1864. The crew worked to scrape the masts and oil the deck at the start of the voyage. On April 26 Simes wrote, “‘Victor’ (a Frenchman) fell from the main topsail yard & was killed”… “at 8 a.m. buried Victor.” On May 18 Emily Farnum arrived in New York after a 42 day journey from Newport.
The next journey of the Emily Farnum left from New York on August 27, 1864 heading to Panama. Simes noted that coal was being transported. This is the first time that he made note of the type of cargo being transported. He made the usual notes about flying fish, dolphins and sea birds. On September 10 he recorded “shooting stars in all directions.” The voyage had numerous harsh storms with lightning and gusty winds. On October 3 he noted seeing the American bark Heroine. On November 12 Emily Farnum passed Staten Island, Argentina, on November 19 he noted seeing three large sperm whales and on November 23 he noted a penguin sighting along with cape pigeons, snowbirds and a whale. On December 29 Simes reported his first sighting of the island of Bona off the coast of Panama and on January 3 the ships arrived in port after 129 days.
On February 17, 1865 the Emily Farnum departed Panama for Callao, Peru. On February 20 he sketched Malpelo Island off the coast of Columbia. On February 26 he reported seeing a sea turtle and reported numerous porpoises, flying fish and sharks during the voyage. The crew worked on painting the inside of the ship while the carpenter made various repairs. On April 5 Simes reported seeing a humpback whale just before arriving in Callao on April 6.
The Emily Farnum made the short voyage from Callao to Chinchas, Peru leaving on April 20 and returning to Callao on July 30, 1865.
On August 9, 1865 the Emily Farnum left Peru bound for the English port of Cowes. The voyage was very typical with sightings of cape pigeons, porpoises, whales and other vessels. The weather was fair at the start but a storm on September 3 flooded the cabin and deck. The harsh weather continued with hurricane force winds, hale and snow continuing through September 8. On September 13 the ship was covered with ice and Simes noted that they passed through a large field of kelp. On September 26, 1865 Simes wrote that they “passed a ship’s boat bottom up, it had been (apparently) some time in the water.” On October 11 he noted that they “passed an English emigrants ship.” On November 28 there is a small note in the date column that reads, “At 9:10pm Mrs. S. gave birth to a baby boy, both doing well.” After 112 days at sea the Emily Farnum arrived in Cowes on November 29, 1865.
On December 6, 1865 the Emily Farnum made a short journey from Cowes to Hamburg, Germany, arriving on December 11.
Folder 6: Ship Blackwall, 1868 – Liverpool, England to Aden, Yemen
Inscription: “Private Log of ship ‘Blackwall’ Liverpool toward Aden N. P. Simes Master 1868.” Departing June 18, 1868, Simes noted numerous ships as the Blackwall left Liverpool as well as numerous sea birds and fair weather at the start of the journey. On July 3 it was discovered that the gear connected to the rudder was in “a terrible state” and Simes stated that if he had known he “never would have left Liverpool.” On July 5 they “passed a ship’s lower mast, painted white evidently been in the water for a long time.” On July 6 Simes wrote, “Amused myself during the afternoon reading & writing home, hope ere long to get a chance to forward a letter by some homeward bound vessel.” Simes reported mutiny amongst the crew on July 28 and stated that the offending crew member was “in irons, as he refuses to work.” He then reported on July 29 that he had “laid down the law to [the crew] as they were inclined to be mutinous.” The approach must have worked as later that day he reported that the irons were removed “as he promised to behave.” On August 11 Simes reported that “one of our pigs died last night.” Conditions were fair and observations included the typical sightings of fish and seabirds. On October 11 Simes reported seeing a Russian barque and a Dutch barque on October 12. On October 30 he reported that his pet goose had died “very suddenly.” He stated that on November 5 “one of the men caught a small hawk” and on November 8 “a small swallow hovering around the ship and flying in and out of the cabin.” He was happy to see the bird and wrote, “Quite a treat to see something from the land.” On November 26, 1868 the Blackwall arrived in Aden after 160 days at sea.
Folder 7: Ship Blackwall, 1869 – Aden, Yemen to Rangoon, Burma
Inscription: “Private Log of Ship ‘Blackwall’ N.P. Simes 1869.” Departing January 13, 1869 from Aden the Blackwall headed toward Burma’s port of Rangoon. The crew worked painting and scrubbing the deck. On January 23 Simes wrote that he “saw the coast of Africa” and on January 24 that the sea was “alive with jellyfish.” On January 26 Simes alluded to the fact that he had taken on crew members in a foreign port and that he was not happy with their level of productivity. He stated, “Working going on in native style, a dull monotonous song accompanying it. Europeans would do more work in half the time.” On February 12 the Maldives came into sight and Simes stated, “Quite a treat to see something green, I wish I could land upon them.” On February 26 Simes identified the crew as being “Arabian & African.” Simes complained repeatedly about the slow speed that they are traveling. On March 23 Simes noted that it was the “‘Mahornedon’ Sabbath” so he “gave the crew liberty.” On April 4 he noted that the coast of Sumatra was in sight and on April 5 he saw another Russian barque. On April 29, 1869 the Blackwall arrived in Rangoon and then shortly thereafter travelled a short distance to the city of Maulmain (Mawlamyine), Burma.
Folder 8: Ship Blackwall, 1870 – Maulmain (Mawlamyine), Burma to Queenstown (Cobh), Ireland
Inscription: “Private Log Ship ‘Blackwall’ Maulmain towards Queenstown 1870.” The Blackwall departed Maulmain on January 31, 1869 bound for Queenstown. Simes noted the same sea life as during his other voyages, including flying fish, porpoises, jellyfish, whales and seabirds. The carpenter worked on various repairs and maintenance. On March 3 he stated, “Lost our little bantam hen overboard.” On March 23 he stated, “Dull music, though we are all doing our best” and on March 29 he noted that a cricket chirping in the cabin was a “welcome sound.” On April 27 he observed the ship St. Helena, on May 3 the Ascension, on May 14 the Spanish bark Amelia and a Swedish ship “name unknown,” on May 18 the Avon, on May 21 the Melita, on June 7 the Dutch brig Gesina and on June 21 the English bark Hannah H. On June 22, 1869 Simes noted that the Cape Clear Lighthouse was in view and he stated, “two fishermen boarded us & we got a supply, wish we could have a few potatoes.” The entries end presumably with the Blackwall’s arrival in Queenstown, Ireland.
Folder 9: Ship Sonora, 1871 – New York to San Francisco and San Francisco to Yloilo, Philippines
The Sonora departed New York on October 21, 1871. Simes noted similar sea life as in past logbooks including petrel, flying fish and porpoises. The crew worked repairing the sails and ropes, as well as oiling the deck while the carpenter made various repairs. He made note of fair weather and conditions. On October 30 he observed the American bark Commerce, on November 4 the English ship Leander, on November 8 the English barque Glenlee, on November 15 the ship Southern Belle, on November 17 the German brig Julie, On November 13 Simes reported that he caught a dolphin and on November 19 the Sonora crossed the equator. On December 19 he reported seeing sperm whales and penguins. On December 25, 1871 he wrote, “A dull Christmas.” After 121 ½ days at sea Simes reported arriving at Vallejo Street Wharf in San Francisco on February 18, 1872.
The final journey recorded in Simes’s logbooks is from San Francisco leaving on March 15, 1872 heading towards Yloilo, Philippines. Simes once again noted similar sea life including petrel, flying fish and porpoises. The crew worked on the sails, oiled the deck and made repairs. On March 26 he wrote, “Go it ‘Sonora’! Hurry up! I want to get home again.” On March 31 the Sonora stopped in Honolulu, Hawaii where they offloaded letters. They experienced good weather and calm seas much of the journey. From April 26 to 28 he observed the barque Quickstep. He noted passing by the many islands of the South Pacific before reaching the Philippines on May 5, 1872 when he made the final entry in his logbooks.