This illustrated log of the barque TERROR was completed by Henry William Downes during a whaling voyage from Sydney into the Pacific Ocean between 17 September 1846 to 17 July 1847. The TERROR was one of the many whaling ships owned by the colourful entrepreneur Benjamin Boyd, a Scottish adventurer who was one of the most significant figures in the history of whaling in early colonial Australia. It was Boyd who established the whaling base, Boyd Town, in Twofold Bay in southern New South Wales.
SignificanceThis illustrated log of the TERROR is a rare surviving whaling ship record, and is written with unusual depth of detail and illustrated with views of ships, coastlines, islands, people, whale heads and diagrams. It is highlighly significant in the portrayal of the life and craft of early colonial Australian whalers in the Pacific.
The log also refers to the owner of the TERROR, the well known entrepreneur Ben Boyd, and was written by Henry William Downes who went on to command the whaling ship LUCY ANN which inspired Herman Melville's famous novel Moby Dick.
HistoryThe illustrated log of the barque TERROR was kept by its master Henry William Downes between 17 September 1846 to 17 July 1847. During this voyage the track of the TERROR took it past Moreton Bay (Brisbane), Cato, the Bellona Reefs, the Isle of Pines, along the west coast of New Caledonia, San Cristobal and Malaita (Solomon Islands), the Treasury Islands, and back via Malaita, Stewart Islands, Torres Island, the Banks Islands, Whitsun Island and Paoom, the Isle of Pines and Moreton Bay.
Downes offers us more than an informative insight into Australian deep-water whaling during the mid-19th century, with its detailed descriptions of life on board and the hazardous hunt carried out from the ship's boats. Downes was a skilled and lively writer, and he conveys vividly the spirit and the language of those intrepid times. In addition, he was an accomplished watercolour artist, and his written account is complemented by his own illustrations. The log contains about 50 views of different places visited during the 10-month cruise, along with 25 illustrations of whales and 25 paintings of ships, rigging and crew members. Pasted down on the front page of the log is a small carte-de-visite photograph of the author.
These fluent sketches invite us to share many facets of the voyage. The drama and danger of the hunt is well-conveyed, as well as the more mundane aspects of the work. Exotic landfalls are captured, as well as their exotic inhabitants. We meet the crew in moments of leisure, and there is a strong sailorly interest in the other ships encountered.
Unfortunately for the author, his desire to be an active participant in the whale hunt cost him his life. For his next voyage he was transferred to the barque LUCY ANN, another vessel in the Boyd fleet. The previous captain had difficulties maintaining discipline among the crew, partly due to the poor quality of the provisions, and had to terminate his voyage early when the crew was close to mutiny. Port records for the arrival of the LUCY ANN shows that half of the the crew returned in poor health and suffering from scurvy. Downes, it would appear, was a well-liked captain and was put on board by his employer Ben Boyd to remedy the problems of the earlier voyage.
While in pursuit of a whale, Downes' boat was taken down. Like so many sailors of his time, he was unable to swim and he drowned. His friends erected a plaque to his memory in Saint Mary's Anglican Church in Balmain, Sydney.